Photo credit: Rob Pongsajapan. Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Lift conference and helping to run a workshop on user privacy. This was a workshop with a difference. My colleague Franco Papeschi came up with the idea of a privacy “game” (“Denopticon“) which would help participants explore the issues around privacy, personal information and data sharing. The game started with participants filling out an ID card with personal information about themselves. Participants earned points for finding out and recording personal information from others and additional points for fulfilling various secret missions. It was enormously fun and I hope to help run it again at other events. But besides being fun, it helped the participants, and the moderators, think about the key issues around user privacy. This was against the backdrop of enormous upheaval in the area of user privacy on the Web. I remember when privacy on the Web used to boil down to “turning off cookies.” Now-a-days if you turn off cookies, you might as well use your computer as a doorstop, and anyway the privacy conversation has so moved on. In a world where more and more of our communication is happening through social networks and socially connected applications, the whole concept of privacy is being turned on its head, to the extent that some (such as Christian Heller) are claiming that we are now living in a “post-privacy” world. And, of course, Google’s Eric Schmidt is on record saying “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, …

Can I Have a Word in Private? Read more »

I have three predictions for the coming year: Prediction #1: I have seen the future, and it is Android. Or rather, the Android model is going to be the model that “wins out.” Right now, especially for those who tote iPhones around, that might be difficult to see or understand. The iPhone seems like a device which embodies all the mobile 2.0 ideals I first wrote about in 2006. It provides access to a wealth of applications and services. It’s easy to use. It’s connected. It has created new product categories (apps) and new routes to market. But, as iPhone detractors often point out, it’s a closed ecosystem. I submit that no matter how “insanely great” the iPhone is, the ecosystem that Apple has created around it cannot scale. So, we are back to another prediction I made, at 2008’s Future of Mobile conference: Android will be to the iPhone what the PC was to the Mac. Why? User choice. You can download and install an app on an Android phone without buying it from Android Market. You can download it directly, or from an alternative app store such as GetJar. I predict 2010 will be the year that Android apps will begin to rival iPhone apps – maybe not in terms of sheer numbers, but in terms of consumer and developer mindset. This will be the year in which “download our Android App” buttons will join “download our iPhone App” buttons on sites across the Web. Don’t believe me? Check out this interesting data point …

Three Predictions for 2010 Read more »

Osney Media’s Mobile Web 2.0 Summit has wrapped up. In all, it was a good opportunity to discuss the trends and technologies in the mobile industry, mobile social networking, etc… For me, it was a good opportunity to talk about the convergence that I see happening between the mobile and Web industries and communities. It was also a great opportunity to talk about the opportunities I see opening up in the mobile widget space, and the vital importance that we converge on a single standard for mobile (and desktop) widgets across the industry. Judging from the response to my talk, there is still a lot of misunderstanding of this space in the industry and a lot more education and evangelism required. So be it! If you want to find out more about these topics and others vitally important to the future of the mobile and Web industries, come join me in Barcelona on June 18th and 19th for Mobile 2.0 Europe. Day one will be a developer day featuring presentations, tutorials (and unstructured sessions) on key software technologies and innovations in the mobile and mobile Web space and day two will be more strategic, focusing on disruptive innovation in the mobile space and featuring startups and innovators from across the spectrum. It’s going to be an exciting two days.

I’ve recently been trying out Zipiko, a very simple but powerful social tool for organizing events and ad-hoc get-togethers. Zipiko has a really good mobile Web UI through which you can develop your network by inviting friends to events via their phone numbers. Your friends get an SMS which they can respond to with a simple “YES” or “NO” to let you know if they’re coming or not. Unlike some mobile Web apps comming onto the market, Zipiko seems to realize that not everyone lives in the United States and has thankfully enabled international phone numbers – thanks! Zipiko is an example of a really great mobile Web app: it’s simple, it’s well designed, it’s well suited to the mobile use case and it integrates well with text messaging. Unfortunately it does NOT work well with low-spec browsers. I tested it on iPhone and on Windows Mobile (mobile IE) where it seemed to work well. On Blackberry (my “low bar” for mobile browsers) it was a disaster. But what really struck me was how much better Zipiko could be if had access to device capabilities and information stored in your device. Instead of asking me to type in the phone numbers of my friends, it could simply look them up in my address book. Instead of asking me where I am, it could look up my location. It could automatically syncronize events with my device’s calendar. This is a comon theme, particularly for social web apps. This access to device capabilities from the browser or “web …

Zipiko: A Great WebApp that Could be Even Better Read more »

I’m very excited to announce that on September 7th I will be co-presenting, with my friend and fellow Mobile Monday organizer C. Enrique Ortiz, a Barcamp-style event in Austin, Texas! The event will focus on mobile widgets and we are looking to bring in presenters and participants from all across the spectrum of companies and industry efforts involved in this burgeoning space. The event will feature a mix of structured and unstructured time, with both a program of speakers (to be announced but including speakers from OMTP and W3C) and an open schedule on which participants can write in their own sessions. If you’d like to attend, just put your name on the wiki (see link above). If you’d like to present in one of the pre-programmed slots, please get in touch with myself of Enrique.

