Eran's blog

There’s no Such Thing as the Mobile Web (Or Is There?)

Notes from the Mobile Web panel.

Is the Mobile Web separate or just an extension of the web Web?

Dan Appelquist (Vodafone/W3C): mobile web is an evolution of mobile applications in general. Mobile web design should adapt to the device and it’s limitations.

SVG/SVGT 1.2 scalable vector graphics. Version 1.2 allows scripting inside the markup. Real time information delivered using AJAX. Showing video and live information.

Michael Sippey (six apart): on transferring apps from PC to mobile. 6A has so far been focusing on the content creation side of blogging (post by email, Nokia life blog, etc.). Moving into content consumption and connecting with people – much more complicated, different use cases. Example: mobile Vox sites. LJ has an SMS based service for adding friends, getting updates, etc.

Carlo Longino (MobHappy): Users have different needs and interests when using a mobile service. The mobile web is a tool to deliver the information users need in a nice looking way.

Dwipal Desai (YouTube): Sees the mobile web as a way to take some information with you. We don’t need to have the whole web on mobile, find the things people are interested in and let them access that from mobile. Mobile gives a more immediate experience, especially when you have an integrated device that has video recording and communications.

How can we enhance the UE with the opportunities offered by the mobile device?

Appelquist: content creation on the phone and at the same time content consumption. Example: wikipedia is very useful from a phone although it may have never been designed for mobile access.

Sippey: Vox mobile uses the phone’s camera and lets user to immediately post to vox. Privacy controls (and similar options) can be preconfigured to certain defaults. Make the experience very simple and immediate. There’s a lot more mobile phone action on vox now with people going back later to add annotation.
LJ users can call in and leave messages. Friends can transcribe later. Also, LJ Radio lets you listen to a collection of such messages. In the future maybe allow users to easily create podcasts.

Longino: creating content that fosters interaction is important. Very easy for everyone to be a content creator.

On challenges to moving to mobile:

Desai: rich media on the phone is still pretty new. Networks and phones are still catching up. Interface is very fragmented. You need a whole company dedicated to porting. Operators have a lot of control although they’re slowly opening up as they see possibilities in data. We’re not yet at the point where we can create one application that’s accessible to everyone.
Things are getting better though. There’s some convergence towards open standards.

Appelquist: a lot of convergence in the field. XHTML MP from OMA which has created some fragmentation will be replaced with XHTML Basic from W3C as well as WCSS. Next thing to attack is Javascript support (AJAX, etc.) will soon be trying to create some industry convergence in that area.

Sippey: using lowest common denominator on the mobile site. Limited use of CSS. Lacking QA to test on every possible device. Developing applications for smart phones (S60, Windows Mobile and Palm OS apps) and even with this limited reach there’s a lot of differences. Will not develop a good blogging environment on Mobile Web until there’s support for richer apps (access to devices and additional data on the phone).

Longino: the important thing is to put things out there. Start simple and learn from your users, see what works and what doesn’t. there’s a learning curve in choosing what services to offer people as well, not just in the technology side of things.

On working with carriers and OEMs:

Desai: on the web most people don’t care about the carrier too much. YouTube can create a better experience with help from the carrier. Being On-Deck is important.

Sippey: 6A has more focus on working with OEMs that operators (getting integration with camera for example). In the US carriers are showing more willingness to give up some control. Power relationships in mobile are very different from the Web. Carriers have much more control and power.

Appelqiust: (representing the carriers here…) Ouch! There’s a lot of partnering with existing brands (Google, MySpace, etc.) going beyond creating the “Vodaphone Blogâ€? and towards cooperation and offering services On-Deck. For YouTube, getting On-Deck and getting good placement is easy. The Mobile Web allows smaller outfits to offer services even when the operators aren’t aware of them at all.
Talks about Mobile Monday – http://www.mobilemonday.net/ – monthly networking events around the world. Puts a focus on innovation.

How will communities evolve in the mobile environment? Extension of existing apps or a whole new breed of apps?

Desai: YouTube’s community is centered on video. Can create immediate connection and community when you combine location and video. Still mentions that people will use the website to connect and explore.

Future opportunities:

Longino: Mobile devices are ubiquitous and pervasive this obviously presents a huge opportunity.

Sippey: We want location based service. Example: tag photos automatically with location.

Appelquist: in 10 years we won’t be thinking or talking of using the mobile web, we’ll just do it. Location is a start of the evolution. Showing contextual information based on location and other people’s location around you. Ubiquity.

Q from Opera guy: what about the longtail? There’s a lot of information out there that you just want to be able to access. Are the guys who build the smaller sites no longer relevant? Or are they still important?

Sippey: 6A enables everyone to blog. Is not a big information provider. Enables individual expression. Example: Typepad blogs will all be mobile enabled later this year.

Appelquist: The mobile Web allows anyone to create the YouTube for mobile (in case that YouTube didn’t move fast enough). There’s room for innovation.

Q: People (outside of SXSW) don’t use mobile web apps. How can we drive usage of services?

Longino: Chicken and Egg problem. There’s no content so people don’t use it, etc. There needs to be a compelling reason to use the service.

Appelquist: Usage creeps up the generational ladder.

Sippey: Technology adoption is social. Users showing and helping each other.


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  1. […] Such Thing as the Mobile Web (Or Is There?) I found a great set of notes on this panel at Eran’s blog. The panel started off discussing if there was a seperate “mobile web” or not an […]

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