What is “Mobile 2.0″ (Beta)

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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 Gigón 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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Posted in mobile 2.0, Mobile Web Tagged with:

Digital Identity Forum

Hey! I’ll be chairing a session tomorrow at the Digital Identity Forum event here in London. The topic of the session (which leads off the two-day event) is “Next Generation Digital Identity.” My interest in digital identity is in the abstract sense — how will people think about and manage the aspects of their identity as those aspects increasingly become digital assets? Can we overcome some of the basic issues around identity management in the online and offline world that exist today with better application of technology? I believe that we can, but I think this also means that people need to become more savvy about how they manage their digital identity when the tools are made available for them to do so.

I am really looking forward to this event, especially as it’s being organized by David Birch from Consult Hyperion who gave such a great talk at June’s Mobile Monday (available on the Podcast).

Posted in Identity

Google Docs Graduation Day

Google Docs (née “Writely”) and Spreadsheets have graduated. Two weeks ago, Google quietly moved Google Spreadsheets and the newly christened Google Docs over from one side of the Google Labs page to the other (the “graduated” products). No big announcement , and the products remain tagged as Beta (but what isn’t these days?).

I’ve been using Google Spreadsheets for a few months now, as a simple issue/action-tracking tool for one project and as a means to track sponsorships for the mobile2.0 event I’ve been organizing.

When I first heard about Google Spreadsheets, I remember shrugging my shoulders. Sure, it was a cool idea to run a spreadsheet inside the browser and it showed off Google’s Ajax mojo, but what, really, was the point? Excepting the cool factor, why would I ever use this instead of good old trusty Excel? My “ah ha” moment came when I discovered the powerful collaboration features. The ability for multiple contributors to collaborate on the same spreadsheet a
the same time and view each others’ work in near-real-time, using nothing but an off-the-shelf browser is a quantum leap.

In the case of mobile2.0, it’s enabled me to quickly collaborate with partners distributed in different time zones and to be sure that we’re all looking at the same information at the same time. This is the kind of collaboration the Internet was built to support, but somehow the big IT vendors have not been able to bring it to us.

But what does any of this have to do with widgets? At the Fundamentos Web conference which I spoke at earlier in the month, W3C’s Dean Jackson presented a vision for the future of widgets (the semi-ubiquitous desktop mini-applications – Microsoft calls them “gadgets” – that generally run inside a browser engine and are developed using Web technologies such as JavaScript and HTML).

In Dean’s vision of the future, widgets, or at least the packaging of widgets, become standardized so that a widget written for one engine (say Apple’s Dashboard) can work in any other (Opera’s widget engine, for example). Futhermore, as widgets become increasingly complex, they will become unbound from the Widget engine so that, from a user perspective, they can appear as fully fledged applications.

So… if you take Google Docs & Spreadsheets with all their collaboration power, combined with a standardized and enhanced widget framework and unbound from the browser and widget engine, let me ask a simple question. Why would I ever use Microsoft Excel or Word again?

Posted in Web 2.0

What’s 2.0 2.0?

You know — I used to be the kind of guy who sneered at people who said things like “Web 2.0″ or “whatever 2.0.” I still am. I am not by nature a joiner. For the longest time in the mid-nineties I resisted using the indefinite article in front of the word email (as in “I’ll send you an email.”) I still believe the word email is not a singular noun. “I’ll send you email” is correct. “I’ll send you an email” is incorrect. I always have to apologize in advance if I use the word “leverage” or “synergy” in a meeting. I have always found jargon fascinating, in that using jargon tends to shut people out – to create exclusive clubs. I prefer inclusive modes of working and I believe that in general it’s worth the time to explain yourself in plain language rather than using jargon.

So anyway, when I first heard this term “Web 2.0″ I thought “what a load of crap.” But then when I read the article and heard a few presentations and started to talk to people about it, the term clicked. And it has clicked with enough people that it’s become a useful way to talk about a set of topics in one breath. I still think it’s a bit silly and when I use it, I do so with a dash of irony, but I do use it.

Aside from “Web 2.0″ people have not started adding 2.0 to anything to make a point that that thing has evolved into something different. In some ways, 2.0 has taken the place of “Extreme!” especially in tech circles.

