Is the Mobile Web Finally Set to Take Off?

Read/WriteWeb asks readers, “Is the mobile web (or, rather, using mobile devices to access the web) finally coming of age?”

In a word: Yes.

For more details, on why:

The real question is when will it take off. Are we looking at a 6 to 9 month or a 12 to 15 month horizon before the groundswell takes off.

Web Analytics guru Eric Peterson recently came to a similar conclusion about the mobile web. I think Eric nailed it when he said that the coming mobile web is probably less like a wave and more like a incoming Tsunami.

Browser Client-Side Database Storage

One of the big features in HTML5 has been implemented by the Safari developers and it’s a doozy that I wasn’t aware of: client-side database storage.

From the Surfin’ Safari blog:

The client-side database storage API allows web applications to store structured data locally using a medium many web developers are already familiar with – SQL.

Like cookies, you can store the databases per domain. I’m struggling to determine if the persistent storage in Firefox is the same thing. Firefox’s implementation states clearly that it isn’t available to web pages (only “trusted callers”). IE seems to be (per usual) implementing something similar, but slightly different.

Niell Kennedy wrote a good summary of the different techniques for boosting Ajax performance using local storage and why this would be beneficial.

I’m starting to get excited about HTML5. This database feature could be very useful for web applications.

Saving the Environment–One Server at a Time

The recurrent theme at SNW this year is Green Storage. I’m extremely impressed with the fact that multiple vendors have incorporated energy efficiency as a key distinguishing characteristic of their solutions. I knew the SNIA was launching the Green Storage Initiative, but I didn’t realize how much momentum this has in the industry until I saw it for myself.

Several booths are dominated by information about energy efficiency. These companies have decided that being green is the most likely way to sell more products.

Through my conversations with people on the expo floor, I learned that several businesses are now being told that they cannot bring any more power into their data centers. The power company is simply refusing to provide them with more capacity.

In many cases, the cost of powering and cooling a data center exceed the costs of the hardware within two years.

The green momentum isn’t entirely altruistic. There is a real dollars and sense perspective driving the Green Storage Initiative. Tackling these issues will save businesses money.

But even though it may not be entirely altruistic, you can sense the pride that people have doing something that both helps their company sell more storage devices AND makes the world a better place.

5 Months Later: Twitter Rocks. Facebook Bores.

After hearing such a buzz about Twitter and Facebook at Web Visions 2007, I decided to give them both a try. Five months later, the results are completely unexpected to me: Twitter seems indispensable and Facebook completely ignorable.

My initial impressions were very different. Facebook had a clear purpose and reason. While I’ve never got much value out of MySpace or Friendster and minimal value out of LinkedIn, at least I understood why someone might find them useful. Facebook’s common features with these other social networking sites made it easy to see what Facebook was about.

Twitter on the other hand seem like a tremendous waste of time. I believe that the high interrupt nature of today’s workplace is already straining productivity. I’ve changed my email client to only check email every 30 minutes, stopped participating in IM and irc but irregularly, and generally sought ways to give myself more focus.

It was difficult to imagine that a system like Twitter with constant micro-updates would work for me.

Five months later and I’m contemplating turning off my Facebook account while I both enjoy and find utility in Twitter. How did this come to be?

Let’s start with the easy answer on why Facebook disappoints.

Dave Winer wrote recently about how Facebook sucks because it doesn’t allow users to control their data. This triggered a lot of back and forth about the value of Facebook. I’m not sure if it is control of the data or the walled garden or what, but the reality is that I never see what is going on in Facebook.

I think Facebook’s expectation is that I’m going to log into their system and refresh the news feed page. I’m not sure. I’ve tried turning on every type of notification and subscribing via RSS to no avail. I’m in several groups, but I never know that anything is happening in them.

Basically, the only time I think about Facebook is when someone writes an article about how great it is. Then I log in to look again and wonder what I’m missing.

Yes, Facebook has a wonderful development platform. I like the fact that I can syndicate my blog, twitter, delicious and flickr information to Facebook. It means I never have to log into Facebook to update anything. :-)

Maybe more of my friends need to use the platform. Maybe I need to “live” in the application to appreciate it. But for whatever reason, I’ve given Facebook five months to hook me, and I still could care less about it. And I’m actively trying to understand this system. I doubt others will take as much time.

Twitter’s purpose is much more difficult to explain. Adam C. Engst’s recent “Confessions of a Twitter Convert” mirrors my own experience. Twitter provides both a way to know what is going on in people’s lives, a conduit to breaking news, and a community that you don’t find elsewhere online.

It also provides you with a conduit to talking to people you otherwise have no connection to. My exchange with Guy Kawasaki allowed me to give something back to someone I admire. That connection would have never happened without Twitter. I don’t have Guy’s email address. He doesn’t know me at all.

Who knows? Perhaps in five months more of my friends will be on Facebook, and I’ll suddenly see why so many people swear by this service and think it can take on Google. And maybe Twitter will grow old or become crowded with spammers.

