I have been thinking of this post for some time.
How do we actually implement Mobile Web 2.0?
In my book Mobile Web 2.0 , I have been talking of Mobile Web 2.0 as extending Web 2.0 to the Telecoms domain.
At a minimum, Web 2.0 can be characterised by three properties
a) The use of the Web as a backbone
b) Harnessing collective intelligence and
c) Creating a database/body of data that becomes richer as more users contribute to the system .
If we can fulfil as many of these three criteria through mobile devices – then we have a Mobile Web 2.0 ecosystem
Extending the three criteria to the mobile domain implies – harnessing collective intelligence from mobile devices coupled with the use of the Web as a backbone with an enriched data repository being maintained on the Web.
This leads to a typical ‘iPod like’ application.
Note that – on a personal note, I am a big advocate for the Web and Open standards. So ideally I would like the Web to extend to Mobile devices(and for me – the Web also includes Widgets i.e. not only browsing). However, to harness collective intelligence from mobile devices, you don’t need the Web itself to extend to mobile devices – it can very easily be done using any other client(such as Symbian or Java) as long as you have a Web backbone and maintain a body of data which is enriched by a growing user base.
This is all good .. however if mobile devices are merely relegated to capturing content and sending it to the Web, then we lose the uniqueness of the mobile device. I have called this the deep blue sea problem i.e. once content is sent from a mobile device to a site like Flickr – then it goes into the ‘deep blue sea’ of the web.
So, the question is: How does the mobile device adopt the ethos of the Web and yet maintain some unique advantages?
There are many approaches – not all will satisfy the three criteria but many come close.
One idea comes from TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile) labs which I have blogged about before.
In this service, the context (in the form of a machine tag) is automatically suggested/appended to the picture/video before it is uploaded to the user’s favourite site(which the user chooses i.e. it is an open system). This adds value to the user and also enables the Mobile device to have a unique value proposition(In other words, let the content end up on any site the user chooses – as long as it goes through the value added gateway enabled via the device/operator). Pikeo from Orange and Shozu also follows a similar concept.
(Note that in the above scenario, the ‘database’ is still Flickr/ YouTube etc – but it is a service which users will pay for because it solves a critical problem – that of adding tags to pictures. Alternately, it could be easily ad funded because there is a ‘loading bay/processing area’ between the device and the web site – which is controlled by the Operator – and advertisements could be appended there)
So, that’s just one way .. what other implementations of Mobile Web 2.0 are possible?
The basic approach we are taking is to explore the implementation of Web 2.0 to the device and network stack
At least eleven implementations are possible. These are listed below and subsequent blogs will elaborate on these ideas.
1) The Operator implementation – This will be likely based on IMS/SDP. There are pros and cons of IMS(and yes there are applications that will need IMS as I have indicated in the post Where are the IMS applications? ). On first glance IMS and Web 2.0 have little in common – but market forces have conspired to bring these two ideas together especially because many IMS services can be implemented by Web 2.0(often for free ..). See an example Ajax (facebook application) and IMS mashup using a JSON-RPC bridge
2) The handset implantation – This approach is best indicated by Nokia’s Ovi strategy and the iPhone. The device is a strong brand in itself and in the case of iTunes and Ovi – the operator billing relationship changes with iTunes . With features like GPS and an excellent user interface, the devices can be a significant force in themselves especially if the relationship between the device and network becomes ‘one to many’ i.e. there are different types of networks(like Wimax, Wifi, cellular etc) and the customer has a choice to connect to them
3) The Enterprise network strategy – Best epitomised by Cisco’s foray into Web 2.0 based on recent acquisitions such as Tribes and Five Across (Why did Cisco buy Tribe AND Five Across ). The impact of this is not yet felt fully but I am watching it with great interest – especially because of its emphasis on consumer and on video(and not just corporate which is Cisco’s traditional domain). Cisco could easily deploy a SIP based device and extend it’s leverage into the mobile space
4) The Web players coming to mobile .. Best example of this approach is Android. Whole books can be written on this subject .. and in fact I am writing one Open Mobile ecosystems: The disruptive potential of open systems and open source in the mobile environment. For instance, Andreas of Visionmobile (a key contributor to the Open Mobile book )says on his blog Every application on Android is a Web 2.0 citizen.
