In a little under 3 weeks time, we will host our second unconference: the ReadWriteWeb Mobile Summit. It’s a 1-day event at the lovely Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, California.
In preparation for the RWW Mobile Summit, we’re going to outline the 10 leading trends of the Mobile Web in a 3-part series of posts. We’ll delve more into these trends with you at the Summit, because our unconferences are all about audience participation. In this, the first post, we’ll outline 3 important design and development issues for the Mobile Web.
Register now to discuss these and other topics at our unconference. The RWW Mobile Summit is being held on Friday 7 May, directly after the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco (2-6 May).
Native App and/or Browser Based?
Just as businesses in the PC-based Web spent years in the 90’s wondering if a desktop app or web browser based service was the best choice, in 2010 the same question applies to mobile phone applications.
Organizations are asking themselves: should we build a native mobile phone app, or should we build a cross-platform browser-based mobile service? If they choose the former, which platform(s) do they focus on first? The choices include iPhone, Android, RIM, Palm, Windows Mobile and Symbian.
In February, mobile search company Taptu released a detailed report showing that the future of the Mobile Web is likely to be dominated by cross-platform browser-based mobile web sites – rather than apps built specifically for iPhone, Android, or any other platform. The company estimated that there were 326,000 Mobile Touch Web sites worldwide at that time, compared to 148,000 iPhone apps in the App Store and 24,000 apps in the Android market. What’s more, Taptu expects the browser-based mobile web market to grow much faster than the app market.
One factor to consider is that both options, native app and browser site, still have something of a ‘wild west’ element to them. We can see evidence of this in the stand-off between Apple and Adobe over Flash on mobile phones. Apple’s iPhone platform and its default mobile Safari browser do not run Adobe’s Flash technology, despite Flash having an almost ubiquitous presence on desktop PCs. Apple has been pushing HTML5, the latest generation of the Web’s mark-up language, as a replacement for much of the functionality in Flash. This battle is yet to be won – but it’s not looking good for Adobe, because it’s hard to bet against the next version of HTML.
Location-based mobile apps have been a big trend in 2010 (we’ll cover this in Part 2 of this series), but there are significant privacy implications for these apps. Sites like Foursquare, BrightKite and Gowalla encourage their users to “check-in” to places, so that their social network knows where they are at any given time. While these apps have privacy controls that allow you to (for example) send a check-in update to just a select group of friends, a lot of times the updates are sent to the entire network.
In a recent analysis post, Sarah Perez asked: are location-based social networks privacy disasters waiting to happen? She added that many web and mobile apps are using location data now, including Google, Facebook and user review site Yelp.
The privacy dangers were highlighted earlier this year by a social experiment called PleaseRobMe, which displaying aggregated real-time updates from Foursquare users who used the social sharing feature to broadcast their updates publicly on Twitter. Although PleaseRobMe has since been shuttered, the point they were trying to make still resonates: sharing your physical location with a public network is potentially dangerous. For more details, read our February review of the short-lived PleaseRobMe.
Emerging Wireless Standards
Think your smart phone is cool now? Wait till it gets RFID chips, then it’ll truly be ‘smart.’ That’s the promise of two emerging RFID-based mobile technologies called NFC and DASH7.
NFC (Near Field Communication) holds great promise as an enabler of mobile payments. DASH7 is a wireless sensor networking standard that complements NFC; it will enable things like advanced location-based services, long-distance mobile advertising and mobile coupons.
Both NFC and DASH7 may soon be a part of the mobile phone that you carry around everywhere. Nokia already deploys NFC, and Apple and Google are rumored to be working on NFC implementation.
There are a group of other emerging mobile standards and technologies to look out for, such as WiMax, ZigBee and 4G. They all play an increasingly important part in the evolving Mobile ecosystem.
If you’re a company in the Mobile Internet market, you may be interested in becoming a sponsor for this event. Please contact our COO Sean Ammirati for more information about sponsor packages. And a big thank-you to our current event sponsors: CallFire, WorldMate, Alcatel-Lucent and Ipevo.