But what’s next? Calling the evolution of X “X 2.0″ is a meme that has nearly played itself out. I say “nearly,” because I’m obviously trying to ride the wave of this meme with the mobile2.0 event. But when 2.0 jumps the shark, what’s next?

What’s “2.0” 2.0?

All I can say that I hope it’s not 3.0. That would be extremely silly and disappointing.

Unfortunately, I already see people jumping on the “Web 3.0″ bandwagon. I don’t think we have enough of “Web 2.0″ under our belts yet to imagine “what comes next.” The Web took about 10 years to mature as a medium and by my arbitrary measurement (when blogging became the hot topic at the U.S. Democratic national convention) we are only 2 years into “Web 2.0.” Let’s let Web 2.0 steep a little more before declaring it a done deal.

Posted in Web 2.0

Web 2.0

Wow! So now in addition to the mobile2.0 I’ve been organizing on the 6th of November, it looks like I’ll also be on a panel entitled “The Mobile Discussion” at the Web 2.0 conference on the 7th. Looks like it’s going to be quite an exciting week. I’m not quite sure what brought about this change of heart on behalf of the O’Reilly folks, but I’m really glad to see them bringing some mobile focus and interest into the event. Of course, to get the full scoop on the future of the mobile platform, you really need to come to mobile2.0 the day before. Luckily, the cost of mobile2.0 is only $45 so if you’ve already splashed out for Web 2.0 you won’t need to spend much more to attend mobile 2.0 as well.

Posted in Web 2.0

Mobile2.0: The Event

The Web2.0 conference is fast approaching. Once again, we will hear industry leaders like Jeff Bezos, Ray Ozzie and Vint Cerf ruminate on the future of the Web. But where, amongst all the trendy social network and media sharing hipsters, can you hear about the intersection of the Web and the Mobile platform? On this topic, the conference program is strangely silent. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s going to be a great event. I’m going to be there and I am sure I will take away a lot from it, but what if you believe, as I do, that the future of the Web and the future of the mobile phone are integrally linked?

Enter … mobile2.0: the event.

Mike Rowehl (the organizer of Mobile Monday Silicon Valley) and I have been quietly putting this event together over the past month in an attempt to bring some Mobile thinking into “Web2.0 week.” We’ll be focusing on topics like the growth of the mobile Web / mobile Internet, open services, media sharing on the mobile, mobile widgets, mobile Ajax, content adaptation and disruptive innovations in the mobile space. Peter Vesterbacka, the creator of Mobile Monday Helsinki, will be running a segment called “Mobile Launch Pad” where we will showcase small company innovation in the Mobile Space.

It’ll be a day-long event, held at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco (near Union Square), starting with breakfast at 8:30 (a bit early I know, but we have a lot of material to get through!) and ending with a reception at the hotel. I’m very excited to report that we already have a star line-up of speakers and panellists for the event from all sectors of the industry.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the future of the Mobile platform then I urge you to register for the event and join us in San Francisco on the 6th!

Posted in Mobile Monday, Mobile Web

Back in the UK

I’m back in the UK after almost 10 days in Spain. We held the Mobile Web Initiative Best Practices meeting where much good work was done. I sampled the famous cider of the Asturias region. I drove to Bilbao and visited the Guggenheim (and met with our great Spanish R&D folks). I spoke at Fundamentos Web on the topic of the Mobile Web and as a bonus I got to meet lots of Internet notables, such as Ben Hammersley, Chris Wilson and Dave Shea (I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy). All in all, not a bad trip. Lots of photos on Flickr (uploaded using ShoZu, of course) and more thoughts later after I have a chance to recuperate.

Posted in Travel, Web

Madrid’s Beautiful New Airport

This is the 2nd time this year I’ve traveled through Madrid’s beautiful new airport. It’s still wowing me. For my trip to Oviedo to go to W3C Mobile Web Initiative meetings this week and speak at Fundamentos Web next week, the sting of having to transit through Madrid as opposed to taking a direct flight was greatly alleviated by knowing that I would be going through the new airport. It’s beautifully designed. It’s efficient. It’s well signed. It’s spacious. It’s comfortable. It’s modern. It’s usable. It puts Heathrow’s dark, cramped, grimy corridors to shame. When I first came through here, after having traveled through Madrid’s old airport many times in the past, I wondered if I had been delivered to the right city. It’s a great start to what will hopefully be a great trip.

