Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Mobilizing Web 2.0

Category: Editorial, Mobile

This article argues Web 2.0 apps don’t automatically translate to the mobile phone – you have to re-think the UI, maybe even throw away the browser altogether.

“Beware of naive copying of PC services,” said David Wood, executive vice president of research for Symbian Ltd. “Some don’t translate.” He was speaking Wednesday at the Symbian Smartphone Show in London.

Wood and others said that the inherent constraints of mobile phones and networks mean that many Web 2.0 services won’t work well without some changes to accommodate those limitations. Web 2.0 describes a new generation of Web sites, many that enable user-generated content or combine data from various sources.

He used the example of Google Maps, an application initially designed for the PC. Because the application is built on Ajax, like many other Web 2.0 services, it pushes data out to the client device in order to speed up future user requests. On a mobile phone, that process drains battery life, eats up limited memory and results in potentially very high data-access charges. Google Inc. has introduced a version of the program designed for mobile phones that eliminates some of that overhead, improving the mobile user experience.

One way that Web 2.0 companies can similarly adjust their services for mobile devices is by relying less on browser-based applications and more on small software clients that users can download onto their phones. “The browser will fade into the background,” said Wood.

Just as interesting as the article itself is this pointer from slashdot, which notes an interesting paradox of many Web 2.0 apps:

So many Web 2.0 apps seem like a natural fit for use on mobile phones — more so, in fact, than the PCs they were written for. Take for example, Google maps or Flickr or any of the myriad social networking sites. Frankly, I wonder why anyone would even want to use them while sitting at a desk. And yet the reality of using those apps on cell phones is solidly disappointing because of the inherent constraints of mobile phones and networks.

I had someone asking me about mobile platforms the other day. There are many theoretical benefits of mobile apps, not just the obvious run-anywhere argument. Mobile apps can, in the right circumstances, earn revenue directly against the user’s phone bill. They may also benefit from specialized functionality such as camera usage and geo-tracking. BUT …

A mobile edition is one of those things many startups would like to do, but simply haven’t the resources for, one of those nice-to-haves like internationalization or syndication. It doesn’t make it any easier that mobile platforms are so incredibly fragmented across phone models, countries, and network providers, let alone worrying about what the user has installed on top of the standard setup (Flash? Java? Opera?). And then there’s auditing and certification processes to go along with it. Right now, there are *so* many options a startup has to consider, starting from the big one: browser app or standalone? If mobile access is not a core feature, how many web 2.0 companies are going to bother?

Posted by Michael Mahemoff at 5:10 pm
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Well, if they’d like to target Mobile devices via web based services, and are running off a Windows based server.

They could consider the ASP.NET Mobile Controls (http://www.asp.net/default.aspx?tabIndex=6&tabId=44). I’ve used it a little bit several years ago for a university project and it was fairly easy to use.

Oh, and in regards to Flickr, they do have a Mobile version of their site:
http://www.flickr.com/mob

I’ve accessed it several times using my i-mate Smartphone (SP5), and it works and renders quite well. Though, I’ve only tested the service using a WiFi connection.

One of the nice things they’ve got is the ability to upload your photos straight from your phone.

Comment by William — October 18, 2006

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