syscon media republishes my mobile web 2.0 article ..


Hello all,

I am pleased about this!

My blog on mobile web 2.0 has been republished by

syscon – one of the most respected internet group of magazines.

You can see it HERE

By the way, syscon also publish Dion Hinchcliffe’s blog which gets as many as 40,000 hits and is one of the most respected web 2.0 blogs.

NOT being an expert on web 2.0(as I state in my blog early on) .. this is indeed an honour.

However, it’s very nice for my views to be accepted at such high levels(i.e. the philosophy of OpenGardens – the impact of the Internet on mobility – which is very similar to the basic web 2.0 concepts as I have written)

I am happy!

Kind rgds


Mobile web 2.0: Web 2.0 and its impact on the mobility and digital convergence (Part one of three)


Mobile web 2.0: Web 2.0 and its impact on the mobility and digital convergence (Part one of three)

By Ajit Jaokar (Ajit.jaokar at

Introduction and Objectives

This is a series of three articles – the first(this one) outlining the significance of web 2.0 technologies , the second article discussing the impact of web 2.0 technologies on mobility and the final article on the impact of web 2.0 technologies on digital convergence.

If you are already familiar with web 2.0, my goal, in a nutshell (no pun intended!) is to extend Tim O Reilly’s seven principles

to mobility and digital convergence.

Thus, I will not attempt to add to the body of knowledge in terms of basic web 2.0 concepts themselves. I would rather prefer to build on some of the excellent work done on the subject from folk such as Tim O Reilly , Richard Mc Manus and others. I will use their work as a background and extrapolate the basic web 2.0 principles to mobility and digital convergence (areas which I am more familiar with).

My approach will be to ask a series of questions based on my understanding of web 2.0 and mobility. I also welcome your questions. In the two following parts of this paper, I will seek to answer them. Also, if you are a company doing some interesting work in this space, please email me on the address above.

A bit about me

I live in London (England) and am the CEO of a publishing company futuretext.

I wrote a book called OpenGardens advocating openness in the mobile data industry. I also chair Oxford university’s next generation mobile applications panel. In 2006, I am commencing a PhD on IMS (IP Multimedia Systems). If you have an interest in IMS, please contact me to keep in touch. My blog is at OpenGardensBlog

Some definitions

A few quick definitions before we start – just to be sure we have the same frame of reference.

Mobile vs. wireless: In Europe, the commonly used phrase for Telecoms data applications is ‘Mobile’. In USA, it is ‘wireless’ or ‘cellular’. In this article, ‘Wireless’ simply implies connection without wires. Mobility or ‘Mobile’ on the other hand describes a whole new class of applications which permit us to interact and transact seamlessly when the user is on the move ‘anywhere, anytime’. Hence, I use the term ‘Mobile’ independent of access technology i.e. 3G, wireless LANs, wimax, wibro, Bluetooth etc.

Mobile Internet: ‘Mobile IP data service’. It is not ‘Internet on the Mobile device’ since mobility also includes other elements such as ‘messaging’ i.e. non-browsing modes of access.

The mobile data industry: The ‘data’ i.e. non-voice side of telecoms. The telecoms operators are an important part of the mobile data industry.

Web 2.0

Within the mobile data industry, ‘openness’ is still an alien concept. I wrote a book called OpenGardens alongwith Tony Fish which advocated openness in the mobile data industry (OpenGardens is the philosophical opposite of ‘walled gardens’).

When I talk to senior telecoms people about ‘OpenGardens’ – they are still hung about ‘on portal’ or ‘off portal’. Further, most cannot see beyond the traditional ‘song and dance’ applications (ringtones/wall papers etc).

In contrast, I find web 2.0 concepts refreshingly intuitive and they formalise many things which we know and use. For example – in OpenGardens, we talked about an application called ‘Splash messaging’ also called air graffiti or spatial messaging.

Contrast this with a very different type of application called ‘splash messaging/air graffiti/spatial messaging’. In its simplest case, it’s the ability to ‘pin’ digital ‘post it notes’ at any physical point. Suppose you were at a holiday destination and you took a picture or a video of that location. You then ‘posted’ that note digitally with your comments and made it accessible to your ‘friends’. Many years later, one of your friends happened to come to that same place and as she walked to the venue, a message would pop up on her device with your notes, picture and comments.

