Mobile2.0

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This is a page dedicated to everything Mobile 2.0!

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Daniel K. Appelquist writes…

What is Mobile 2.0? (Beta)

I should start this post with an extra disclaimer: although I work for Vodafone, this article does not represent Vodafone policy nor is it a product roadmap or public statement on behalf of Vodafone or any of its subsidiary companies. It is purely and simply my opinion. This is also marked as beta??? because mobile 2.0 is a work in progress in a constantly shifting mobile technology landscape.  

Mobile 2.0?

Ever since Tim O’Reilly wrote his famous article on Web 2.0, everyone wants to jump on the 2.0 bandwagon. We now have media 2.0,??? advertising 2.0,??? TV 2.0,??? etc… to contend with. So why do the same and try to define mobile 2.0? The answer is that people out there are already using this term. I think there is a danger that the definition of mobile 2.0 will become hijacked either to become synonymous with Web 2.0 applications and services brought to your phone??? (which is part of the story but not the whole story) or with multimedia applications (again, only part of the story).

But if we’re going to have a mobile 2.0, I think we would do well to base the definition on the Web 2.0 mind set and thinking. With that in mind, here are some revised extensions of the O’Reilly Web 2.0 set of examples applied to mobile 2.0 (revised somewhat from my original draft definition).

SMS -> IM, mobile blogging
MMS -> Media sharing
Operator Portals -> Mobile Web and search
Operator chooses -> User chooses
Premium SMS billing -> Mobile stored value Accounts
Java Games -> Connected Applications (e.g. photo sharing, blogging)
Presence & Push-To-Talk -> VOIP applications
WAP sites -> Web sites that adapt for mobile browsers
WAP push -> RSS readers
Wallpaper -> Idle screen applications
Location services -> Google maps application
Content consumption -> Content creation (e.g. mobile blogging)

In short, mobile 2.0 leaps the mobile platform forward to where the Internet is today, and shows us how the mobile phone can become a first class citizen, or even a leading citizen, of the Web. What mobile 2.0 does not mean, at least in my mind, is more sophisticated, but still essentially closed, mobile applications and services (although these will also continue to play an important role in the mobile value chain). Openness and user choice are essential components of mobile 2.0.

Towards a Definition of Mobile 2.0

The term of mobile 2.0? can best be defined as the next generation of data services to mobile connected devices. To understand what this next generation is, you must look to Web 1.0. I was developing content on the Internet before there was a Web. My fiction magazine, Quanta, published its first issue in 1989. The potential to reach a world-wide audience (even if it was limited mostly to those at educational institutions at that time) was extremely compelling. Those of us who had experienced the power of the Internet immediately saw its potential, but it certainly didn’t seem like it could ever be a consumer service. The Web changed all that. By putting the already-existing concept of hypertext together with the seamless interconnectivity of the Internet, the Web brought us a compelling human interface paradigm that users could grasp. But the Web, even at that time, also made it relatively easy to create content. The ability of the Web to empower anyone to create a compelling service was its magic.

In the business landscape, consumer expectations have been molded by the Web. Consumers no longer want to be dictated to – they want choice. They want to choose which services they access. If one social networking site is no longer cool, they will switch to another. If a Web-based grocery delivery service doesn’t measure up, consumers will quickly choose another. Imagine a world in which the only data services you could interact with were ones that your cable operator chose for you. At the beginning of the 90′s, many companies were thinking along these lines. Instead of the vast choice the Web has to offer today, you could have been confined to ordering a pizza (from one of a small number of chains) through your TV. It may be difficult to remember now, but this cable TV based vision of the information superhighway??? was very real in some people’s minds. On the PC, Microsoft aggressively pursued this vision with their MSN product (then seen as a competitor to AOL). They sought to buy up the exclusive online publishing rights to newspapers in order to ensure that you could only view certain content through MSN. Quite rightly, they viewed the Web as a threat to this model. When I briefly worked for AOL in 1997, it was already clear to most people that the Web was it. However, the prevailing attitude at AOL was that the real content that mattered was on the AOL portal and that access to the Web was a feature of this portal (grudgingly provided through a badly integrated browser). Flash forward to 2006 and we find that both Microsoft and AOL have embraced the Web. Closed consumer portals on the PC are a thing of the past.

Today, with the reality of the Web pervading our lives, it’s almost unimaginable that you couldn’t sit down in front of your computer and reach out to any information source or service of your choosing at the click of a mouse – that you could live in a world of a confined set of services, chosen for us by a service provider. Could FlickR or Youtube ever have even launched on such a platform? Could Wikipedia? Craigslist? The use of RSS? Would you be able to reach across the globe to find alternative points of view from news sources around the world? Could we have seen the rise of the blog? Social bookmarking? The answer is no. None of these services or technologies could have developed in that kind of heavily controlled service landscape.

And yet that’s what we expect people to be happy with on the mobile platform. We need to remember the lessons of Web 1.0 and apply these lessons to the development of the Web and connected applications on the mobile platform. But mobile data services are changing.

This change has been made possible by a number of convergent elements. Certainly, the sophistication of devices is one of them. Even consumer mobile phones are sporting color screens, increased processing power and performance. This has been largely driven by the rise of the camera phone. At the same time, the mobile networks are getting faster and cheaper. Mobile browsers are becoming more sophisticated about rendering pages designed for large screens. Content and service providers are becoming more savvy about designing user experiences specifically for mobile users.

The result is that the Web as we know it is changing. It is becoming pocketable. The Web is coming outside.

What Place for Mobile Operators in Mobile 2.0?

Mobile network operators (or Carriers??? as they are sometimes referred to) occupy an immensely important position in the mobile industry value chain. They run the networks including authentication, connecting calls, messaging, interconnect, roaming and all the other complexities inherent in delivering seamless 24/7 uptime service. They manage retail networks and customer service. They source phones and devices from device manufacturers and resell these. They are heavily regulated.

In this world of open, unfettered access to services and software across the Internet is the role of the operator diminished to that of a bit pipe???? Laying aside for a second the relative merits of being a bit pipe, I think the answer is no.??? By enabling innovation in an open way, operators can continue to be at the center of the data services value chain. This shift is already happening. Major operators have opened up their portals and are starting to turn them from walled gardens into jumping off points for the mobile Web. This points to the second essential role that operators can play in the mobile 2.0 value chain: discovery of content and services.

Another important way that operators can maximize their role in the mobile 2.0 world and avoid becoming solely a bit pipe is through exposure of enablers. Exposing your enablers sounds like lewd behavior, but to explain what I mean, take the example of Amazon. Amazon, through its Amazon Web Services division, exposes APIs to third party developers. Small companies and even individual developers can build their own applications on top of Amazon’s platform. This brings more money to Amazon because most of these third party applications are about browsing and mining Amazon’s catalog (and therefore eventually result in more sales for Amazon). Amazon could have taken a tightly controlled approach to their service, but by exposing APIs, they have enabled a whole ecosystem of affiliates and suppliers to grow up around them. Importantly, you don’t need to go have a meeting with an Amazon executive and sign a contract or even pay any fee to start using Amazon Web Services APIs. You simply visit a web site and accept a click-through license.

Operators have long exposed APIs to third parties and they know a great deal about enabling ecosystems to grow up around them and about delivering third party services through their ecosystem. In Europe, operators have been working with third party messaging providers to provide information, news, chat and other services via SMS. Often, these services are provided through premium-rate SMS which means users are charged a premium for use of these services.

Browsers and Connected Applications

Mobile browsers are getting better and better. Since I’ve been chairing the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices working group, I’ve seen a revolution start to take place in the mobile browsing field (which I hope has been somewhat influenced by the work of that group). The mobile Web plays a key role in mobile 2.0 by enabling innovation in the so-called long tail. Because of the mobile Web, it is possible for one person working on his own to develop with freely available and open source tools a social networking service for mobile device users, and to effectively reach a global audience with this service. Of course, we take this for granted on the PC Web, but this capability is only now becoming a reality on the mobile platform.

