What is it going to take for us to see some real significant progress being made in developing mobile apps on the web? Since the Day of JS event a few days ago I’ve been poking at the idea. I ran across a great article that mentions the theory of the adjacent possible that helped solidify things for me. The theory of the adjacent possible come out of biology, but I ran across it in the context of discussions about innovation. That article is definitely worth a read if you’re a startup person.
So what does that theory have to do with the mobile web? I think it helps summarize one of the primary failure modes for doing mobile web work. There’s a natural tendency to look at the desktop web when thinking about how to address mobile. However, many things that we’re doing on the desktop web just aren’t adjacent to the existing practice on the mobile side. We might make it there eventually, but we can’t make it there now. We assume we know where the mobile web is eventually going TO because we know all the awesome things that grew out of the desktop web, but it’s more important to think about what the mobile web is going THROUGH in order to up the chance of being successful.
For instance it’s pretty natural to assume that because more capable devices are ending up in the hands of a wider audience now would be the time to start working on mobile media properties. However I don’t think the advertising environment is really at the right stage of evolution on the mobile web to make that style of property the same slam dunk as it would be on the desktop web. I think what we really need are a few direct monetization services to kick things off. We need the Amazon and eBay of the mobile web. Those two shifted perceptions on the desktop side, one with direct sales and the other as a sales platform. The media models formed around the commerce that started flowing. I’m starting to think that until the mobile web has something to sell it’s premature to start trying to run media models.
Not that media properties won’t work, I just don’t think they’re what we need to significantly shift development toward the web. And of course, I’m planning to test some of this out cause I might be completely insane. Hat tip to Jay Jamison and Eric Ries for the recent discussions at Founders Labs and Bluerun that have kicked off some interesting ideas.