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Mobile Web 2.0: Opportunities and problems

Today’s smart phones are promoted by their manufacturers as lifestyle tools to enable sharing experiences and social networking via Web 2.0 sites and mobile friendly media portals. So, what Mobile Web 2.0 is? Just as Web 2.0, it can be defined as the network as a platform, spanning all connected devices. Effectively, the definition for Mobile Web 2.0 boils down to three key verbs : ‘share’, ‘collaborate’ and ‘exploit’.

The emerging Mobile Web 2.0 opportunities can be summarized as:

  • (Context aware) Advertising. In web environments, web sites have available only your IP in order to identify you, but in mobile web your location, unique ID or profile (don’t forget: most users own just one phone) are also always available.
  • Anywhere, anytime accessibility that will allow real-time social-networking and sharing of user-generated content (information, videos or photos).
  • Voice over IP and instant messaging. Why call your friends or send them a really expensive SMS (if you think about $$ per byte) when you can make a Skype conference call or send them a message through MSN, GTalk or any other platform available?
  • Off-portal services.
  • Location based services and context aware (mobile) search.

Numerous start-ups have entered the field, but even established social-networking companies are getting involved. “People want to take Facebook with them,” said Michael Sharon, a product manager with the company. “So we work with [device makers] to create applications for their phones.” As George Lawton writes in his very interesting article for the IEEE’s Computing Now Exclusive Content [1]:

eMarketer estimates that in the US alone, the number of mobile Internet users will rise from 59.5 million in 2008 to 134.3 million in 2013.

Juniper Research predicts revenue generated globally by Mobile Web 2.0 will grow from $5.5 billion in 2008 to $22.4 billion in 2013.

Social networking is the fastest growing type of mobile Web application, with US usage increasing 187 percent between July 2008 and July 2009, according to Elkin.

But there are also numerous challenges:

  • Bandwidth and device limitations
  • Platform compatibility
  • Viable business models

I believe that Mobile Web 2.0’s future will be location-based services, supported by context aware advertising.

What is missing? A (working) mobile platform a la Google AdWords/AdSense that will exploit not only keywords and user profiles, but also the rich available context aware information about the users.  I am talking about context aware data management, presentation of information and (of course) advertising. What we need is a framework for modeling that kind of volatile information and the thousands of different views/viewpoints that we can use in order to present it. As this is a topic that needs some preparatory discussion, I’ll return with a following post in order to describe the state of the art in context aware computing and my thoughts on context aware advertising.

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