But it’s not all about the browser. The browser plays a crucial role because it allows access to a range of content sources, but it can also act as a delivery mechanism for connected applications. Most consumer phones today are able to download and install applications (be they Java applications or OS-specific apps for a variety of so-called smart phone??? platforms). Interestingly, it is this feature that Opera exploited when they released Opera Mini. Opera mini is a downloadable connected application that becomes the browser and therefore the conduit for more downloadable connected apps.

Finally, browser-based AJAX applications mobile widgets will play an increasingly important role in providing compelling services to users. Browser manufacturers and others are already scrambling to develop the killer widget platform.

The reason these technologies are so powerful is that they enable innovation by providing a simple framework for developing and deploying applications. Just as the Web did with PCs, the mobile Web and connected applications bring users compelling experiences and services that they can understand and start using quickly, with relatively little learning curve.

Open Applications Leverage Open Standards

Lastly, it is important to note that mobile 2.0 applications need to leverage open standards. Applications that sit on top of closed and proprietary protocols and formats are antithetical to the kind of innovation that will be key to the growth of the mobile Web. Establishing open standards around HTML, CSS and XML has greatly contributed to the growth and success of the medium and to its continued innovation. We are already seeing standards pay off big-time on the mobile platform as well in both the Java/JCP space (where we are finally realizing write-once-run-anywhere) and in the mobile Web.

Mobile 2.0 Is Here

When I traveled to Spain on business last month, I took pictures with my camera phone which were automatically uploaded to a photo sharing service as I took them using a photo upload application that I had downloaded over the mobile Web. My beautiful wife and kids were able to track my trip in pictures by checking back with the photo sharing site as I traveled and no PC was involved on my end. A downloaded mapping application on my phone allowed me to easily find my way from the city of Gig³n to Bilbao, and I was able to access Wikipedia entries on cities I visited to find background information when I needed it. A downloaded mobile IM client embedded on my email device allowed me to keep in touch with colleagues and friends. Mobile 2.0 is not the Future.??? it is services that already exist all around us. These services are maturing at an amazing rate and what they are doing is effectively knitting together Web 2.0 with the mobile platform to create something new: a new class of services that leverage mobility but are as easy to use and ubiquitous as the Web is today. These services point the way forward for the mobile data industry.

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Written by Rudy De Waele of m-trends.org and edited by Richard MacManus. This kicks off a mini-series of posts on the topic of Mobile 2.0, which we will explore on R/WW this week.    

On the eve of Le Web 3 in Paris – and one month after the Web 2.0 Summit concluded – it seems like an appropriate time to explore the world of the mobile Web, a.k.a. mobile 2.0. There has been a lot of discussion lately on this topic, a good deal of it inspired by the mobile 2.0 event – a one-day event held on 6 November 2006, organized by Daniel Appelquist and Mike Rowehl.

Carriers and Mobile Operators are taking notice…

In the closing session about carriers and operators at the Under The Radar: Mobility Conference on 16 November 2006, I heard an Executive Director from Verizon Wireless using the term “Mobile 2.0″. Also Orange (France Telecom) is sponsoring one of the biggest web 2.0 related conferences in Europe, Le Web 3 in Paris. The fact that carriers/operators are now linking their brand name to web 2.0/mobile 2.0 related content and conferences, shows that progress is being made. Web 2.0 inspired projects going mobile and/or mobile 2.0 projects have been considered as things to avoid for carriers/operators up till now, since they are disruptive to their current business models. 

So does this mean, with the carriers/operators entering the space now, that mobile 2.0 is finally taking off?

Definitely in Europe. What the Web 2.0 Summit completely ignored is being picked up by Le Web 3 conference organizer Lo¯c Le Meur, who is including a panel on Mobility 2.0. It’s being run by Charlie Schick from Nokia and Marko Ahtisaari from Blyk (the 1st pan-European free mobile operator). Another panel features Jyri Engestr¶m from Jaiku.com and Felix Petersen from Plazes.

What is Mobile 2.0?

It’s absolutely necessary that more connections are made between the players in the web 2.0 sphere (a.k.a. next generation web apps & services) and what some Mobilists are calling mobile 2.0. What we mean by ‘mobile 2.0′ is another (r)evolution, already started, that will dramatically change the web and the mobility landscape that we currently know. The idea is that the mobile web will become the dominant access method in many countries of the world, with devices that become more hybrid and networks that become more powerful – everywhere in the next decade to come.

The rapid penetration of Wireless Broadband Access (WBA) technologies such as 3G/UMTS, the migration of traditional telecom networks to internet technology, the availability of affordable and functional Wi-Fi and dual mode Wi-Fi/mobile phones… will all boost VoIP over broadband internet and ultimately blur the distinction between fixed and mobile services, since both become wireless and IP based.

I often ask myself the question of whether it’ll be easier for web 2.0 apps to go mobile, or easier to create a mobile-specific web app or a service that can be easily connected with a web service? The answer is of course that both have a good chance to become even more important aspects of tomorrow’s Web than they are now. Why? Well Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, put it very well in a Financial Times article in May this year (subscription only):

“Mobile phones are cheaper than PCs, there are three times more of them, growing at twice the speed, and they increasingly have Internet access. What is more, the World Bank estimates that more than two-thirds of the world’s population lives within range of a mobile phone network. Mobile is going to be the next big Internet phenomenon. It holds the key to greater access for everyone – with all the benefits that entails.”

Obstacles to overcome

Increasingly we assume that our PC is always connected, however the mobile device cannot yet guarantee such ‘always on’ connectivity – because the mobile network doesn’t work the same way. This might be one of the few hurdles left to overcome for mobile 2.0 apps and services going mass market.

Non-carrier projects like Google Wi-Fi and FON aim to make cities completely Wi-Fi accessible. From personal experience I can tell you that people are going to use these alternative options to connect to the internet, once it’s available on their mobile devices.

Mobilist blogger Enrique C. Ortiz sees another hindrance (and I think he’s right): the lack of open standards and tools to build your own mobile 2.0 applications. He says:

“Web 2.0 is based on user intelligence instead of technologies, i.e. by giving users smart tools that enable them to apply human semantics to information provided, you get a more intelligent web. This can only be done in a massive (thus useful) way with open standards and protocols that are inclusive and inviting to everyone. Now, as I see it, this ‘open-source’ story is an aspect seriously lacking from mobile platforms.”

Carriers/operators need to cover their investments and so they want to be compensated by any 3rd party using their network. This is fair enough, but the fact is that operators are losing more and more control over mobile devices – because these devices can communicate with other devices over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Wimax, NFC, etc. That is, more options are becoming available for mobile users to access the web over networks other than the closed networks of the operators.

Internet players entering the market

Another important thing happening is that handset manufacturers like Nokia, Motorola and Sony-Ericsson (to name the most important) are getting the company of new players like Apple (iPod), Microsoft (Zune) and other device companies, which are entering the mobility space and connecting the physical and the virtual worlds through the mobile. Not forgetting Google’s possible strategy of offering free phones.

If you have had the opportunity to experience the latest Nokia NSeries phones, you have gotten close to understanding what mobile 2.0 is all about. It’s about connecting your phone through Wi-Fi networks to browse the latest innovative, mobile accessible web 2.0 services. For example downloading your favourite podcasts, reading your RSS feeds, doing a one-click image upload to Flickr (nicely tagged with ShoZu), consulting the location map while on the road, tagging your streamed video’s, etc.

Mobile Startups

There’s definitely a lot of movement around on the mobile start-up front. Besides Yahoo with Flickr and Google with YouTube going mobile, there are some very interesting start-up companies resolutely going mobile. Many of them are building easy-to-use mobile web apps and services. Here’s a starter for ten to check out (too many to link to, but just google them!): 

  • BluePulse
  • ComVu
  • Funambol
  • Gizmo
  • Loopt
  • JuiceCaster
  • Mobo
  • Mystrands
  • Plazes
  • Plusmo
  • Sharpcast
  • SlingMedia
  • Shozu
  • SoonR
  • TalkPlus
  • Widsets
  • Winksite
  • … and many others. 