5) Mobile Web 2.0 and Devices – This is a new area and was suggested to me by Jim Morrish – senior consultant at Analysys when he attended a session I chaired at an Osney media event in London . The basic idea is network access is ‘resold’ by devices. For example – when you acquire a subscription for Amazon Kindle – you don’t buy a phone or you don’t sign up to a contract with a network operator. You get a connection implicitly. In addition, browsers are being deployed to devices – for instance the Opera browser in the Nintendo Wii.
6) SCWS(Smart card web server) – A relatively new approach with the SIM cards being increasingly powerful and with the deployment of a web server on SIM cards. A preliminary blog at OMA smart card web server . More to follow based on some interesting demonstrations from Gemalto at MWC Barcelona
7) Identity and Security – Identity and Security can complement almost any service and a telecoms network has an advantage there. For instance – most people will trust their music preferences to Apple but when it comes to protecting minors from malicious content/users – may well trust the Operators
8) Browser APIs/DOM extensions – This one does pertain uniquely to the mobile browser. Inspite of rapid strides, the browser does lack some key elements – especially access to APIs. A whole raft of capabilities are possible via browser extensions(plugins) ranging from Location aware browsing to offline browsing. This is another area that can contribute to making the browser as a more integrated platform for Mobile Web applications
9) Voice Call detail records to create social graphs – The use of voice call detail records to create social graphs has been discussed before. After my talk at Mobile World Congress entitled Mobile Youth is a myth until it reflects the Youth’s social graph , I met Carlos Domingo (Director of Internet and Multimedia and director of the Barcelona R&D center at Telefonica.) BTW, It was a pleasure to meet Carlos in person – having emailed many times before and knowing that he is a fan of our books). We discussed that the Telcos do have a good understanding of their customers’ social graph. I agree in principle. Much to explore here – especially how that voice social graph can map to data(permissions, privacy etc etc) . . This topic is of interest to me from my research/PhD point of view as well. You can see an excellent academic paper for this topic Analyzing the Structure and Evolution of Massive
10) Make it quicker / easier – users will always pay extra for the small improvements which make their life easier even when other(more cumbersome) ways exist which may be cheaper. There are many examples of this – but the best one I can think of is Sony Ericsson blog this concept (apparently even if you don’t have a blog it creates one for you on blogger – which is a nice feature!)
11) and finally, there is the concept of Umbrella social networks Beyond Web 2.0: The social web or the semantic web ? and the rise of the Umbrella social networks i.e. a social network which spans the Web and the Mobile web. I see users primarily interacting with the one (social) web and that web will make it the distinction between the Web and the Mobile Web transparent. This idea also relates to cloud computing
So, these are the techniques by which I believe Web 2.0 can map to Mobile devices. Of course there may be more .. and I welcome comments
a) There is no ‘one way’ – I believe a number of options are possible as I have outlined above – and indeed there could be more. In considering the ideas of Mobile Web 2.0 – I consider the idea of extending Web 2.0 to the Mobile domain(and Web 2.0 being defined primarily by the three ideas at the beginning of this post)
b) Many of the techniques involve big companies – for instance Gemalto, Cisco, Google, Apple, TIM, Amazon and so on. I think this is reflective of the traction needed to make this work across the value chain – and again Google Android is a good example of this approach(and by no means yet proven). Linux consortia have existed before – it is only with Google’s entry that Linux is taken far more seriously.
Even some excellent work done by big companies is not noticed much. I have blogged about Vodafone Betavine before and the betavine folk I know like Guillermo Caudevilla, Curro Dominguez, Dan Appelquist , Stephan Wolak, David Pollington and others have done some excellent work especially on Vodascript/Mobile script APIs front . (I don’t know how much of their work is public – but if you meet the betavine team – do ask them for demos!). However, few in the industry know about it. The point being – even with the leverage of Vodafone – it is not easy to get traction.