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 Loïc 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 Engeström 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

Additional images: Opera,
3 Mobile, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google