BT Mashup – Digital Lifestyle Aggregators

I attended the BT Mashup in London last Thursday (21st September). The subject of the talk was,

…Digital Lifestyle Aggregators (DLAs) and how the emergence of this service layer will be the key battleground during the next few years

The panel was impressive with Marc Canter (who coined the phrase Digital Lifestyle Aggregator), Tariq Krim (of Netvibes fame) and Sam Sethi of the recently launched TechCrunch UK. These guys were joined by some boosters from Etribes (Simon Grice) and BT (Steve Stokols), who sponsored the whole gig. Tony Fish vigourously moderated the complete proceedings.

Marc gave a quick intro to Digital Lifestyle Aggregators which he described as Portals 2.0.  He then gave a lightening fast history of the space which I can summarise as,

  • Early 90’s: Portals 1.0: My Yahoo! Killed all innovation in the Portal space
  • Mid 90’s: Ofoto, Shutterfly, Personal Identity
  • Late 90’s: Blogging, RSS
  • Early ’00’s: Social Networking, VOX, HabboHotel, CyWorld
  • Advent of Hierarchy: LuSpaces, AIMPages, Netvibes
  • All based on Open Standards Interconnection

Stephen Stokols then hit the stage with an advertorial for BT Contact. This is an unlaunched BT service that will give people an online contact manager with RSS feeds, skype, instant messaging and presumably other services in the future. Steve recokons they can make more from the users they gain on BT contact that what they lose on lost voice revenue. I asked a question about how they would make this transition and while Steve gave a fudgy answer, Marc piped in with “They are loosing these customers anyway, whether they do something about it or not” which covered that base.

Steve proposed the following key trends:

  • Blurring industry lines (Telco vs. search vs. aggregator vs. mobile)
  • Advertising as a key revenue stream in the future
  • Realtime PC communications (VOIP and video)
  • Social networking
  • It no longer about switches its about software
  • Names instead of addresses

Nothing ground breaking here, but unusual to hear it coming out of a telco representative’s mouth. According to Steve BT has 18 million fixed line customers (nice money if you can get it).
Another interesting factoid I picked up is that Al Noor Ramji is now the CEO of BT. Ramji cut a swathe through Swiss Bank Corporation in the 90’s completely revamping their IT department and setting a trend for all the other banks in the City of London by focusing on technology as a key differentiator. This may be the reason BT is taking such a radical approach in cannibalising its existing customer base.

Simon Grice then talked about Etribes  which he described as ‘MySpace for Generation X’ i.e. 35 to 55 year olds.  All the usual stuff is provided, blogs, home pages, forums etc. Apparently its a personal publishing platform…. hmmmm!

Netvibes founder Tariq Krim then talked about they got started basically scratching an itch around managing lots of RSS feeds.  Word of mouth has netted the company over 5 million users. Good man Tariq!

This was followed by a panel discussion where the debate went to and fro between the panel and the audience. Some commentary I caught (but without attribution, sorry, I was scribbling furiously),

  • YouTube suceeded by allow early and easy embedding (no adverts, just the YouTube logo)
  • Only 1% of users currently use RSS, what about the Gen-X-ers who just don’t get RSS? How long will it take before Web 2.0 passes the Mom test? (i.e. Mom can use it on her own)
  • Web 2.0 is about owning your own content, with the ability to syndicate your content via microformats (with copyright notices if needs be)
  • Web 2.0 needs to move outside the RSS community (after IE 7.0 is adopted?)
  • GYMAA : Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Apple, AOL will control our future if we let them
  • Every application will have a menu item Add Friend in the future
  • NetVibes found its customers “analog style” i.e. in MeatSpace
  • Apple and Google will promote a closed system for DLAs if we let them
  • I want to aggregate my life, but I don’t want to be aggregated
  • Turn on the fibre, only 3% of available optical fibe is turned on. Telcos have a stranglehold on this commodity
  • How do you generate trust? Make it easy to leave a service and take your content with you
  • Bebo and MySpace are Digital Content jails
  • DLA’s will go away (e.g. disappear into the infrastructure)

A great session which covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. Would have been even better if the whole day had been set aside. Well worth a trip to London.

4 thoughts on “BT Mashup – Digital Lifestyle Aggregators

  1. Pingback: Web 2.0 Ireland
  2. You’re a little incorrect about Al-Noor Ramji. He’s not the CEO at BT, but CIO, and the CEO of BT Exact, which is BT’s IT business. It’s rather odd that he’s taken to calling himself a CEO, because one of his mantras was that the IT division was not a separate internal business.

    Al-Noor is a showman and a charlatan. He stuffed BT with cronies who owe their careers to him. Most of the work has been shipped offshore. Soon TCS and Infosys will have a nice neckhold on BT. Worst of all, his methods don’t actually work. Agile isn’t relevant to a corporation whose IT workload is mostly systems integration and process design. Al-Noor was sacked by Qwest with a final job title of Technical Adviser. His top priority has been to make himself unsackable at BT.

    Al-Noor’s vision is to peddle the nonsense that the world is going faster and faster, and only one man can save us from the dizzying pace of change – Al-Noor Ramji.


  3. Ramji was indeed sacked at Qwest, several years too late. I was there. I always had trouble understanding how he could find the time to run an IT shop of any size when he spends all day making headlines. 500+ Google hits says it all …


  4. Al-Noor Ramji IT leader of the year? according to the British Computer Society

    Oh how we laughed, reinforces how out of touch and irrelivant the BCS is, and why so few IT pros bother with them

    Ive worked with many outstanding IT leaders, including past presidents of the BCS and Al-Noor Ramji isnt fit to shine any of their shoes

    Have a quick ring round of anyone in the business who has worked with and under him

    We should lobby the Queen to take the Royal Charter back from the BCS

    This is getting silly


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