Posted in Travel

Mobile Web Kerfuffle

It’s been an exciting week in the blogosphere for the Mobile Web. First Barbara Ballard posts part 1 of an article on “What’s Wrong with the Mobile Web.” This is followed up on by both Andrea Trassati and Mike Rowehl and then Tom Hume picks up on those posts. With so many respected individuals piping up on this issue, I could hardly have stayed out of the fray…

Actually, I’ve been saying for some time what Barbara essentially is saying in her post: mobile-specific user experience is essential the growth of the Web on the mobile platform. My vision of the “One Web,” however, encompasses this idea through the notion of (ta da) “thematic consistency,” which has been articulated nicely by the Mobile Web Best Practices working group. Thematic consistency does not mean you have to have the same page displayed across different devices — it allows for different user experience across different devices but asserts that the same URI when viewed on different devices should provide thematically similar results (for example, the same news article or blog post).

So — even though I hold Barbara in very high regard, I disagree with the articulation of the “two camps.” From my perspective, the two camps might be closer to “the browser can do it all” vs. “the content authors need to do something too.” Clearly, I’m in the second camp: Web sites need to start factoring in Mobile users when they design and build their services, not as an after-thought. I think this is already happening. Take a look at PinPPL — here’s a site that’s designed to work well on the Blackberry browser and on desktop browsers. The site itself, a social network for Blackberry users, also exploits device capabilities by providing direct access to Blackberry PIN messaging from user profiles.

By the way, Barbara will be speaking at the next Mobile Monday London event here on October 2nd. Don’t miss it!

Meanwhile, BBC News ran a great article on the rise of the Mobile Web. I think this article does a great job of capturing the user attitude towards the mobile Web: they just want it to work. (This article also reinforces my view that cost transparency is a key issue when it comes to take up.)

Posted in Blogs, Mobile Monday, Mobile Web

What is “Mobile 2.0″?

The terms “Mobile 2.0″ and “Mobile Web 2.0″ are being thrown around these days quite a bit, but nobody has really put together a concise definition of what Mobile 2.0 is and how it differs from what has come before, such as exists for “Web 2.0″. Ajit Jaokar and Tony Fish are doing a great job describing some aspects of “Mobile Web 2.0″ but I still think we are missing such a clear, consise definition. Well, I figured I’d take a stab at it.

For one, closed mobile application and services, available only through one operator, are Mobile 1.0. Mobile 2.0 applications and services are open and available to anyone to download, install and/or put to use via the mobile Web. In my mind, the Mobile Web is a big part of Mobile 2.0. Mobile 2.0 also builds on the ideas voiced by Tim O’Reilly and extends those to the Mobile platform and its capabilities. Here are some rough extensions of the O’Reilly Web 2.0 set of examples applied to Mobile 2.0:

SMS -> IM (e.g. Yahoo! messenger for mobile)
MMS -> Media sharing (e.g. ShoZu)
Operator Portals -> Mobile Web and Search
Operator chooses -> User chooses
Premium SMS billing -> Mobile stored value Accounts (e.g. Luup)
Java Games -> Embedded Applications (e.g. Blogger application)
Presence & Push-To-Talk -> Embedded VOIP applications
WAP sites -> .Mobi sites
WAP push -> RSS readers
Wallpaper -> Idle screen applications
Location services -> Google maps application
Time or volume-based pricing -> “All you can eat” data charging
Content consumption -> Content creation (e.g. mobile blogging)

In short, Mobile 2.0 takes the Mobile platform 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. Openness and user choice are essential components of Mobile 2.0.

Some of these ideas are controversial, I know, and some of them probably don’t go far enough. I’d appreciate your comments, additions, ideas on this topic. What does Mobile 2.0 consist of and what makes it different from what we have now?

Posted in Mobile Web, Mobility

Who is Daniel K. Appelquist?

I'm an American Ex-Pat living in London. I'm a father of two and husband of one. I am the Open Web Advocate for Telefónica Digital, focusing on the Open Web Device. I founded Mobile Monday London, Over the Air and the Mobile 2.0 conference series.

The opinions expressed here are my own, however, and neither Telefónica nor any other party necessarily agrees with them.

My books:
Mobile Internet for Dummies
XML and SQL

For more info, see my Linkedin profile.

More (probably than you ever wanted to know) about Torgo.

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