But for now, Twitter provides a difficult-to-describe joy and usefulness to my everyday. Facebook promises much more, but doesn’t deliver.

(You can follow me on Twitter here. My Facebook account is… well, I don’t think I can link to my Facebook profile. So I guess you have to search for me. How lame is that?)

Amazon Sees Mobile Web as Opportunity

Amazon recently shut TXTReview out of their e-commerce web services. TXTReview provides book and movie reviews via test messaging on mobile devices.

The interesting thing about this story is the clarification that Amazon gave for why they had stopped allowing TXTReview to use their APIs:

We do limit access by some mobile-focused companies to just that service. Its says in our license agreement for that service that developers must first get permission from Amazon Web Services prior to using Amazon ECS in connection with any handheld, mobile, or mobile phone application (see 5.1.4 here) . The reason is that it’s very early days in the mobile space and is still thinking through how to best serve customers who want to use mobile devices to shop on At this point, we’re being cautious about exposing our catalog data for use in the mobile space.

So unlike most people who take mobile devices for granted, Amazon believes the mobile space is in its infancy. They see opportunity there and are being cautious to not lock themselves in. They see so much possibility there, that they’ve codified this perspective in their terms of service.

This shows more foresight than most companies have on where technology is going and is further evidence that the mobile web is likely to take off in the near future.

Web ‘not path to close friendships’

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post where I theorized that social networks were having an impact on our ability to create and keep in contact with many more acquaintances, but don’t redefine our definition of friendship as some have suggested. A study by Sheffield Hallam University has recently been released that says that, “close friends are unlikely to be made through social networking web sites such as Facebook and MySpace.”

The article on the study points out that social networking sites “may be having less impact on people’s social lives than might be expected.” The research shows that people really only have about 5 close friends—the same number that people had before social networking sites—and that those close friends are met face-to-face.

So social networking is about acquaintances more than friends regardless of how many “friend” request you accept. The thing that surprised me most about the research was that people might have actually expected social networking sites to change the dynamics of close friendships.

Facebook: The First Level 2 Platform

A quick follow up to my previous post on platforms. In Marc Andreessen’s article on The three kinds of platforms you meet on the Internet, he writes:

  • In the Internet realm, the first Level 2 platform that I’m aware of is the Facebook platform.

Marc defines a Level 2 platform as a platform that lets “developers build new functions that can be injected, or ‘plug in’, to the core system and its user interface.”

Is Facebook really the first to do this? Does anyone have an example of a company that was doing this before Facebook?

What does it mean to build an API?

Dave Winer recently wrote a post asking the question, “Should every app be a platform?” My one word answer when bookmarking Dave’s post in my delicious account was a resounding “Yes!”

Not everyone sees the benefit of building your application as a platform. People often fear the loss of control, the idea that they may lose potential revenue or the fear of being fettered to support APIs that prevent you from making unforeseen changes.

Even if you can get agreement on the benefits of opening a platform, the definition of what it means to be a platform varies greatly. That’s why I highly encourage you to read The three kinds of platforms you meet on the Internet by Marc Andreessen.

Marc’s post is lengthy, but well worth the time. It gives you language to use when describing the different types of platform and an honest assessment of the challenges in building each type.

As more people move from trying to build holistic web sites hosted on a single server and move towards a vision of a web presence that combines information stored in multiple places on multiple servers, the focus on platforms will grow. We need to communicate clearly about that types of platforms we are both delivering and looking for others to deliver to us or we will likely be disappointed in the platforms we choose and disappoint those who choose to build on the platforms we develop.

Applying a Social Computing Strategy to the entire Product Lifecycle

Jeremiah Owyang has published an exceptionally detailed article tracking the different ways to engage in social media during a product’s lifecycle.

The article has a raft of good ideas in it including this insightful quote:

1. Listening: The most important step
This is one of the biggest problems for communicators today, just like a real conversation, is learning to listen. Any savvy party goer knows to listen before jumping into a conversation at a cocktail party. Marketers, MarCom, Integrated Marketing, Advertising, PR, have forgotten (or never knew) that by listening to the needs of the market will help them to create more effective messages and then evolve into a conversation.

Listening is the most underdeveloped skill in business today. Whether it is listening to our customers or listening to our coworkers, finding people who can listen well is difficult.

Listening to a market is a different skill set (rss, bulletin boards) than listening in a meeting, but both rely on true listening—active listening.

Active listening requires you to not only have heard what is was said, but to listen intently enough that the people speaking know that you have heard and understood them. Only after someone knows that they’ve been heard will they be able to engage in a conversation.

In social media, it isn’t sufficient to simply monitor the conversations. You need to understand and internalize the values, concerns and fears of the people involved.

The first time that a marketer speaks in a social network, it will be readily apparent those involved in the network whether or not the marketer truly gets what they are about or not. Marketers need to take the time to listen and to make sure that when they engage in the conversation that their audience knows that they have been heard.

I was pleased that Jeremiah listed listening as the most very first thing on his list. The rest of the list is just as insightful so read the full article.