Of Jesus lizards and King Kong: If the customer is King .. then metadata is King Kong ..

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This is a synopsis of my talk in Berlin at the Web 2.0 expo. I spoke about the

impact of Mobile Web 2.0 on the Telecoms industry

Thanks to all who attended and for the feedback it is already receiving on blogosphere

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The synopsis of the talk was

• Social networks are becoming very important and will span the Web and the Mobile web often becoming the primary point of contact with people i.e. the social network becomes the primary experience of the Web for most people(and that idea overarches the Web and the Mobile experience)

• The rise of social networks is relevant because the same kids who are on the facebook are also ‘not downloading ringtones’. Hence, the idea of ‘Mobile Youth’ is a fallacy. Our youth are no longer ‘mobile’. They are reading a book .. unfortunately it is called ‘facebook’ :)

• The telecoms network has to join the party. At the moment, it seems that there is a party going on .. and we are not talking ..

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Not amongst ourselves(aka walled gardens) but also to the wider world which is interacting and forming new relationships – for instance this T-shirt which I saw on Google images(whatever you can make of the phrase .. I facebooked your mom .. )

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• The Impact of social networks on business models – our business models will change – like it or not .. At the moment the Web companies(especially Google and Apple) are driving the innovation. What can the telecoms industry do?

• Mobile Web 2.0 and the deep blue sea problem – as below

A new dawn has arisen .. and it is caused by the shifting in tectonic plates between three industries : The Web, Telecoms and media

Hence, we should look at Social networking, the Web and the Mobile Web in totality(and not in isolation)

The Web companies are driving innovation (Don’t forget the Web in Mobile Web 2.0)

Think of Mobile Web 2.0 as Mobile WEB 2.0

If you doubt this: consider the impact of the Apple announcement

“If sharing revenue brings a bigger (APPLE?) pie to the table, then we’ll be happy to share that pie . . . The revenue-sharing model will play an increasingly important role in the future of converged communications.” Peter Erskine, the O2 chief executive !

In this shifting of tectonic plates, the customer is the winner ..

But the key to remember is: If the customer is King then Metadata is King Kong ..

The critical observation (relating directly to the significance of Mobile Web 2.0) .. is to consider the ‘flip side of free’ i.e. you are giving something for free but on the other hand, you are expecting the customer to ‘do some work’ for you(and that work is for web 2.0 to provide the semantics in the semantic web as I have mentioned before).

Consequently, a web 2.0 service must involve a database that gets richer as more people use it. (and I use the word database loosely as a body of data).

This can only happen if the service is designed to implicitly capture metadata.

Hence, the belief that if the customer is King, then metadata is King Kong. Aka the entity who can acquire, manage, grow and dominate a class of data is the King Kong.

(The converse of this is: If you don’t capture any metadata .. then all you have is ‘talk’ i.e. a community .. Communities(as opposed to Web 2.0) have existed since millennia .. but no metadata .. means that all you have is talk .. Communities are not Web 2.0 because talk is cheap!)

The impact of social networking on the Web and the Telecoms industry is immense.

Suddenly, we have a new class of player(which I call the Web aggregator aka facebook/Myspace etc)

Worse still, they have interjected themselves directly in front of the customer.

(everyone wants to get in bed with the customer!)

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The value chain now becomes as below

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This is a wider, more sweeping change affecting everyone – not just telecoms. (for instance CNN). Dis-tributors are having to face the prospect of being Dis-intermediated from the value chain!

Now, how does all this play out in the Mobile world? And how will it impact business models?

Let us forget what we have been doing in the past: Walled gardens, Mobile Youth focus, content based mindset(selling ringtones) etc ..

What does that leave us with?

The key lies in embracing the ethos of the Web(open standards and open systems and the Web) but at the same time .. in providing something unique possible only through mobile devices ..

Now, If we extend the concept of harnessing collective intelligence to mobile devices, then we have to consider – what type of intelligence can be captured from mobile devices?

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The obvious one is ‘Location’

In addition, since the mobile device is always available at the point of inspiration – then it is ideally poised to capture content at the point of inspiration

The problem with this picture is the ‘Deep blue sea’ problem – i.e. if the mobile device merely ends up chucking content on the ‘Deep blue sea’ of the Web, then mobile devices lose their unique ability

So, the solution to overcome the deep blue sea problem is to ‘walk on water’ like the Jesus lizard(so called for it’s ability to walk on water).

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To recap, as an industry – we can’t ignore the ethos of the web(open systems, open standards etc) – but the trick is to add something special from mobile devices and at the same time keep the ethos of the Web.

How to do this?

One example is from TIM(Telecom Italia Mobile) with a block diagram as shown below

Note that we are able to connect to any social network. But TIM adds something special in the interim stage(in this case context aware tags)

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What is the benefit to customer? Think of this – how many times do you want to ‘tag’ photos taken from a phone but it is a pain to type these tags on a phone? Hence, if an operator could intelligently suggest these tags, then it would be great. It will be a service which people may pay for because everyone values their pictures. For instance, if I am at Web 2.0 Berlin; My operator knows that I am in Berlin. So, they can intelligently suggest a tag for ‘Messe Berlin’or Web 2.0 expo Berlin etc etc.

Others like Orange(Pikeo) are doing the same thing

Nokia (Ovi), Opera widgets, On device portals accessed from the first screen etc are examples of the same concept.

So, don’t forget the Gorilla (King Kong) and the Lizard(Jesus Lizard).

Treat the customer like a king – but don’t forget King Kong(metadata)!

The slides can be found on slideshare .. http://www.slideshare.net/group/web-20-summit-2007

If you want to discuss these ideas, please comment here or email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com