In fact please add your name/project to the list here in the comments, so someone can start categorizing them ;-)

Relationship between Mobile 2.0 and Web 2.0

I’m not sure who coined the term ‘mobile 2.0′ first, but loads of discussions and conversations have been going on for a while now (see links below). To me, the shift happened at a Mobile Music event in London in November 2005. I presented a couple of slides trying to explain what I thought was happening at that point: a Fixed Internet Mobile and Network Convergence, combined with the coming of Hybrid Phones (Nokia no longer calls them phones!), combined with ability to access web 2.0 services.

At that point Tim O’Reilly had just released his article defining web 2.0 and Ajit Jaokar was about to write his first definitions on mobile 2.0, which later resulted in his book Mobile Web 2.0 – which explored the more in-depth relations between web 2.0 and mobile 2.0 related apps and services. His blog and book are both recommended reading for anyone interested in this topic. [Ed: later this week we'll feature an extract from Ajit's book here on Read/WriteWeb]

Here are some essential components of what mobile 2.0 is about:

1) Openness: open standards, open-source development and open access – creating more options for the user, not enclosing them in the walled gardens currently (still) used by operators.

2) The context of accessing the network and associated web services needs to be a positive user experience. For example for mobile search, the context includes: browser type, different device functionalities, security issues, display on a small screen, how to insert ads, etc. Associated with this is the usability experience of the devices, applications and services – and other components. For a more detailed analysis of context and the mobile web, see this article I wrote for gotomobile.

3) Affordable pricing to use the network to access content and services.

4) More user choice in the ways to communicate and share experiences with others (social interaction)

5) Intelligent ‘aware’ applications and devices that know where you are; location ‘aware’ applications seamlessly integrated.

6) New business opportunities coming to market, which may or may not connect to operators networks; think RSS feeds, alerts to SMS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Entertainment download zones and access spots, Podcasting to your mobile, Streaming Videocall to TV, Moblogging, Video blogging and media sharing applications, Click to Call (a phone number tagged into a mobile web or WAP page), Mobile Search, and last but not least VoIP tools & services.

Also worth noting that one-click access to the (mobile) web is essential to deploy easy-to-access online services. In this area there has been a lot of movement, with companies proposing solutions using QR codes, image recognition and augmented reality applications in mobile.

Conclusion

To conclude, check this nice mobile 2.0 definition from Daniel Appelquist:

“Mobile 2.0 is not “the Future.” it is services that already exist all around us. These services are maturing at an amazing rate and what they are doing is effectively knitting together Web 2.0 with the mobile platform to create something new: a new class of services that leverage mobility but are as easy to use and ubiquitous as the Web is today. These services point the way forward for the mobile data industry.”

It took the internet a couple of years after 1994 to reach its maturity on the technology side, not to forget the business side of things. I believe the time has come for another exciting period, the Mobile Web. Some carriers/operators are finally starting to act – how about you?

Written for Read/WriteWeb by Rudy De Waele of m-trends.org.

Recommended mobile 2.0 reading

Google’s Big Idea by Russell Buckley
Mobile web 2.0: Web 2.0 and its impact on the mobility and digital convergence by Ajit Jaokar
Mobile 2.0 IS NOT Web 2.0 by Oliver Starr at MobHappy
About context and the mobile web by Rudy De Waele at gotomobile.com
What is “Mobile 2.0″ (Beta) by Dan Appelquist
Daniel Appelquist on Mobile 2.0, and views on a different kind of Mobile 2.0 by C. Enrique Ortiz
the mobile designer by Kelly Goto
My Mobile 2.0 Manifesto by Fabrizio Capobianco
10 Things I Learned at Mobile 2.0 by Brian Fling
Carnival of the Mobilists – a group of bloggers, writing weekly on mobility

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Mashable writes…

What’s Mobile 2.0?

It seems the Web 2.0 concept is building up a lot of steam. So I think this is a good time to talk about another transition I’ve been thinking about recently: Mobile 2.0.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that what the blogosphere doesn’t need right now is Yet Another Pointless Meme (YAPM?). But the phrase Mobile 2.0 really seems to capture what this trend is about – the convergence of mobile devices and web services creating an entirely new dynamic. Once the web is truly a platform (although some would argue that it will never reach this stage), our mobiles won’t need to run applications or store massive amounts of data. The vast majority of these applications will exist on the network, with our data spread across the wide array of loosely coupled web services we use everyday. I expect you already upload your photos to Flickr, keep track of your links on del.icio.us or store and share your videos with YouTube, but I see this trend continuing to a point at which most of our data is in the cloud, and only a tiny fraction of it is stored locally. To some followers of Web 2.0, this evolution seems blatantly obvious, but I think we’ve yet to explore the true ramifications of the mobile web.

One likely scenario is the emergence of location-based advertising. It seems that Google, with its movement towards local search, its mapping expertise and its successful contextual ad system, is well-positioned to take advantage of the new dynamic. This MobHappy post gives us a flavour of what’s to come:

Your phone has…become your primary means of accessing the internet, again via Google Net, obviously. Your phone is a thin client, with most storage and processing done on the web. Most people don’t have even a PC anymore. If they want to do work that involves a keyboard and a bigger screen, they just pop their phone into the nearest docking station and away they go. With the added advantage that the phone has ensured that the screen layout, favourite apps, bookmarks and files are all available exactly as you’d want them…

So suddenly, true location based marketing becomes a reality, no longer a question like when the tech is available??? or providing you’re in line of sight??? or if it’s accurate enough???.

The idea of the docking station???, with a bigger screen and a full-sized keyboard, is a popular image of our mobile future. When we no longer need to be mobile (at work and at home, for example), we plug our phone into the dock and enjoy all the benefits of a fully-fledged PC. I’ve posted about this concept here and here. And Philip Greenspun has looked into how the docking station might work in practice:

A mobile phone has substantially all of the computing capabilities desired by a large fraction of the public. Why then would someone want to go to the trouble of installing and maintaining a personal computer (PC)? The PC has a larger keyboard and screen, a larger storage capacity, can play more sophisticated games, and has a faster communications capability.

This is a plan for building an appliance into which a mobile phone plugs and that extends the phone’s capabilities without requiring the consumer to become a system administrator or be aware that he or she owns more than a phone. In the rest of this document we will call the new device The Appliance???…

It’s also interesting to imagine how content will evolve to fit the mobile platform. We’ve already seen content broken down into smaller chunks to cope with our busy lifestyles and short attention spans, but once we’re faced with digesting content on the go (perhaps on a tiny screen), that content will no doubt have to be even more concise. In essence, we’ll need better filtering to create shorter, more relevant snippets of content. But how will we create this content? Moblogs and cameraphone snaps seem to be gaining adoption, but mobile video is on the way, too. And if services like Scoopt and SpyMedia are anything to go by, then the content creators of Mobile 2.0 can expect to get paid for their efforts.

There is much more to be said about Mobile 2.0 – its impact on social networking, web design and payment systems will also be interesting areas to explore. But I’ll leave all that for another post. And before you start pulling these theories to pieces, let’s remember that Mobile 2.0 is just a hypothesis. I also accept that Mobile 2.0 isn’t even the correct term here – perhaps I’m really talking about Web 3.0, or simply the mobile internet. But let’s keep an eye on how these trends develop over the next few years – you never know, we might be on to something!

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Blueflavour Writes…

10 Things I Learned at Mobile 2.0

The Mobile 2.0 Conference yesterday was a lot of fun and great day of discussion about the future of mobile. While there was definitely some kinks, it was an excellent first event that I hope it will become an annual one. A big thanks go to Mike Rowehl, Dan Appelquist, Greg Gorman and others for putting this together.

