LinuxWorld keynote explores the untapped Internet

Internet visionary and LinuxWorld keynote speaker John Patrick believes the key to unlocking the true potential of the Internet has more to do with attitude than technology.

I estimate that we're just five percent into what the Internet has in store for our business and personal lives.
John Patrick
presidentAttitude LLC

BOSTON -- John Patrick believes that the world is only beginning to tap the true potential of the Internet.

During his keynote address yesterday to attendees at Linux World Conference & Expo 2005, Patrick, the president of Attitude LLC and former vice president of Internet technology at IBM, said he's optimistic that the full potential of the Internet will eventually be reached.

But for that to happen, businesses, governments, healthcare and other institutions need to undergo a serious attitude adjustment and learn to think like the constituents they serve.

"The big picture is that we haven't seen anything yet," said Patrick, a founding member of the Global Internet Project and the World Wide Web Consortium and the author of Net Attitude. "I estimate that we're just five percent into what the Internet has in store for our business and personal lives."

The Internet has had the effect of transferring power from large institutions to ordinary people in what Patrick calls "the power of the click." And those people have lofty expectations for the online functionality that continue to grow on a daily basis.

"How do we close this gap between what we expect and what we're getting?" Patrick asked. "Part of it has to do with attitude, how business government and educational leaders think about the Internet."

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The other part, he said, has to do with Internet technology itself, which he said is fortunately moving along rapidly.

"The pervasive Internet will soon have millions of business, billions of people, trillions of devices, everything connected to everything, and I believe with the privacy and security that we expect," he said.

Using the example of a commercial Web site that took the security precaution of asking Patrick for the name of his first pet -- and then didn't believe him -- Patrick pointed out to the audience that the Internet is full of process inefficiencies that consumers abhor and need to be weeded out.

He said that one company that does a good job of thinking like its customers is eBay, which goes beyond just offering a simple forum for auctions by providing shipping, insurance and other services that make consumers' lives easier.

"The bottom line here is that this glass is half full," Patrick said. "If you're a developer, or a systems administrator, or a graphics designer, or a marketing communications person who can help [institutions] get their arms around how to walk in the shoes of their constituents, there is a lot of opportunity."

Following the keynote address, conference attendees said that open source and other technologies like Wi-Fi will go a long way toward helping the world realize Internet's potential.

Brian Weekes, a senior IT engineer with WYATT, said he believe that open source applications are growing in importance both at his company and in the marketplace as a whole.

"A lot of the applications that our scientists are using are open source," Weekes said. "And some of them intermingle between proprietary applications and open source applications."

Weekes said that in recent days, his company has been working to expand its clustering capabilities and is toying with the idea of grid computing.

"Even the cluster solution that we're using, it is open source," Weekes said. "And we've got proprietary applications that run on it that utilize the cluster technology."

Weekes added that it in general it is getting easier to mix the proprietary with the open. In the past, he said, working in such an environment meant rewriting the open source applications to properly distribute the workloads.

Brian Jebian, a tech support specialist with Cossette Post Communications, a marketing firm in New York City, said he agreed with Patrick when he said that bigger servers will eventually be needed to accommodate the ever expanding nature of the Internet.

Today, he said, Internet traffic often gets congested due because phone lines don't always provide enough bandwidth for everyone. But the proliferation of Wi-Fi and broadband technologies are helping to ease that burden. And in the near future, he said, any bottlenecks will probably take place at the server level.

Jebian also agreed that to truly realize the potential of the Internet and open technologies, companies need to be highly innovative.

As part of its drive to be innovative, Cossette has begun launching Web site store fronts where its clients look at pertinent documents and browse services, an unusual move for a marketing firm.

"It's going really well," Jebian said. "Our Web department is constantly expanding."

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