Three cheers on the whole Mobile 2.0 != AJAX meme. In putting the Mobile 2.0 conf together I’ve heard from a lot of people with new technology who think that because they have something that resembles Web 2.0 practice that makes them Mobile 2.0. I’m hoping they’re in the minority and that’ll just go away soon. Unfortunately every once in a while things have to get nasty though, and I’m the kind of person who would rather be an asshole to a small group of people rather than let a larger community suffer because they’re getting misled. It’s not going to come to that though right?
So if Mobile 2.0 isn’t about the technology what is it about? One of the primary aspects is the user generated content angle I mentioned when I posted about the Mobile Web 2.0 book. But even that term has started to get thrown around like magic pixie dust. Allowing users to make your content for you doesn’t cut it. This is about users communicating and interacting in meaningful and comfortable manner, which you as a service provider support in such a way that it both maximizes the experience the user has while generating something that you can reuse. That’s sustainable, and very very hard to do correctly. Slam together some basic XHTML pages for users to fill in their interests, allow them to put up a picture, claim to be a mobile social networking site, and then spend all the time you should be using to evolve your product shouting from the rooftops how you’re a mobile 2.0 company cause you have user generated content? No, that doesn’t qualify.
Mobile widgets in general seem to be suffering from the same kind of hype bubble that mobile AJAX has been overtaken with. I’ve lost track of how many mobile widget applications I’ve played with. Some were interesting, most of them were not. The tricky thing about widgets is that some of the ideas are so new within the field as a whole that it’s hard to tell the enabling platforms from the limiting landgrabs. Is the platform allowing you to expose your content to mobile users? Or attempting to lock you into their method of communication and presentation? Some don’t even allow users to create their own widgets, they’re just presentation wrappers for a bunch of small simple functions. Is that even a widget system? I tend to use Widsets as my positive example when it comes to mobile widgets. Why? Cause the basics are built on existing syndication formats used on the web already, creating a new widget based on existing content is a simple operation that a user without programming background can do, and sharing and promoting your widget is given as much attention as creating it. There’s a whole set of questions around widgets that are still hard to define let alone answer. Om and Niall are running a widget focused conference in San Francisco on Nov 6th. Unfortunately the same day as the Mobile 2.0 conference. I’m sure it’s going to be a fantastic discussion and I wish I could be there for it.
Every once in a while someone will say something like “but it’s a consistent platform to build on top of across different handset types.” I can only imagine that they’re joking. Even if it weren’t for the long list of failed unifying platform attempts within mobile, the concept of a platform has changed significantly since the 90s when it comes to Web 2.0. However I haven’t really see the platforms in mobile evolving along the same lines. When we talk about “software above the level of a single device” mobile should be right there at the top of the list. Instead the base software in mobile operates above the level of a single device if you’re a carrier, but is as locked down as ever (or worse than ever in some cases) if you’re anyone else. That just isn’t going to work. The future generations of mobile platforms have to be open source and based on open standards otherwise I think the environment as a whole ends up suffering.