On the flight back, I had a chance to reflect about some of the things that I learned or surprised me about the event.

#1 Mobile 2.0 = The Web

The thing that surprised me the most about the event was how much the web was discussed, specially the mobile web. I had anticipated a little discussion about the web throughout the day. Usually when mobile geeks get together they talk about mobile applications, carriers, J2ME midlets, blah blah blah. But yesterday was different.

It was obvious that in the minds of many, Mobile 2.0 is the web. Mobile is already a platform, but the consensus was that leveraging the power of the web, integrating web services into the mobile medium is the future of mobile.

While many of the discussions leaned on the technical, I found it a breath of fresh air to hear so much discussion about the mobile web from the mobile community. Contrast that with the Future of Web Apps conference last month, also in San Francisco, mobile was hardly mentioned at all. Seems like we have a disconnect.

#2 The mobile web browser is the next killer app

If Mobile 2.0 is the Web, then the mobile web browser is the next killer app. There were many discussions about the future of mobile browsers, their capabilities and the what the future holds.

Of particular concern is how device fragmentation factors into mobile browsers. For example, how can we expect developers to support 30+ different mobile browsers? Luckily both myself and Charles from Opera had a chance to answer this question explaining that simple XHTML Basic code, with simple CSS will render fairly consistently across most modern handsets.

Fellow panelist Chris, from the Mozilla Minimo project felt we will see only a few browsers in the future, Minimo/Mozilla, Opera Mini/Opera, Internet Explorer and Nokia/Apple Webkit. While I think that statement is a little too focused on the Smart Phone market and leaves out big players like OpenWave and Access, I do agree that we are beginning to see strong encouragement toward the reduction of mobile browsers. I just don’t think it will be just the “big four.”

#3 Mobile Web Applications are the future

Creating mobile web applications instead of software applications is of a lot of interest. The mobile community is really looking at the web 2.0 revolution for inspiration. They see the success of small iterative development cycles and want to apply it to mobile.

Developers seem keen to shift away from the costly mobile applications, that are difficult to get through the mobile service provider gates, require massive testing cycles and can easily miss the mark with users after dumping loads of money into it.

Mobile software has two fundamental problems that mobile web applications solve. First it needs to be loaded on to the handset, either via download to phone from PC or through the mobile service provider. Neither are ideal. Second, software is difficult to update over-the-air (the mobile hardcore would say OTA). Once the software is loaded, that’s it. The user doesn’t receive any of the benefits of minor bug fixes or modest upgrades.

#4 AJAX is the next frontier

There is a lot of focus on AJAX being the next big hurdle to the mobile web experience. Opera, Minimo and the Nokia/Apple browser all support it today, but it still feels like we have a long way to go until we begin to see the rich interaction we’ve become accustom to the past few years on the desktop web.

Again, I saw a speaker bias for Smart Phones and PDAs which most of the attendees tend to own, and not a lot of discussion of when AJAX can be expected on the widely more popular Feature Phones. It is important to understand that your common Feature Phone is three to four times more saturated than higher end Feature Phones.

I expect in 2007 we will see a flurry of announcements focused on AJAX, or AJAX-based web applications on mobile phones. But I think it may not be until 2008 that we see the market saturation of AJAX supported browsers high enough to give it much weight.

#5 Javascript kills battery life

I knew about this one, but not to the degree that was stressed. I mean they really stressed it, like 10 times. Using Javascript on a mobile phone consumes A LOT of power.

Using a AJAX based web application can drain at a rate of 4-5 times your normal power consumption. So unless you are in the habit of carrying around a bunch of extra batteries, like one person suggested, expect to charge your phone every hour or two as a penalty for being on the bleeding edge.

As a side note, there was also a lot of discussion of how accessing the device capabilities like the phone book or files system with Javascript doesn’t work in a consistent way. That better Javascript support on devices, not just with better power performance, but also richer interaction between device and client scripts.

#6 The Mobile User Experience Sucks/Rules/Is Hot!

There was a lot of talk about mobile user experience. The attitudes varied throughout the day, from “the mobile user experience is utterly horrid,” to “look at these cool things you can do,” to “the mobile user experience is the future!”

The polar attitudes toward the mobile user experience was fascinating to observe. It seemed as everyone was treating it like a chicken and the egg scenario, bad input/output of the user experience prevents adoption, but designing a shiny user experience with bells and whistles will bring them in droves.

What was missing was discussion about goals and what people are trying to do with mobile devices. Not too surprising, it was an industry conference after all. It would have been nice to see one person say, “I’ve talked to five people. They told me what they wanted on a mobile device. So we built it.”

#7 Mobile Widgets are the next big thing

There was a lot of discussion about widgets. Nokia’s venture WidSets demoed their widget platform as did SoonR. Hetal from Symbian talked about the advantages of creating small web-enabled applications. And I had a great discussion with Chris at Mozilla about using XUL to create Minimo-based applications like we see with Firefox.

The consensus seems to be that the solution for the mobile web is to create a series of “small webs” targeted at a specific user or task. I couldn’t figure out the problem they were solving was, but the widgets looked cool.

Don’t get me wrong, while I believe that the concept of small network enabled applications is very promising. The mobile industry tends to take promising ideas like this, inflate expectations to unsustainable levels then abandon them at the first sign of trouble or for the next big thing, whichever happens first.

In my mind, the mobile web is here and no one is creating content for it. It is the long bet. Let’s try to get that sorted out first before we try to abstract a layer on top of it.

#8 The Carrier is the new “C” word

I noticed a strong tendency by all who took the podium to avoid uttering the word “Carrier.” Even the European folks rarely used the word “Operators,” the equivalent term used elsewhere in the world to describe mobile service providers.

It was almost as though they didn’t exist for a day. Maybe the attendees preferred to see a future with no mobile service providers at all. I think more likely the case is that everyone has finally figured out that you can’t make a buck if your business relies on carriers. Though the “C” word wasn’t uttered, it still was the 800 lb gorilla in the room.

With so much focus on the mobile web, it became obvious to me that everyone is looking for a way around the carriers. The mobile web looks to be their best shot at the moment.

#9 People abuse the Podium

This has nothing to do with mobile, but it was a big issue of the day for me. Many speakers abused the privilege of taking the podium and speaking to their peers. Rather than discuss their insights into the topic of the panel, they walked us through their product, company numbers or recycled market data, often a year or more old. They gave us nothing to think about, they did not challenge our views or perceptions, nor did we walk away with a beneficial view of the speaker, their content or the company.

Most panelists were invited to give a short overview or introduction before the moderator took to Q&A. Many took 15-20 minutes to painfully walk us through their talking points. multiply that by a panel of four and there is your hour, giving us little time for questions or discussion.

Speaking in front of your peers is a privilege, and should be treated with respect.

Also, don’t even think about doing a presentation unless you’ve read Tufte. Just because you have five minutes doesn’t mean you cram an hour of content into 8 slides. The pinnacle moment of the day was “the conclusion” of two slides with 10 points each.

#10 We are creators not consumers

The highlight of the day was Tony Fish giving an excellent, though very under-appreciated, discussion about Mobile Web 2.0. He provided a variety of well spoken points about the trends, needs and goals of people. Things like user-generated content, mash-ups, etc are not new concepts, but have been around for hundreds of years. He not only provided historical context, but excellently applied current trends to the mobile web.

The most memorable moment was when he forwarded the theory that we are not consumers at all, but creators. When everyone has the tools to create content, in addition to zero-cost publishing, we do not consume content, we create it.

His talk was inspiration, well thought out and well delivered. I look forward to reading his book and chatting to him more at future events.

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DailyWireless writes

Mobile 2.0

Read/WriteWeb says Mobile 2.0 makes applications the thing. How we connect will be secondary. It will dramatically change the web and the mobility landscape that we currently know.

Devices will become more hybrid and networks more powerful – everywhere in the next decade to come.

