Last year, I predicted that 2006 would be the year of the mobile Web and that the mobile Web would “go main stream.” I think I can say that this prediction has largely played itself out. The rise of the mobile Web has become a topic in the mainstream press. Products like the X-Series from 3 and the Nokia Series-60 Web browser have addressed both the functionality and the cost issues. Opera launched Mini, opening up sophisticated Web browsing to a much wider range of handsets. The work of the Mobile Web Best Practices working group and the W3C Mobile Web Initiative have also played a role in providing guidelines to Web site developers and generating awareness of the mobile Web.
Although it continues to be controversial, dotMobi, which also launched in 2006, has played a key role in raising awareness of the mobile Web. I’m proud to have played a role both in the development and launch of dotMobi and in the W3C Mobile Web Initiative.
What I couldn’t have predicted at the end of 2005 was the rapid growth of other sophisticated Web and Internet-linked applications. Mobile photo-sharing and video-sharing are becoming as ubiquitous as their “traditional” Web counterparts. Web powerhouses like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft (Windows Live) have launched their own custom mobile applications for mail and messaging. Mobile Ajax and Mobile Widgets are also starting to play a role in bringing sophisticated and rich user experiences to the mobile handset. The walled gardens are opening up. Mobile Web advertising is rocketing forward, showing a possible path to revenue in this burgeoning space. These were the trends and innovations we focused on at the mobile2.0 event last month in San Francisco, and it was clear from the crowd we drew there and the overwhelmingly positive feedback on the event that we have come to an “inflection point” for the mobile Web.
My second prediction had to do with the use of the mobile Web in the developing world. We haven’t really seen any staggering advances here, although clearly mobile telephony itself is taking off in the developing world, and there are some interesting data points, such as the BBC article I referenced earlier in the year, to indicate mobile Web usage is becoming an important part of this trend. The W3C also ran an important workshop earlier in the month focusing on this topic (for which they just issued a workshop report that is definitely worth a read). There are really two stories here: one of them is about the usefulness of the Web in the developing world and the other is about how the mobile phone is bringing sophisticated technology into the hands of users there – helping to bridge the digital divide. I’m going to be co-chairing another workshop on this topic with Rittwik Jana of AT&T research at the upcoming WWW2007 conference. There we hope to build on the work of the W3C workshop and continue to throw light on this important subject.
More to come soon on wrap-up for 2006 and predictions going into 2007.
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