Bill Joy | The Six Webs, 10 Years On

I first met Bill Joy at the Dow Jones Emerging Ventures 2006 with my friend Mario Landau-Holdsworth. We were there with a company and an idea, and our college had kindly flown us out to attend the event. We’d been invited by Young Inventors International. It was an interesting introduction to the world of venture capital. Mario and I were 19 at the time.

The conference was my first networking experience. Mario and I were wearing clothing that could not really be considered suits. Mario had long hair, and I was wearing a black turtleneck sweater that didn’t really fit me. But that didn’t stop us from ignorantly attempting to converse with everyone there.

Billionaires walked by. Vinod Khosla entertained us all, and drove up the prices of every solar company’s stock in the room with his words. Mario dragged me from our table to where Bill Joy was finishing an interview with a national news syndicate. He was a nice guy, and made me feel at ease.

We went back to the Dow Jones in 2007 for another conference, where we met more interesting people. However, we didn’t decide to attend the 2008 conference, but attended a conference on Energy Policy and the Environment in Washington D.C. last winter. The different perspective the conferences presented to our brains was both useful and jarring.

However, Bill Joy spoke brilliantly, and we continue to be impressed with his intellect. It is because of our memory of him that the following video has been posted here.

Thanks to MitWorld for this lecture.

Video Length

September 29, 2005
Running Time: 51:35

About the Lecture

It’s a good thing that a decade ago, some engineers at Sun Microsystems became dissatisfied with the limitations of the desktop PC and with kludgy TV remote controls. Their frustrations, according to Bill Joy, led to technology breakthroughs we count on today—and will likely in years to come. Joy and his colleagues grasped early on the impact the Internet would have on both computing and entertainment. Back in the 90s, they decided to play out how technologies imbedded in daily life would evolve under the influence of the internet. They envisioned the “far” web, as defined by the typical TV viewer experience; the “near” web, or desktop computing; the “here” web, or mobile devices with personal information one carried all the time; the “weird” web, characterized by voice recognition systems; the “B2B” web of business computers dealing exclusively with each other; and the “D2D” web, of intelligent buildings and cities. (Sun’s programming language Java was a deliberate attempt at a platform for all six webs.)

Joy sees the six webs as a great organizing principle for understanding how the internet will continue to change. He believes the “here” web will figure most prominently in our lives, with its “nomadic idea that instead of being tethered to an office, we carry around things of most interest to us.” He notes the increasing “cleavage between entertainment authored for the ‘here’ and ‘far’ webs.” The latter is dominated by such corporate interests as game companies intent on copy protection and rights management, while the “more anarchic world” of the internet leads to more interesting content, such as personal publishing, housed best on the “here” web. Says Joy, “Doing things with people you know through a small screen makes enormous sense.”

About Bill Joy

As a Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Former Chief Scientist, Sun Microsystems Bill Joy led Sun’s technical strategy from the founding of the company in 1982 until September 2003. While at Sun, he was a key designer of Sun technologies including Solaris, SPARC, chip architectures and pipelines, and Java. In 1995 he installed the first city-wide WiFi network. Joy has more than 40 patents issued or in progress.

Before co-founding Sun, Joy designed and wrote Berkeley UNIX – the first open source operating system with built-in TCP/IP, making it the backbone of the Internet. Fortune magazine dubbed him the “Edison of the Internet.”

Joy has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Engineering, honoris causa, from the University of Michigan. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a trustee of the Aspen Institute.

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