Non-carrier projects like Google Wi-Fi and FON aim to make cities completely Wi-Fi accessible. From personal experience I can tell you that people are going to use these alternative options to connect to the internet, once it’s available on their mobile devices. Handset manufacturers like Nokia, Motorola and Sony-Ericsson are getting the company of new players like Apple (iPod), Microsoft (Zune) and connecting the physical and the virtual worlds through the mobile. Not forgetting Google’s possible strategy of offering free phones.

Mobilist blogger Enrique C. Ortiz sees another hindrance (and I think he’s right): the lack of open standards and tools to build your own mobile 2.0 applications. He says:

Web 2.0 is based on user intelligence instead of technologies, i.e. by giving users smart tools that enable them to apply human semantics to information provided, you get a more intelligent web.

This can only be done in a massive (thus useful) way with open standards and protocols that are inclusive and inviting to everyone. Now, as I see it, this ‘open-source’ story is an aspect seriously lacking from mobile platforms.???

Carriers/operators need to cover their investments and so they want to be compensated by any 3rd party using their network. This is fair enough, but the fact is that operators are losing more and more control over mobile devices – because these devices can communicate with other devices over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Wimax, NFC, etc. That is, more options are becoming available for mobile users to access the web over networks other than the closed networks of the operators.

There’s definitely a lot of movement around on the mobile start-up front. Besides Yahoo with Flickr and Google with YouTube going mobile, there are some very interesting start-up companies resolutely going mobile. Many of them are building easy-to-use mobile web apps and services.

Here’s a starter to check out; BluePulse, ComVu, Funambol, Gizmo, Loopt, JuiceCaster, Mobo, Mystrands, Plazes, Plusmo, Sharpcast, SlingMedia, Shozu, SoonR, TalkPlus, Widsets, Winksite, and many others.

Devicescape, for example, enables mobile wireless devices to connect to any supported Wi-Fi hotspot or municipal network. Once the device and the network are set up from the Devicescape Web site, connecting is automatic. As you approach a Wi-Fi network, your device automatically connects and is ready to use.

Devicescape says using a VoIP or Skype phone at a hotspot is now possible and mobile devices that don’t have a browser, like MP3 players and digital cameras, will be able to connect. No scanning for networks, finding your account information and configuring. It promises to automatically connect you to every network your provider has a roaming agreement with.

At the Open Source in Mobile event in Amsterdam, earlier this month, Taiwanese hardware manufacturer FIC introduced the Neo1973 smartphone, running a Linux-based environment called OpenMoko.

The idea — as with Trolltech’s Greenphone (right), announced in August — is to provide developers with a fully programmable Linux-based handset for which they can develop applications. Mobile open source software company Funambol (pronounced foo-nahm’-ball???), for example, has announced it will provide push email and mobile applications for the device.

Taiwan’s First International Computer (FIC) PDA-styled phone will apparently cost about $350 (£184) — half the price of the Greenphone.

Their Neo1973 smartphone is compatible with GSM networks at 850, 900,1,800 and 1,900MHZ, so it should work in Europe, the US and much of Asia.

While Microsoft and Symbian have integrated off-the-shelf mobile phone software with code libraries, multimedia and communications protocols as well as a healthy third-party software ecosystem, Linux software for phones is generally considered to be more flexible, but less complete.

Surprisingly, the Open Source Development Labs, a Beaverton industry consortium that promotes the Linux operating system, laid off a third of its staff Monday and announced its chief executive will step down. Linux creator Linus Torvalds, who moved to Oregon in 2004, remains with OSDL and will continue to work with the group, according to the organization.

But the cuts are sure to reduce Oregon’s profile in the global open source community, where the state had taken a leading role in the past few years, says the Oregonian’s Mike Rogoway who has more details on the OSDL layoffs.

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Futuretext writes…

Mobile web 2.0: Web 2.0 and its impact on the mobility and digital convergence (Part one of three)

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Mobile web 2.0: Web 2.0 and its impact on the mobility and digital convergence (Part one of three)
By Ajit Jaokar (Ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com)

Introduction and Objectives
This is a series of three articles the first(this one) outlining the significance of web 2.0 technologies , the second article discussing the impact of web 2.0 technologies on mobility and the final article on the impact of web 2.0 technologies on digital convergence.

If you are already familiar with web 2.0, my goal, in a nutshell (no pun intended!) is to extend Tim O Reilly’s seven principles
to mobility and digital convergence.

Thus, I will not attempt to add to the body of knowledge in terms of basic web 2.0 concepts themselves. I would rather prefer to build on some of the excellent work done on the subject from folk such as Tim O Reilly , Richard Mc Manus and others. I will use their work as a background and extrapolate the basic web 2.0 principles to mobility and digital convergence (areas which I am more familiar with).

My approach will be to ask a series of questions based on my understanding of web 2.0 and mobility. I also welcome your questions. In the two following parts of this paper, I will seek to answer them. Also, if you are a company doing some interesting work in this space, please email me on the address above.

A bit about me
I live in London (England) and am the CEO of a publishing company futuretext.
I wrote a book called OpenGardens advocating openness in the mobile data industry. I also chair Oxford university’s next generation mobile applications panel. In 2006, I am commencing a PhD on IMS (IP Multimedia Systems). If you have an interest in IMS, please contact me to keep in touch. My blog is at OpenGardensBlog

Some definitions
A few quick definitions before we start just to be sure we have the same frame of reference.

Mobile vs. wireless: In Europe, the commonly used phrase for Telecoms data applications is ‘Mobile’. In USA, it is ‘wireless’ or ‘cellular’. In this article, ‘Wireless’ simply implies connection without wires. Mobility or ‘Mobile’ on the other hand describes a whole new class of applications which permit us to interact and transact seamlessly when the user is on the move ‘anywhere, anytime’. Hence, I use the term ‘Mobile’ independent of access technology i.e. 3G, wireless LANs, wimax, wibro, Bluetooth etc.

Mobile Internet: ‘Mobile IP data service’. It is not ‘Internet on the Mobile device’ since mobility also includes other elements such as ‘messaging’ i.e. non-browsing modes of access.

The mobile data industry: The ‘data’ i.e. non-voice side of telecoms. The telecoms operators are an important part of the mobile data industry.

Web 2.0
Within the mobile data industry, ‘openness’ is still an alien concept. I wrote a book called OpenGardens alongwith Tony Fish which advocated openness in the mobile data industry (OpenGardens is the philosophical opposite of ‘walled gardens’).

When I talk to senior telecoms people about ‘OpenGardens’ they are still hung about ‘on portal’ or ‘off portal’. Further, most cannot see beyond the traditional ‘song and dance’ applications (ringtones/wall papers etc).

In contrast, I find web 2.0 concepts refreshingly intuitive and they formalise many things which we know and use. For example in OpenGardens, we talked about an application called ‘Splash messaging’ also called air graffiti or spatial messaging.

Contrast this with a very different type of application called ‘splash messaging/air graffiti/spatial messaging’. In its simplest case, it’s the ability to ‘pin’ digital ‘post it notes’ at any physical point. Suppose you were at a holiday destination and you took a picture or a video of that location. You then ‘posted’ that note digitally with your comments and made it accessible to your ‘friends’. Many years later, one of your friends happened to come to that same place and as she walked to the venue, a message would pop up on her device with your notes, picture and comments.

The Splash messaging application is a ‘mashup’ of many different feeds (for example a location feed and a mapping feed) and it has other features like user created content. Its characteristics are very similar to a web 2.0 service.

So, coming back to my question, what’s web 2.0 and how does it apply to the mobile data industry?

