mobile Web is following in the footsteps of the fixed-line Web by giving users access to increasingly rich and interactive online applications.
"Web 2.0 has arrived on the mobile Internet in a massive way," says Chris Scoble, managing director of Nashua Mobile. "We are seeing increasing numbers of mobile Internet users count on their smartphones for creative, collaborative applications such as social networking, blogging and instant messaging."
Web 2.0 is loosely defined as the next evolution of the World Wide Web, where online sites and services are built around core principles of interactivity, rich functionality, collaboration and user-centricity. Some examples of Web 2.0 applications and services include Facebook, MySpace, podcasts and blogs.
What they have in common is that they are not merely repositories of information that allow for limited interactivity – they allow end-users to engage with them in complex ways and to share and create content of their own.
Web 2.0 technologies enable mobile users to create and upload new content, pictures and videos and interact with friends and contacts rather than simply viewing information. One example of a Web 2.0 technology used on the mobile web is the blog, resulting in the term moblog.
Mobile Web 2.0 apps allow users to stay in touch wherever they are – not only where they have an Internet-connected PC. They also can also add in functions such as location-awareness to the picture – for example, one could share the GPS coordinates for a meeting with contacts on a social network service.
According to research firm World Wide Worx, 10% of South African mobile phone users are accessing the Internet with their devices. For now, basic personal information management (PIM) applications are the Internet tools most commonly used by South African cellular subscribers, but Web 2.0 apps will help to fuel the growth of the mobile Internet worldwide and in South Africa.
Says Scoble: "The growing maturity of smartphone end-user interfaces, coupled with increasing speeds and lower costs for cellular data networks, has made it attractive for end-users to tap into Web 2.0 from their mobile phones.
"Indeed, the mobile Internet world is a match made in even for the immediacy of the social networking space. It's simple for a smartphone user to snap a photo at a social gathering using a cellphone camera, and then post it on Flickr or send a 'tweet' on Twitter to warn friends of a traffic jam he or she encountered on the way home."