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The six true leaders of the new web world

I keep reading lately about Supper Influencer and others with a vast online presence in the context of leadership. I agree that these figures are helping us adapt to the new power that lies in social media. Yet, I think that we need to put things in perspective.  Just because they have 4,000 followers on Twitter and a great blog doesn’t mean that they have enabled millions to do things they couldn’t do before. In other words: they haven’t necessarily led us to a new world online. But here are the six true leaders of the new web world in my opinion, because they have helped to shape this new world. 

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

The World Wide Web inventor, the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and more. Sir Tim is my first choice for a true leader of the new web world not just because of his past contributions, but also for his vision of the way information will be linked going forward. In his Giant Global Graph blog post, he speaks about making the web smarter using standard semantic formats like FOAF, RDF, OWL and SPARQL.

“It’s not the documents, it is the things they are about which are important.”

We can already see the benefit of using these semantic annotations in web pages that support microforamts. One example is HCard in Google Maps:

“By marking up our results with the hCard microformat, your browser can easily recognize the address and contact information in the page, and help you transfer it to an address book or phone more easily.”

I don’t know how much (if at all) Sir Tim is using Twitter, but in my opinion he is a true technology leader. The standards that the W3C organization is setting keep changing our lives.

Dave Winer

The man that gave us RSS, podcasting, and taught us what blogging is all about.From his blog post The unedited voice of a person about blogging:”If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think — then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it’s not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited.”I don’t know what Mr. Winer is up to these days but in my opinion his contribution to the weblog world helps to empower millions in sharing their lives, knowledge, and thoughts online.

Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com

What Amazon is doing in recent years for small businesses is what that Microsoft did in the 80’s and 90’s.

Amazon Web Services(AWS) enables web-scale computing by providing access to an established infrastructure that gives you flexibility to run your business at “web-scale” — uninhibited by growth and demand. In other word it saves a new online business from building the costly scalable infrastructure to support it. The fee structure is also a big advantage with its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) your initial cost is minimal and it only grows with your business success. “

The results:

“A growing community of 330,000+ developers, start-ups, and established companies are building robust applications using AWS solutions.”

One of my favorite quotes came from the My Other Computer is a Data Center sticker story. If Microsoft is now building tools for cloud computing then people will follow. You can also see what Mr. Bezos has to say about AWS here.

I know that Amazon is a business but when I see a company that shares infrastructure originally built to serve its own business with others who otherwise couldn’t afford to build it, and thereby enable new businesses to emerge,  I see a leader.If the direction of web app development is into the clouds, Amazon was the pioneer and will be the leader taking us there.

Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia

Wikipedia founder. Can you imagine a day without visiting this web site for learning a new technology, buzz word, persona, or millions of other terms? My Wikipedia sequence starts with Google-ing a term, finding the right Wikipedia page on the Google search results list, then clicking. After a few minutes I’m in the know. Based on the fact that Wikipedia always is on top of Google SERP I can only guess that I’m not the only one dancing this little dance. I can’t thank you enough, Mr. Wales.

Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Google

It seems lately that Google is becoming the next Microsoft: big, ubiquitous, too powerful, some may even say a monopoly. I agree with some of these claims, and I like to see any of the Alts taking market share away from Google. Yet can you see any other company today that knows how to treat data the way Google does? Can you see any other software company that does such an amazing job in building product usability?  Sometimes I think that Google is inside my head predicting the next move.  Recently Google launched Chrome, a new web browser that shows again how this company leads. The web world of today is not the same as it was few years ago. Web applications nowadays offer no less functionality than desktop applications running on our personal computer. It was a time for a new browser and Google was the one building it. I’m sure now that Google, using Chrome, and having access to our desktop will lead us to an even more organized world of information.

The people on this list have a lot in common. They are superb engineers and business people. They are not new leaders actually–they led us before–but they are not about to stop. They built technology that enables so many of us to do things that could only have been done before by large organizations, if at all. They understand the digital world and adapt to changes faster than anyone else. Unless they happen to be the very ones that catalyze the change themselves.

Do you agree? Did I miss others (probably)? What other forms of leadership on the web do you see today?

  1. September 21, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Some great names and suggestions here, Keren. I agree – true online visionaries aren’t the ones using existing technology and tools. Instead, they’re the ones that make things happen which then become a standard.

    I think the next name on this list will be the person that truly takes Web 2.0 from being just a buzzword to something more tangible. It has to be imminent…

  2. xgenx
    October 15, 2008 at 3:12 am

    Excellent list! As I try to think of others that were left out I see something of the web’s characteristic nature: the democratization of the web has flattened the sharp curve of leaders into a curve of participants or collaborators. It has done this by exposing and recording and linking the contributions made by secondary personalities. It has flattened the curve upward.

    But still your list is sharply focused. Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger, Sergey Brin, and Larry Sanger may may have sounded the death-knell of the question itself. I try to explain to my son how we used to wonder about things. “I wonder who invented the screwdriver?” Or something like that. Now we just ask.

    My favorite is still TimBerners-Lee. More and more the things I love exist in the world he made economical and free. If you look on the page on Wikipedia you can see how many others contributed substantially to his success. The interlinking of independent knowledge sources (minds) continues to be the webs defining characteristic.

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