Background
There appear to be two early origin points for web 2.0
Firstly, a business week article:
It’s A Whole New Web And this time around it will be built by you

and secondly .. a conference ( web 2.0 conference created by a discussion between O’Reilly publications and MediaLive International (a technology conference company if you want to put a label around it)

Currently, there is a lot of hype around web 2.0. But also a lot of cynicism. Predictably, the VCs are excited

Like the web 1.0 It even has a ‘bible book’ as we had the cluetrain manifesto for web 1.0

For web 2.0 it is Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (Addison-Wesley Professional Computing Series) (Hardcover)

And finally .. it has an odd ‘new agey’ feeling to it .. with words like ‘collective intelligence’, feng shui and morality being bandied about in the context of web 2.0 -
Starting with Nicholas Carr’s The amorality of web 2.0
And Kevin Kelly’s we are the web
and finally .. Tim o Reilly’s response to Nicholas Carr’s article at

Some questions to think about
The mobile device has the potential to act as a significant reporter of data rather than a mere consumer of data. The Web 2.0 / mobility interplay needs more thought. Consider principle two from the list of seven principles (harnessing collective intelligence).

Functionally, we must be able to
a) collect intelligence unique to being ‘mobile’
b) share that knowledge
c) enable others to comment on that knowledge
d) Ensure that the enhanced body of knowledge so created can be shared with the community.

This leads to more questions – What type of information can we collect when we are mobile(location, pictures(MMS)), How can it be shared?, How can it be enhanced?

Some initial questions which come to my mind:

1) If a web 2.0 service is treated as an amalgamation of data and enabling software, which data elements are unique to mobility (for example location feeds)?
2) How are these data elements captured?
3) What are the pitfalls associated with accessing(sharing) these data sources
4) Will the mobile web 2.0 be seamless as we all hope? If not, what are the options and choke points in extending web 2.0 ‘anywhere anytime’?
5) The impact of IMS. As per wikipedia

The aim of IMS is not only to provide new services but all the services, current and future, that the Internet provides. In addition, users have to be able to execute all their services when roaming as well as from their home networks. To achieve these goals, IMS uses open standard IP protocols, defined by the IETF. So, a multimedia session between 2 IMS users, between an IMS user and a user on the Internet, and between 2 users on the Internet is established using exactly the same protocol. Moreover, the interfaces for service developers are also based on IP protocols. This is why IMS truly merges the Internet with the cellular world; it uses cellular technologies to provide ubiquitous access and Internet technologies to provide appealing services.(By the way, IMS is the topic I am looking to commence my PhD in this year.)

6) How does the network effect work within the mobile data industry ?

7) How does network effect work in terms of user contributions(i.e. can small contributions created by users be shared easily across to the larger body of users) ?

8) What are the examples of harnessing collective intelligence / peer production on the mobile data industry ?

9) Contrasting the iPod/itunes models with other models of sharing data in the mobile data industry

10) Which companies are leading the way in this space ?

11) How will search be affected by ‘anywhere/anytime’ ?

12) Airwaves are not free i.e. there is a cost of transmission over the air through a telecoms network. Will that impact the wider deployment of web 2.0?

13) Impact of dual mode phones(WiFi and 3G phones)

14) IP /IMS does not mean ‘open’. Does openness matter ? If information can be accessed via a browser(and initiatives like the t-mobile web-n-walk initiative are already under way http://digital-lifestyles.info/display_page.asp?section=cm&id=2658 ) what’s the impact of the ‘walled gardens’ ?

15) What type of data can be captured on a mobile device(music, video, images) and how can it be enhanced(tagged, shared etc) ?

16) What services can be mixed and what new services can be created ? Any examples of these?(citizen’s reporting, real time traffic monitoring are obvious examples)

and so on …

To understand web 2.0, I am going to mainly use Tim O Reilly’s original article alongwith other references from the web as linked.

The seven core principles of web 2.0 revised
As I understand them, according to the article, a web 2.0 service should have as many of the following seven core characteristics as possible. I have outlined these principles partly as a foundation for subsequent discussions but also for my own clarification. Please refer the original link as above for more details.

1. The Web As Platform
Software as a service is data plus software:
A web 2.0 service is a combination of software and data. The term ‘web as a platform’ is not new. Netscape used this term first but the Netscape application (i.e. browser) was created in context of the existing ecosystem (‘WebTop’ instead of ‘desktop’ mirroring the famous ‘horseless carriage’ analogy). While Netscape was still ‘software’ in contrast, Google is software plus a database. Individually, the software and the database are of limited value but together they create a new type of service. In this context, the value of the software lies in being able to manage the (vast amounts of) data. The better it can do it, the more valuable the software becomes.

Harnessing the ‘long tail’: The term ‘long tail’ refers to the vast number of small sites that make up the web as opposed to the few ‘important’ sites. This is illustrated by the ‘double-click vs. adsense/overture’ example. The DoubleClick business model was not based on harnessing the vast number of small sites. In contrast, it relied on serving the needs of a few large sites (generally dictated by the media/advertising industry). In fact, their business model actively discouraged small sites(through mechanisms like formal sales contracts). In contrast, anyone can set up an adsense/overture account easily. This makes it easier for the vast number of sites(long tail) to use the service(ad sense/overture).

In general, Web 2.0 systems are geared to harness the power of a large number of casual users who often contribute data implicitly as opposed to a small number of users who contribute explicitly. Tags are an example of implicit contribution. Thus, the web 2.0 service must be geared to capturing ‘many implicit/metadata contributions from a large number of users’ and not a small number of contributions from a few ‘expert’ users.

2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence
In this context, collective intelligence can mean many things
- Yahoo as an aggregation of links
- Google page mark
- Blogging
- Tagging and collective categorisation for example flickr and del.icio.us
- Ebay buyers and sellers
- Amazon reviews
- Wikipedia

And so on ..
All of the above are metadata/content created by users that collectively adds value to the service(which as we have seen before is a combination of the software and the data).

Harnessing the collective intelligence involves understanding some other aspects like peer production, the wisdom of crowds and the network effect.

Peer production as defined by the professor Yochai Benkler’s seminal paper peer production . A concise definition from wikipedia is a new model of economic production, different from both markets and firms, in which the creative energy of large numbers of people is coordinated (usually with the aid of the internet) into large, meaningful projects, largely without traditional hierarchical organization or financial compensation. •

The wisdom of crowds as discussed in the book wisdom of crowds by James Surowiecki whose central idea is that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant—better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.

And finally, network effects from user contributions. In other words, the ability for users to add value (knowledge) easily and then the ability for their contributions to flow seamlessly across the whole community thereby enriching the whole body of knowledge. A collective brain/intelligence of the blogosphehe if you will made possible by RSS. A living, dynamic entity not controlled by a single entity.

3. Data is the Next Intel Inside
We have seen previously that a web 2.0 service combines function(software) and data(which is managed by the software). Web 2.0 services inevitably have a body of data (Amazon reviews, eBay products and sellers, Google links) Thus, it’s very different to a word processor for example where we are selling only software (and no data).

Data is the key differentiator. In most cases, the company serving the data (for example Google) also ‘owns’ the data (for example information about links). However, that may not always be the case. In case of Google maps , Google does not own the data. Mapping data is often owned by companies such as NavTech and satellite imagery data is owned by companies like Digital Globe. Google maps combine data from these two sources(at least).

Taking the ‘chain of data’ further, sites like housing maps are a mashup between Google maps and craigslist. The more difficult it is to create the data, the more valuable it is(for example satellite images are valuable). In cases where data which is relatively easy to create, the company providing the most useful service and hitting critical mass will be valuable.

4. End of the Software Release Cycle
Web 2.0 services do not have a software release cycle. While Google reindexes its link indices every day, Microsoft releases a major software release every few years. That’s because there is no ‘data’ in windows 95, windows XP etc. It’s pure software. Not so with Google. Google is data plus software. It has to reindex its ‘data’ every day else it loses its value. Thus, operations are critical to a web 2.0 company. There is no ‘release’ as such. The flip side of this coin is there are widespread beta releases and users are treated as co-developers.

