Web 2.0 will likely be touted as where the advanced thinkers talked to the advanced business types who have made some pretty advanced fortunes using the Internet platforms. Discussions of the inevitability of open source, the evil Empire (we know the name, look up the number), FireFox over IE, REST vs web services, and all the usual cause de jours of the conspiracy-hungry zeitgeist will be debated in the hallways. The 'next big thing' will be featured on slides, and the Life of O'Reilly as pundit and prognosticator will be on display to up the ticket sales.
And the attendees will, as they usually do, miss the important developments in the evolution of the web.
Don't get me wrong. I've no prejudice against these events as technical theatre. They are fun to go to, one gets to rub elbows with the people whose cults of personality mean they are quoted more often in web circles than Karl Rove is in political circles, but one expecting to come away from an event like this with inside information, late breaking insights, etc., will leave with the same feeling as one who has eaten a two pound bag of pork rinds: full but unnourished. Why? Because these people came to promote a business: making money off the Internet. This is a cool thing, but it isn't a new thing and any conference that circles that topic will fall into the usual not-so-strange attractors of improving the user experience, network effects, power laws of sales, and the dot-bomb bust and how to avoid it. Developments, emergent and otherwise, that make for bad press don't amplify the feedback effects these folks are after at these events, so some urgent topics won't get discussed.
How about this: identity management systems for business transactions will not protect the individual or group from the application of wide-area sensor systems that aquire identity biometrically and pass it along the sensor web. The only protection will be built-in policy enforcement and these policies are as yet, non-existent.
Sensor webs ARE the 'next big thing' and I doubt that came up at Web 2.0. Even the developers of these systems recognize their implications for privacy and fundamental liberties, but say as the inventors usually do, that subject is beyond the scope of their work. It is political and even if it worries them, they aren't about to compromise funding or their careers worrying about that.
"Don't say that he's hypocritical
Say rather that he's apolitical
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun" - Tom Lehrer
People who do care will now have to pay very good attention to elections because political agendas do determine policy, not just as it is written, but as it is implemented. When the current reform bills for U.S. national intelligence are finally passed, under the Senate version, the National Intelligence Director has 90 days to provide a plan, and 270 days after that to begin implementing it.
It may be time to quit listening to O'Reilly and Company and start paying attention to what is being debated in the American Halls of Congress. The next big thing will be developed there, not in San Francisco.