The Splash messaging application is a ‘mashup’ of many different feeds (for example a location feed and a mapping feed) and it has other features like user created content. Its characteristics are very similar to a web 2.0 service.

So, coming back to my question, what’s web 2.0 and how does it apply to the mobile data industry?


There appear to be two early origin points for web 2.0

Firstly, a business week article:

It’s A Whole New Web And this time around it will be built by you

and secondly .. a conference ( web 2.0 conference created by a discussion between O’Reilly publications and MediaLive International (a technology conference company – if you want to put a label around it)

Currently, there is a lot of hype around web 2.0. But also a lot of cynicism. Predictably, the VCs are excited

Like the web 1.0 – It even has a ‘bible book’ as we had the cluetrain manifesto for web 1.0

For web 2.0 it is Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (Addison-Wesley Professional Computing Series) (Hardcover)

And finally .. it has an odd ‘new agey’ feeling to it .. with words like ‘collective intelligence’, feng shui and morality being bandied about in the context of web 2.0 -

Starting with Nicholas Carr’s The amorality of web 2.0

And Kevin Kelly’s we are the web

and finally .. Tim o Reilly’s response to Nicholas Carr’s article at

Some questions to think about

The mobile device has the potential to act as a significant reporter of data rather than a mere consumer of data. The Web 2.0 / mobility interplay needs more thought. Consider principle two from the list of seven principles (harnessing collective intelligence).

Functionally, we must be able to –

a) collect intelligence unique to being ‘mobile’

b) share that knowledge

c) enable others to comment on that knowledge

d) Ensure that the enhanced body of knowledge so created can be shared with the community.

This leads to more questions – What type of information can we collect when we are mobile(location, pictures(MMS)), How can it be shared?, How can it be enhanced?

Some initial questions which come to my mind:

1) If a web 2.0 service is treated as an amalgamation of data and enabling software, which data elements are unique to mobility (for example location feeds)?

2) How are these data elements captured?

3) What are the pitfalls associated with accessing(sharing) these data sources

4) Will the mobile web 2.0 be seamless as we all hope? If not, what are the options and choke points in extending web 2.0 ‘anywhere anytime’?

5) The impact of IMS. As per wikipedia

The aim of IMS is not only to provide new services but all the services, current and future, that the Internet provides. In addition, users have to be able to execute all their services when roaming as well as from their home networks. To achieve these goals, IMS uses open standard IP protocols, defined by the IETF. So, a multimedia session between 2 IMS users, between an IMS user and a user on the Internet, and between 2 users on the Internet is established using exactly the same protocol. Moreover, the interfaces for service developers are also based on IP protocols. This is why IMS truly merges the Internet with the cellular world; it uses cellular technologies to provide ubiquitous access and Internet technologies to provide appealing services.(By the way, IMS is the topic I am looking to commence my PhD in this year.)

6) How does the network effect work within the mobile data industry ?

7) How does network effect work in terms of user contributions(i.e. can small contributions created by users be shared easily across to the larger body of users) ?

8) What are the examples of harnessing collective intelligence / peer production on the mobile data industry ?

9) Contrasting the iPod/itunes models with other models of sharing data in the mobile data industry

10) Which companies are leading the way in this space ?

11) How will search be affected by ‘anywhere/anytime’ ?

12) Airwaves are not free i.e. there is a cost of transmission over the air through a telecoms network. Will that impact the wider deployment of web 2.0?

13) Impact of dual mode phones(WiFi and 3G phones)

14) IP /IMS does not mean ‘open’. Does openness matter ? If information can be accessed via a browser(and initiatives like the t-mobile web-n-walk initiative are already under way ) – what’s the impact of the ‘walled gardens’ ?

15) What type of data can be captured on a mobile device(music, video, images) and how can it be enhanced(tagged, shared etc) ?

16) What services can be mixed and what new services can be created ? Any examples of these?(citizen’s reporting, real time traffic monitoring are obvious examples)

and so on …

To understand web 2.0, I am going to mainly use Tim O Reilly’s original article alongwith other references from the web as linked.