5. Lightweight Programming Models
Distributed applications have always been complex to design. However, distributed applications are central to the web. Web services were deemed to be the mechanism to create distributed applications easily. But web services, in their full incarnation using the SOAP stack, are relatively complex. RSS is a simpler(and quicker) way to achieve much of the functionality of web services.

Simpler technologies like RSS and AJAX are the driving force behind web 2.0 services as opposed to the full fledged webservices stack using mechanisms like SOAP. These technologies are designed to syndicate rather than orchestrate(one of the goals of web services). They are thus opposite to the traditional corporate mindset of controlling access to data. They are also designed for reuse. Reuse in the sense of reusing the service and not the data(i.e. they make it easier to remix the service).

Finally, innovation becomes a case of mixing (cobbling together) services existing services something which we talked about in OpenGardens in the mobile context.

6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device
The sixth principle i.e. ‘Software above the level of a single device’ is an obvious staring point when we think of the impact of web 2.0 on mobility and telecoms. At one level, the whole of the ‘new’ web should be transparent and accessible across any device. Indeed a browser is the least common denominator in all mobile data devices – and that’s a sobering thought. But there is more to the sixth principle than merely access via the browser.

iTunes leverages data(music) through the service and provides some data management/metadata functions. The mobile device has the potential to act as a significant reporter of data rather than a mere consumer of data. This data, like all web 2.0 services, may be implicit or explicit. This point will be a significant area for discussion in the next two articles.

7. Rich User Experiences
While mechanisms like RSS are being used to syndicate the content of web sites out to a much wider audience, the user experience at the client itself is undergoing a dramatic improvement. The collection of technologies driving this enhanced user experience is Ajax popularised by Jesse James Garrett in the AJAX essay

AJAX is being used in services like gmail, Google maps and Flickr and it already provides the technology to create a seamless user experience combing many discrete services. The impact of RSS and AJAX is to create a service spanning content from many sites. To the user, this is a single, transparent experience. Effectively, content is being freed from its original container. Instead of the user going to the content(as in a user navigating to a web site), the content is going to the user(through RSS). Technologies like AJAX are making it easier for users to create the glue which binds the various content sources(RSS) together.

Conclusion to part One
This article laid the groundwork for the next two articles. It was an introduction to web 2.0 and a series of initial questions which came to my mind when discussing the interplay between web 2.0 and mobility. My objectives, as I have stated, are to extend Tim’s seven principles to mobility and digital convergence. I welcome your comments and questions and I shall answer them in the next two sections of this article.

Many thanks.
Ajit Jaokar
www.opengardensblog.futuretext.com
Ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

References

http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2005/10/the_amorality_o.php

http://webservices.sys-con.com/read/161874_p.htm

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,69114,00.html

http://web2.wsj2.com/web2ishere.htm

http://web2.wsj2.com/the_best_web_20_software_of_2005.htm

http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2005/10/the_amorality_of_web_20.html

http://digital-web.com/articles/web_2_for_designers/

http://www.adambosworth.net/archives/000031.html

Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Web20_en.png

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Mobile web 2.0: Web 2.0 and its impact on the mobility and digital convergence (Part two of three)

Mobile web 2.0: Web 2.0 and its impact on the mobility and digital convergence (Part two of three) By Ajit Jaokar (Ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com) and Tony Fish (Tony.fish at amfventures.com )

Background

Welcome to the second part of ‘Mobile web 2.0: web 2.0 and its impact on mobility and digital convergence’. If you have not yet read it, the first part is at Mobile web 2.0: Web 2.0 and its impact on the mobility and digital convergence (Part one of three). Much has happened since I wrote the first part of this article. For instance, I am now a member of the web20 workgroup and I will be speaking at Sys-con’s International Web Services Conference & Expo in New York in June 2006. Many thanks for all your feedback to the first article.

I would also like to introduce Tony Fish(who is my co-author for OpenGardens ). This article and the following article (about the impact of web 2.0 on digital convergence) is written by both Ajit and Tony.

In this article, we will discuss three things
a) The definition of Mobile web 2.0
b) ‘I am not a number I am a tag!’
b) A blueprint for a mobile web 2.0 service

Mobile web 2.0 defined
Using the foundation of Tim O Reilly’s seven principles for web 2.0 .. we define Mobile web 2.0 as your experience of preferred services on a restricted device

This definition firmly drives the mobile internet from the fixed Internet since the web becomes the point of configuration of a new service and the mobile device becomes an extension of that service (the ability to access the service anywhere/any time).

We struggled with the definition of a ‘restricted device’. The only feature we could find common to all restricted devices is ‘they are battery driven’. But then watches have batteries?. So, we decided to extend the definition of ‘restricted devices’ by incorporating Barbara Ballard’s carry principle .

Thus, a restricted device could now be deemed as
a) Carried by the user
b) battery driven
c) Small(by definition)
d) Probably multifunctional but with a primary focus
e) A device with limited input mechanisms(small keyboard)
f) Personal and personalised BUT
g) Not wearable(that rules out the watch!). But, there is a
caveat, a mobile device in the future could be wearable and
it’s capacities may well be beyond what we imagine today. The
input mechanism in the future will not be a key stroke on
such devices, but a movement or sound. So, this is an
evolving definition.

Finally, there is a difference between a ‘carried’ device and a ‘mobile device which is in a vehicle’. For example in a car, a GPS navigator is a ‘mobile device’ and in a plane, the in-flight entertainment screen is also ‘mobile’. However, both these devices are not ‘carried’ and do not have the same screen/power restrictions as devices that are ‘carried’.

However, it’s clear that the mobile phone is an example of a restricted device. But there is more to ‘mobile web 2.0′ than extending ‘web 2.0 to mobile phones’. We believe that web 2.0 has the capacity to fundamentally alter the world of telecoms and mobile networks. That’s because the phone number that last bastion of leverage is itself under threat! Tags will replace numbers.

I am not a number, I am a tag!
What do we mean by ‘I am not a number I am a tag!’
In the good old days, I had a telephone. It was connected via a wire to the wall and I could pick up the handset and dial a number to reach my friends. If I needed to reach someone that I knew – but did not have their number – I would refer to the telephone directory. The telephone directory would resolve a name to a number.

This worked fine when I had one number .. but it all got very complex when I left my youthful years and went to work. Soon I had an office number, a DDI number, my digs and my home (parents) numbers. The office then added email ids and a mobile number. At a personal level, I got a range of IM’s(Instant message Ids) and email ids ( university, first email, grown up email, own domain email). Now, it is followed by a range of VoIP numbers! And so it goes ..

To ensure that I spent lots of money calling and chatting -some clever people created voice messaging services so that you could ask me to call back if I was not on one of those numbers, or you could only remember one of them. Some cleverer people created unified messaging in the hope that all my messages would go to one place. However, there is no one place to resolve the ‘number to name’ problem.

This means I have to spend a vast amount of time maintaining an increasing database of people and their various numbers. The old system of the telephone directory sort of works, search engines can search many directories to find my many numbers and IP addresses – if they are available.

But why bother with numbers in the first place? Why relinquish control to them? Why should we not break free?

For instance – why is it so hard to keep your number when changing houses or mobile service providers?(at a cost I might add!) You have ‘become’ the number. And nowadays, that’s increasingly ‘numbers’(i.e. not just one number)!. People are forced to remember your various numbers some do but most will find it increasingly difficult.

But then came tags .. and we believe that tags will erode 100 years of telecoms regulations on numbering and also the one control point that operators still believe is untouchable. i.e. the number itself

Imagine a world where you do not care what your number is or how many you have. A world where tags replace numbers. Others (friends, work mates, people who you see and meet) tag your data so that they can find you again.

Tony Fish could tag ‘Tony Fish’ with his 50 words, others will tag ‘Tony fish’ with their views and that’s how they will remember the name. Collectively, all Tony’s tags will uniquely identify me as ‘Tony Fish’ and not the other 462 Tony Fishes that are about!

