Friday, January 13, 2006

Article: Web 2.0 for mobile

There's a lot of talk in the geek space about Web 2.0, which is basically just a buzz word to refer to interactive, dynamic web sites offering services, and eventually whole applications on the web. Examples include GMaps and Writely. But how does this apply to cell phones, where you usually have a slow connection, a tiny screen, and a web browser that barely supports the basic web protocols?

There's been a lot of work in the mobile web space this past year, and a lot of marketing. Verizon even uses Mobile Web 2.0 to sell its service, when in fact it's still WAP pages, with the main difference being that it's being pushed to the phone (automatically refreshes).

Yahoo! and Google seem to be the first players to go further than simply making WAP pages and try to bring the first steps of web integration into cell phones. Both Yahoo! and Google have mobile portals, offering a mobile oriented page for cell phones allowing for searches, as well as mobile alerts using SMS and various other basic services. But this year, they are both going one step futher, and are going about it in different ways.

Yahoo! partnered with Nokia and created Yahoo! Go, which is a huge Symbian application that completely transforms any supported Nokia phone into a Yahoo! device. It integrates with your messaging, contacts, photos, and keeps them synced in real time with the Yahoo! services. It's so far the most integrated application ever seen. When you enter a contact on your phone or on the Yahoo! site, it's synchronized right away with each other. When you get an e-mail, it's pushed to your phone. You can transfer photos to your Yahoo! account as soon as you take them, and you can use Yahoo! Messenger at any time on your phone. They have also partnered with Motorola to do the same thing.

Google decided to go a different route, and instead used their existing personalized home page and made the personalized home page for mobile. It's basically a page that is synchronized with the site which is the Google page you can customize, and whenever you make a modification there, it is reflected in the mobile version. This means that all the content you have on your home page is formatted for a mobile screen and displayed on your phone. Note that Google also has started to make actual phone applications such as Google Local for Mobile but for now they don't integrate with anything else. One funny thing is Google also partnered with Motorola.

The next step in this web 2.0 integration will be to truly make use of all web protocols in modern browsers such as Opera for mobile, and ditch the old WAP only browsers that crash every 5 pages. With the help of next generation high speed networks such as EVDO and UMTS, we'll finally have the software and bandwidth required to really have interactive web apps on our phone. All we'll need next is someone to take advantage of it.


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