The seven core principles of web 2.0 revised

As I understand them, according to the article, a web 2.0 service should have as many of the following seven core characteristics as possible. I have outlined these principles partly as a foundation for subsequent discussions but also for my own clarification. Please refer the original link as above for more details.

1. The Web As Platform

Software as a service is data plus software:

A web 2.0 service is a combination of software and data. The term ‘web as a platform’ is not new. Netscape used this term first but the Netscape application (i.e. browser) was created in context of the existing ecosystem (‘WebTop’ instead of ‘desktop’ mirroring the famous ‘horseless carriage’ analogy). While Netscape was still ‘software’ – in contrast, Google is software plus a database. Individually, the software and the database are of limited value – but together they create a new type of service. In this context, the value of the software lies in being able to manage the (vast amounts of) data. The better it can do it, the more valuable the software becomes.

Harnessing the ‘long tail’: The term ‘long tail’ refers to the vast number of small sites that make up the web as opposed to the few ‘important’ sites. This is illustrated by the ‘double-click vs. adsense/overture’ example. The DoubleClick business model was not based on harnessing the vast number of small sites. In contrast, it relied on serving the needs of a few large sites (generally dictated by the media/advertising industry). In fact, their business model actively discouraged small sites(through mechanisms like formal sales contracts). In contrast, anyone can set up an adsense/overture account easily. This makes it easier for the vast number of sites(long tail) to use the service(ad sense/overture).

In general, Web 2.0 systems are geared to harness the power of a large number of casual users who often contribute data implicitly as opposed to a small number of users who contribute explicitly. Tags are an example of implicit contribution. Thus, the web 2.0 service must be geared to capturing ‘many implicit/metadata contributions from a large number of users’ and not a small number of contributions from a few ‘expert’ users.

2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence

In this context, collective intelligence can mean many things

- Yahoo as an aggregation of links

- Google page mark

- Blogging

- Tagging and collective categorisation for example flickr and

- Ebay buyers and sellers

- Amazon reviews

- Wikipedia

And so on ..

All of the above are metadata/content created by users that collectively adds value to the service(which as we have seen before is a combination of the software and the data).

Harnessing the collective intelligence involves understanding some other aspects like peer production, the wisdom of crowds and the network effect.

Peer production as defined by the professor Yochai Benkler’s seminal paper peer production . A concise definition from wikipedia is a new model of economic production, different from both markets and firms, in which the creative energy of large numbers of people is coordinated (usually with the aid of the internet) into large, meaningful projects, largely without traditional hierarchical organization or financial compensation.

The wisdom of crowds – as discussed in the book wisdom of crowds by James Surowiecki whose central idea is that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant—better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.

And finally, network effects from user contributions. In other words, the ability for users to add value (knowledge) easily and then the ability for their contributions to flow seamlessly across the whole community – thereby enriching the whole body of knowledge. A collective brain/intelligence of the blogosphehe if you will – made possible by RSS. A living, dynamic entity not controlled by a single entity.

3. Data is the Next Intel Inside

We have seen previously that a web 2.0 service combines function(software) and data(which is managed by the software). Web 2.0 services inevitably have a body of data (Amazon reviews, eBay products and sellers, Google links) Thus, it’s very different to a word processor for example – where we are selling only software (and no data).

Data is the key differentiator. In most cases, the company serving the data (for example Google) also ‘owns’ the data (for example information about links). However, that may not always be the case. In case of Google maps , Google does not own the data. Mapping data is often owned by companies such as NavTech and satellite imagery data is owned by companies like Digital Globe. Google maps combine data from these two sources(at least).

Taking the ‘chain of data’ further, sites like housing maps are a mashup between Google maps and craigslist. The more difficult it is to create the data, the more valuable it is(for example satellite images are valuable). In cases where data which is relatively easy to create, the company providing the most useful service and hitting critical mass will be valuable.

4. End of the Software Release Cycle

Web 2.0 services do not have a software release cycle. While Google reindexes its link indices every day, Microsoft releases a major software release every few years. That’s because there is no ‘data’ in windows 95, windows XP etc. It’s pure software. Not so with Google. Google is data plus software. It has to reindex its ‘data’ every day else it loses its value. Thus, operations are critical to a web 2.0 company. There is no ‘release’ as such. The flip side of this coin is – there are widespread beta releases and users are treated as co-developers.