A new type of search engine will emerge. The new search engine will not deliver my identity (and breach data protection regulations). Instead, they (the provider of the search service) will offer a service to enable ‘connection’. ‘Find Tony Fish’ will produce the result:- Tony is currently in Starbucks on Oxford Street do you want to ….. meet, IM, Mail, chat to him.

You see .. what we mean by .. I am no longer a number, I am a Tag.

You can visualise it as below
tonyslide.jpg

How will this start?

We would not expect that an operator can be the first to implement such a system – due to the legacy of existing systems and their requirement for seeing a business model first. Rather, we expect it will be organic. I will start tagging, you will start tagging and thus a network will emerge. I will add my contacts and notes from outlook, from thunderbird, from Plaxo, from linkedin and then the tags will grow!

A federated service provider will become the ‘search engine by tags’ searching my professional information. I will have added personal contacts for family so they are in by default(i.e. linked through me). The value proposition for the user appears when someone in your network modifies or updates the data with new details and that data automatically updates your data set, saving time and maintaining contact.

The bigger the network you have, the more frequently your information is refreshed and the more fresh and valuable it is.

As a commercial extension, it would be possible for a service provider to combine tags from several people within a program that would provide to each ‘paying premium member’ an improved data set. The commercial models will grow based on the knowledge and context within the search and tags.

Therefore we can see a federated, consensus driven business model allowing both restricted and free communication services from a search engine. Eventually, everyone tags, search engines get access to my desktop and I permit my presence to be made known.

Thus, I become a ‘tag’ an individual and not a number!

Mobile web 2.0 A service blueprint
The idea – ‘I am not a number I am a tag’ is extremely powerful and disruptive. It shows us the reason why web 2.0 is so critical to telecoms and mobility. Based on the principles we are developing, we were curious to find other ideas which truly encapsulated the principles of mobile web 2.0.

Web 2.0 being a bandwagon, so you are likely to see many services jumping on it. However, most are bandwagon seekers and cooked up by enthusiastic marketing departments.

So, in the final section, we now discuss a sample mobile web 2.0 service in detail. This service could act as a template for you in deciding future mobile web 2.0 systems and in separating the real from the fake.

The service we are discussing here
The service we are considering here is a ‘mobile’ version of a combination of del.icio.us and flickr

As you probably know, both del.icio.us and flickr are based on tags. However, note that in a mobile context, a ‘tag’ would have a different meaning to the term on the web. People do not like to enter a lot of information on a mobile device. Thus, a tag in a mobile sense, would be explicit information entered by the user(i.e. a ‘web’ tag) but more importantly information captured implicitly when the image was captured(for example the user’s location).

The service would enable you to
a) Search related images and get more information about a ‘camera phone image’ using historical analysis of metadata (including tags) from other users. This bit works like del.icio.us i.e. searching via tags BUT with a mobile element because the ‘tag’ could include many data elements that are unique to mobility(such as location)
b) ‘Share’ your images with others (either nominated friends or the general public similar to flickr but as a mobile service)

From a user perspective, the user would be able to
a) Capture an image using a camera phone alongwith metadata related to that image
b) Gain more information about that image from an analysis of historical data (either a missing element in the image or identifying the image itself)
c) Search related images based on tags
d) Share her image with others either nominated friends or the general public

Let’s break down the components further. We need -
a) A mobile ‘tagging’ system at the point of image capture
b) A server side processing component which receives data elements from each user. It then adds insights based on historical analysis from data gleaned from other users.
c) An ability to deliver the results to the user(these could be a list of related images based on the tag or ‘missing’ information about the image)
d) A means to capture the user’s feedback to the results
e) A means to share images with others.

Tagging an image
It’s not easy to ‘tag’ a mobile image at the point of capturing it. In fact, in a mobile context, implicit tagging is more important than explicit tagging(An explicit tag being a tag which the user enters themselves).

At the point the image is taken from a camera phone, there are three classes of data elements we could potentially capture

a) Temporal for example the time that the image was captured
b) Spatial The GPS location or cell id
c) Personal/Social - Username (and other personal profile information which the user chooses to share), presence, any tags that the user has entered, other people in the vicinity(perhaps identified by Bluetooth), other places of interest recently visited etc

The client component captures all the data elements and sends them to the server. It also displays the results from the server. (The garage cinema research uses a system called Mobile Media Metadata (MMM)which performs this function).

Server side processing
The server aggregates metadata from all users and applies some algorithms to the data. The data could also be ‘enriched’ by data sources such as land registry data, mapping data etc.
It then sends the results back to the user who can browse the results.

Finding ‘missing elements’ of your image
In many cases, it’s not easy to identify elements of the image(or in some cases, the image itself).

Consider the three images of Big Ben shown below
The third image is not very clear. It also includes two neighbouring ‘points of interest’ i.e. the river Thames and the house of parliament .

bigben.JPG

Based on Meta data from other users, the ‘river Thames’ and ‘House of parliament’ could be identified to the person capturing the third image. This is because – potentially other users would have captured separate images of the three points of interest and tagged them.

Thus, if the third user wanted to know ‘the river in the image’ or the ‘building in the image’ – they would be presented with a likely set of related points of interest which could include the river Thames and the house of commons. (Laughably trivial I know but it illustrates the point!)

Sharing your images
This is the ‘flickr’ component. However, ‘sharing’ in a mobile context, also includes location. This is very similar to the ‘air graffiti’ system I described in my previous article.
To recap, from my previous blog, the air graffiti system is – the ability to ‘pin’ digital ‘post it notes’ at any physical point. Suppose you were at a holiday destination and you took a picture or a video of that location. You then ‘posted’ that note digitally with your comments and made it accessible to your ‘friends’. Many years later, one of your friends happened to come to that same place and as she walked to the venue, a message would pop up on her device with your notes, picture and comments.
Like flickr, ‘friends’ may be members of the general public with similar interests (i.e. like flickr ) or a closed group.

So, is this a mobile web 2.0 service?
Let’s consider some of the principles here(for a detailed explanation, please read my article Mobile web 2.0: Web 2.0 and its impact on the mobility and digital convergence (Part one of three) )
• It’s a service and not packaged software.
• It’s scaleable.
• It utilises the ‘long tail’ i.e. input from many users as opposed to a core few.
• The service is managing a data source(it’s not just software).
• The data source gets richer as more people use the service.
• Users are trusted as ‘co-developers’ i.e. users contribute significantly.
• The service clearly harnesses ‘collective intelligence’ and by definition is ‘above the level of a single device’.
• Implicit user defaults are captured.
• Data is ‘some rights reserved’ people are sharing their images with others.

The two aspects not covered above are
• A rich user experience and
• A lightweight programming model

These are implementation issues and could easily be included. So, IMHO – indeed this is an example of a mobile web 2.0 service!

Notes:
a) The example may sound trivial since Big Ben is a well known location but the same principle could apply to images of other lesser known sites.
b) Of course, other types of data could be captured from the mobile phone for example video and sound.
c) There are no major technical bottlenecks as far as we can see(there are some commercial/privacy issues though).
d) From the above, you can see that Moblogging , in itself, is not an example of a web 2.0 service
e) There are a whole raft of problems when it comes to the network effect and mobility. We have not discussed these here.

References:
Garage cinema research

Mobile Media Metadata for Mobile Imaging : Marc Davis University of California at Berkeley and Risto Sarvas Helsinki Institute for Information Technology

From Context to Content: Leveraging Context to Infer Media Metadata
Marc Davis, Simon King, Nathan Good, and Risto Sarvas
University of California at Berkeley

The carry principle: Barbara Ballard – http://www.littlespringsdesign.com/blog/2005/09/14/the-carry-principle/

Image One
Image Two
Image three
Conclusions to part two
As always, we welcome your comments and feedback. You can contact us Ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com and Tony.fish at amfventures.com. The third and final part of this series will discuss the impact of web 2.0 on digital convergence.

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EditorMobile2.0