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Web 2.0 Gets Big – and Corporate

As the economy totters, it’s easy to make fun of the concept of “Web 2.0” — the rallying cry of a generation of chipper start-ups spawned over the last few years with an unusual aversion to vowels.

Certainly, most of the venture capitalists I’ve talked to at the Web 2.0 Summit have said they are shying away from companies that are based on the idea of growing an audience now and figuring out how to make money later. However, after listening to the presentations here over the past three days, it is clear that some of the key concepts of the Web 2.0 movement are, in fact, taking root in deep ways.

One of the most significant trends is how the big companies that make very complicated systems are reworking them using the principles of Web 2.0 companies, particularly the notion of programs that talk to other programs. They are breaking up their technologies into discrete modules that can work alongside data and applications from others.

Facebook can be credited with taking the first step to open up large parts of its service to third parties. Last year, it let their applications on its site. Now, through its upcoming Facebook Connect service, it will let other companies build applications that use its list of people and who their friends are to deliver new services.

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Politics Never Smelled So Tweet

If Senators John McCain and Barack Obama actually do debate Friday night, you will be able to watch what thousands of viewers think of their verbal sparring almost as they talk. Twitter, the service that lets techno-hipsters broadcast their thoughts in 140-character bursts, is setting up a special politics page to make it easy to tune into the chatter.

At midnight Thursday, the company is launching election.twitter.com, the first specialized section of its site. Like Twitter’s main service, it is dominated by a big white box. But instead of typing an answer to What are you doing? the election site asks, What do you think?

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