Apart from MobEA V (and meeting Dick Hardt — my quote: “Hey. You’re famous!”), the other highlight of the event for me was the panel I got to chair on Mobile Ajax. Now — this is an interesting topic, and we had some great speakers on the panel (the inset photo is Arun from AOL being his usual irreverent self) with a lot of interesting things to say. We also had Mark Birbeck from x-port, Rhys Lewis from Volantis, and Song Huang from SoonR. The panel kind of explored two alternative visions of how Web Apps will be built and deployed — declaratively (such as with xForms) or (as they are now) through script and currently deployed Web standards. This same conversation is playing itself out in the regular Web world, but one twist that Mobile adds is the issue of processing power and battery life on the devices themselves. If you want to create a Web application that runs on the phone using Ajax, that will eat up your battery pretty quickly. Now that may just be an issue of optimization of the underlying engine, but the fact remains (especially for applications that you want to sit there and poll periodically like … say … widgets that sit on your phone’s screen and provide glance-able information) it’s just not practical to do it in Ajax right now. Song from SoonR gave a great opening presentation and demo of that product which really opened peoples’ eyes to the possibilities of Ajax on the mobile device – …

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Highlight: wisdom from Dick Hardt (“don’t use the ‘I’ word unless it’s as an adjective or an adverb.”) Very deep. Lowlight: The whole idea of “Web History.” Ok ok — I know this is actually a good idea, but something at me just bristles at the whole thing. I mean, do we really need Web History yet? Can’t it wait until after I’m dead? I did visit the exhibit briefly and I added some important (to me) dates into their timeline. In seeing what others have added, it occurred to me that the history of the Web is actually quite fragmented and quite personal. Sure — there are some key influential events and decisions, but especially with the rise and fall of the dot-coms, it’s all about stories of individual success and failure, and more often than not really bizarre individuals. Anyway, the real highlight of the week for me was the MobEA V (Mobile Emerging Applications) workshop which I helped put together with Rittwik Jana. This workshop focused on the role of the mobile Web in developing regions. We had great presentations from a number of attendees, including Ken Banks, the ubiquitous Charles McCathieNevile (he also presented at Mobile Monday London this week on Mobile Widgets — this guy gets around more than I do), and Galit Zadok. Most interesting presentation of the day had to have been from Krithi Ramamritham at IIT Bombay covering what they have done with the Almost All Questions Answered project (aAQUA). Among other things, this Web-based system allows rural …

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Great presentation on use of the Mobile Web in combination with geospatial information to turn your mobile into a “spatial information appliance.” Not only is this work using location, device orientation combined with building geometry information harvested from Google Earth in a completely innovative way, but the presenter also made reference to the Mobile Web Best Practices and specifically to thematic consistency. Awesome.

Now sitting in a session at WWW2007, listening to a paper presentation on some research on anonymous location-based services. This research addresses a key issue with location-based services: user privacy. They have articulated a very sophisticated approach to this issue which takes into account the issues with traditional “anonomizer” type systems. These issues became front-page news (registration required) last year when it was revealed that information on search terms revealed to researchers by AOL could be used to identify individual searchers by correlating it with other easily obtainable data. AOL’s CTO was fired as a result. The previous presentation on this track, from KDDI, was interesting but essentially boiled down to another way to render the so-called real Web on small screens. Interesting work, but a problem that I believe has a short shelf-life for two reasons. First, more and more Web sites are developing more sophisticated mobile versions, and second screen size, resolution and processing power on smart phones is making it increasingly likely that the Nokia S60 browser (and iPhone) approach to rendering the non-mobile-optimized Web will win out.

One of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved with this year has been the launch of Vodafone Betavine. Betavine is a collaborative portal for the developer community focusing on mobile and communications apps. Although mobile operators have launched developer sites in the past, Betavine is different because it’s aimed at individual, small company and student developers – the real grass roots. It’s also the first Vodafone group Web site to feature a blog, user-generated content. Betavine is now launching three exciting features: student competitions, APIs and the open source zone. The competition offer students the opportunity to win up to €5000 just for developing and uploading an innovative application in one of four categories (Social Networking & Communications, Information & Entertainment, Office & B2B and Social Impact). Very cool stuff. The API section (which will be previewed at JavaOne next week by Stephen Wolak, the pioneering soul behind the Betavine initiative) will feature, well, APIs. APIs into network functions, such as location and messaging functions, have been something small company developers have been asking about for years. The Betavine APIs will be initially provide SMS messaging, WAP push and access to Betavine itself (to allow for Betavine mashups). Watch the site for the launch and to find out more details. Finally, the open source counterpart to Betavine has now launched: Vodafone Betavine Forge. This is a fully functional open source community site featuring CVS, bug tracking, etc… the whole shebang. Along with the launch of the site are three internal Vodafone open source projects that …

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On Sunday I head off to Banff, Canada for the WWW2007 conference. This is going to be one busy week — I’m attending and giving a “lightning talk” at the W3C Advisory Committee meeting, then co-chairing a workshop on the role of the Mobile Web in the developing world with Rittwik Jana from AT&T research, then speaking at the conference itself on the progress and future of the Mobile Web Best Practices working group and finally chairing a panel on Mobile Ajax before heading back home. In between all this, I’ll be trying to soak in some of the raw innovation and excitement at the WWW conference. The thing about WWW is that it’s not a glitzy place where you go to mix with rockstars and digerati. It’s where academia and industry meet to hash out the future of Web technologies. I am really looking forward to it.