5. Lightweight Programming Models

Distributed applications have always been complex to design. However, distributed applications are central to the web. Web services were deemed to be the mechanism to create distributed applications easily. But web services, in their full incarnation using the SOAP stack, are relatively complex. RSS is a simpler(and quicker) way to achieve much of the functionality of web services.

Simpler technologies like RSS and AJAX are the driving force behind web 2.0 services as opposed to the full fledged webservices stack using mechanisms like SOAP. These technologies are designed to syndicate rather than orchestrate(one of the goals of web services). They are thus opposite to the traditional corporate mindset of controlling access to data. They are also designed for reuse. Reuse in the sense of reusing the service and not the data(i.e. they make it easier to remix the service).

Finally, innovation becomes a case of mixing (cobbling together) services existing services – something which we talked about in OpenGardens in the mobile context.

6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device

The sixth principle i.e. ‘Software above the level of a single device’ – is an obvious staring point when we think of the impact of web 2.0 on mobility and telecoms. At one level, the whole of the ‘new’ web should be transparent and accessible across any device. Indeed a browser is the least common denominator in all mobile data devices – and that’s a sobering thought. But there is more to the sixth principle than merely access via the browser.

iTunes leverages data(music) through the service and provides some data management/metadata functions. The mobile device has the potential to act as a significant reporter of data rather than a mere consumer of data. This data, like all web 2.0 services, may be implicit or explicit. This point will be a significant area for discussion in the next two articles.

7. Rich User Experiences

While mechanisms like RSS are being used to syndicate the content of web sites out to a much wider audience, the user experience at the client itself is undergoing a dramatic improvement. The collection of technologies driving this enhanced user experience is Ajax popularised by Jesse James Garrett in the AJAX essay

AJAX is being used in services like gmail, Google maps and Flickr and it already provides the technology to create a seamless user experience combing many discrete services. The impact of RSS and AJAX is to create a service spanning content from many sites. To the user, this is a single, transparent experience. Effectively, content is being freed from its original container. Instead of the user going to the content(as in a user navigating to a web site), the content is going to the user(through RSS). Technologies like AJAX are making it easier for users to create the glue which binds the various content sources(RSS) together.

Conclusion to part One

This article laid the groundwork for the next two articles. It was an introduction to web 2.0 and a series of initial questions which came to my mind when discussing the interplay between web 2.0 and mobility. My objectives, as I have stated, are to extend Tim’s seven principles to mobility and digital convergence. I welcome your comments and questions and I shall answer them in the next two sections of this article.

Many thanks.

Ajit Jaokar

Ajit.jaokar at


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Crazy frog: Should mblox be fined?


Hello all

The crazy frog episode seems to have culminated with mblox being fined by the ICSTIS

Qs is – should mblox be fined and not Jamba(the creator of the crazy frog)

The mblox argument (as you can see from the press release below) is – the current regulation implies that only the provider(and not the creator of the content) can be fined.

That may be so(and I believe that the regulation needs reviewing) BUT ..

Is that not the role of the provider to advise the client about exactly such potential issues? Afterall, mblox are members of every organization under the sun from the MDA, MEF , MMA, 160 characters , Australian direct marketing association !

Surely, they can’t claim innocence?

Either it’s collusion(with Jamba) or incompetence ..

Not a pretty choice .. But a brutally frank one ..

What do you think?

In addition, what do you think this does for the reputation of the mobile marketing industry? Such behaviour merely tars mobile marketers with the same brush unfortunately.

However, I do think that the rules under which they are fined are unfair

Seek comments?

mblox press release

160 characters article

Carnival of the mobilists – Christmas special ..

A great bunch of people. Their christmas special is HERE

Happy holidays everyone – although I shall still be posting

NFC – the answer to mcommerce woes?

nfc logo.JPG

Is NFC (Near field communication) the answer to mcommerce woes?

The FT on Friday seems to think so (Near field communication – the mobile phone that puts cash out of business by Ben King Dec 16 2005 – financial times – London ).

This blog draws on some insights from this article and adds some of my own thoughts to the uptake of NFC

Every time I use my ‘Oyster’ card – I think about how easy it would be to extend the same concept ‘beyond the London underground’. i.e. use the Oyster card to carry cash and pay for items.