I’ve been following with some interest the press surrounding the 100th anniversary of the Model T, the original “people’s car” that is credited with creating the automative industry as we now know it. The Model T is famous for a number of reasons, but one thing I hadn’t quite appreciated was how versitile and extensible (to use a modern word) the car was. A whole after-market industry grew up around the T, letting people transform it into sports car, a truck, a tractor, a harvester – whatever task required motive power. This factor of openness and extensibility, combined with mass-production and low cost, helped to make the car a success story and created a new industry. The slightly more modern equivelent might be the IBM PC. But this left me wondering: what is the mobile computing equivelent to the Model T? What is the Model T of the mobile Web? Though I love it, I have to say the iPhone ain’t it. It fails on both the low cost and the extensibility criteria. The OLPC device fails on mass-market grounds. What we need is for someone to come along and deliver a mass-market, low-cost device that is extensible and open but which has enough ease and simplicity of use that it is embraced by the great public and enough oomph to be a mobile Web workhorse. There is a gigantic vacuum in the mobile industry right now with this exact shape. Candidates include Google’s Android, Limo devices, next-generation Nokia devices based on the new Symbian Foundation and …

What will be the Model T of the Mobile Web? Read more »

Dummies everywhere are rejoicing today. Finally, they will be able to know the joys of the Mobile Internet, thanks to a new reference book, of which I am proud to announce I have been a co-author, Mobile Internet for Dummies. Based on the structure of Internet for Dummies (and co-written with that book’s author, John Levine, Michael O’Farrell, Jostein Algroy, James Pearce), Mobile Internet for Dummies takes you through the ins and outs of getting connected and using the mobile Internet (and the mobile Web) from chosing the right phone to mobile blogging and photo sharing, to developing your own mobile Web site. This book demystifies the whole topic of the mobile Internet and hopefully gives people a lot of timely and useful information they can use to get online on the move and make the most of the medium. As of today, the book is shipping in the US, UK and Canada and you can buy a copy  on-line from Amazon (USA), Amazon (UK) or directly from the publisher at Wiley or through the Dummies book site. We’ve also created a resource site at mifd.mobi with news, links, downloads, etc… I’m thrilled to have been involved with this project, not for the least reason that I may get fewer blank looks when I tell people what it is I do. If you’re reading this blog, you may already be a mobile Internet enthusiast or expert, so this book may not be for you. However – consider picking up a copy for those people in your …

Mobile Internet for Dummies! Read more »

W3C are producing an online training course for mobile Web developers: “An Introduction to W3C’s Mobile Web Best Practices” which will run from May 26 to June 20 2008. This will be a great chance to get more information on mobile Web development practices from the experts — highly recommended for any Web developers out there who are interested in getting into mobile. W3C is organizing an online course to introduce Web developers and designers to W3C’s Mobile Web Best Practices. In this course you will: * learn about the specific promises and challenges of the mobile platform * learn how to use W3C’s Mobile Web Best Practices to design mobile-friendly Web content and to mobilize existing content * discover the relevant W3C resources for mobile Web design Participants will have access to lectures and assignments providing hands-on practical experience with using W3C’s mobile Web Best Practices. They will have direct access to W3C experts on this topic who are the instructors for this course. Participants will also be able to discuss and share experiences with their peers who are faced with the challenges of mobile Web design. More information at http://www.w3.org/2008/03/MobiWeb101/Overview.html Register now at http://www.3gwebtrain.com/moodle/

Great blog post at the New York Times last week about the disproportionate percentage of iPhone users (84.8%) who use the iPhone regularly to access the Web (compared to users of other smart phone devices). Mark Donovan of M:Metrics is quoted in the article saying that this is because the iPhone is particularly well suited to “people who are jacked into the Internet all the time.” Doesn’t putting the Web front and center on the device, bundling the device with very Internet-friendly price plans, and making the thing so damn easy to use have just as much to do with it? It’s no surprise to me that Google has seen 50 times more searches from the iPhone than from any other mobile handset (as reported in the FT last month). I’ve spent the last 3 years in lamenting the fact that device manufacturers make it so difficult to find the place to enter the URL into the browser that most people simply give up. My three year old daughter picked up my iPhone for the first time and within seconds she had brought up the browser, found the space to enter a URL and had started typing away. That was a an ah-ha moment for me about the iPhone’s usability. Mark kind of implies that iPhone owners are using the mobile Web because only because they are naturally predisposed to such use. My gut feeling is that the iPhone is actually “crossing the chasm” into the general public. There is a latent demand for the mobile …

iPhone Spurs Mobile Web Usage Read more »