The Oyster card (and other similar cards such as Octopus in Hongkong and suica in Japan use a technology under the umbrella called NFC (Near field communication) governed by the NFC forum

What possibilities does an amalgamation of NFC and the mobile phone hold? How will it boost mcommerce? Mcommerce has had a chequered history. Is NFC the answer to mcommerce woes?

So far, mcommerce does not seem to have taken off in most parts except oddly in places like Africa (and also of course Japan and Korea).

In Europe, the last attempt to create a ‘top down’ mcommerce body ended in disaster (Simpay).

But Simpay was only the latest disaster. There were many more previous attempts at mcommerce such as the mondex trials with BT , Dual chip phones as early as May 1999 in Helsinki.

Other scenarios were tried out – for example, collaboration between one Mobile operator and one bank (e.g. Postbank and Telfort in the Netherlands) or one Mobile operator and several banks (e.g. the Mobile operator TIM and Italian banks in Italy). Pure play vendors – such as Paybox who were solely in the business of providing a payment platform also were an option.

Ofcourse there are the more successful options such as premium SMS and SMS payment systems such as in Korea where you accept the transaction by SMS (but still use your credit card).

Still .. mcommerce is not mainstream though .. and that’s sad.

Will NFC change that?

Like many ideas, mcommerce has clear practical benefits to consumers and businesses but the incumbents(like banks and credit cards companies) are too deeply entrenched especially in western countries. The operators also cannot seem to agree on a standard.

At first glance, NFC seems to be yet another forum. If you remember the old days prior to OMA, there have been many previous attempts prior to simpay and many fora (many of which merged under the umbrella of the openmobile alliance .

Then, there was Bluetooth – full of promise but low on execution.

However, NFC may well gain from the Bluetooth experience. Its not enough to create a technology like Bluetooth and have some start-ups create applications. In most cases, these applications remain in the prototype stage. Its far more important to have a major non operator consumer body behind the execution (such as the London underground).

In the past, many thought that the operator was the logical choice. Clearly, that’s not happening except for some isolated cases. Even payment services like vodafone m-pay are useful for the operator’s customers only. It’s debatable how many people are using operator led payment systems such as m-pay

So, what is NFC?

Devices containing NFC technology are triggered by proximity(few centimetres). Think swiping your oyster card. Its possible to equip a phone with NFC technology for as little as three pounds. NFC operates in the 13.56 Mhz range.

As per the NFC forum web site

The vision of the NFC Forum is to enable users to access content and services in an intuitive way by simply touching smart objects and connecting devices just by holding them next to each other. To bring this vision to life, the NFC Forum invites all interested parties — companies from mobile communications, consumer electronics, chip manufacturing, computing, media and entertainment, telecom and payment services sectors — to join the NFC Forum and help further our goals.

Collectively, the NFC Forum’s members will develop and agree upon common protocols for basic links between devices, standards for interoperability based on common data structures and formats, specifications for device-independent service delivery, and more. The Forum will then work to promote these deliverables and the use of NFC technology worldwide. All of these efforts will support Forum member companies in providing successful products and services to their customers.

Currently, there are two technologies covering this sector felica from Sony and mifare from Philips.

The value proposition of NFC is to unite these two technologies

‘Unite’ means ensure that readers of felica can read mifare cards and vice versa. This could be VERY interesting

Obviously, the next step is to put in a mobile phone and all sorts of applications are possible.

Interestingly enough, NFC founding members include players from across the spectrum

Again, from the NFC forum website ..

As a group, the NFC Forum’s Sponsor Members represent the leading players in key industries in all the major regions of the world. The Sponsor Members are: MasterCard International, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., Microsoft Corp., Motorola, Nokia Corporation, NEC, Renesas Technology, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung, Sony Corporation, Texas Instruments and Visa International.

i.e. this includes credit card makers, device manufacturers and others like Microsoft.

Missing in action are the operators. Some have pledged support – but overall it’s lukewarm.

Time will tell .. if NFC will be a success or yet another initiative which will not take off.

What do you think?

my presentation at imobicon(mobile multiplayer games)

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