When is the collaborative mobile web coming?

12.02.2008 | Christian Kreutz

In Phnom Penh, as everywhere else, the mobile phone is a must have accessory for the youth, and when they get together, they enjoy bluetoothing; or so Thomas Wanhoff told me during my stay in Cambodia. This basically means that they share ringtones, images, videos and games through their mobile phones. The other day I read that last year a quarter of Internet traffic was over the mobile phone. I myself use my mobile to access the web more and more, but I am still not completely satisfied since I do not get to interact easily enough through the social web. However, the iphone has really changed something in that regard.

And so, I wonder how the mobile web and, particularly the collaborative web, will develop? And will it work? By this I mean that I can interact with all sorts of tools via my mobile phone -- edit a wiki, build a mashup, writing a blog post, and finally network more effectively. It is clear that the mobile will sooner or later bypass the personal computer by Internet usage. In developing countries the mobile phone is even more important because it will be the decisive tool to access the web as Joel Selanikio points out:

If I had told you ten years ago that by the end of 2007 there would be an international network of wirelessly-connected computers throughout the developing world, you might well have said it wasn't possible. I am talking, of course, about the mobile phone network.

But, where are the applications and easy ways to do that on the mobile phone? One example are RSS feeds, which can be quickly delivered to mobile phones as Ndesanjo Macha described in a podcast how he accesses via his mobile phone blogs. Lighweight rss feeds are perfect for the slow GPRS connection.

Most famous is of course Howard Rheingold's book smartmobs.com. Already some years ago Rheingold described how deep the impact of the mobile web is for youngsters, who play role games in real time, and the game board is the streets of the city. One phenomena were the flashmobs, where a critical mass of people suddenly showed up somewhere to protest or party. Mobile citizen reporter is another interesting outcome but often it is limited to an uploaded photo.

In the field of mobile learning a lot has been discussed. As Teemu Arina points out nicely in a video interview about the future of learning.

Some years ago, Finland was very strong in the mobile side and people where laughing at the idea of mobile learning. But I think it’s coming. I think it’s integrating with the informal learning space, because being mobile means that the context is around you.

There are still many limitation to the phone: the screen, keyboard, connection. However this is just a matter of time, and recent devices already make a difference. I wonder why  so little has been developed in order to interact and collaborate via the mobile phone in the social web.

Mobile social networks such as MXit in South Africa show the potential. I imagine some people will find it frightening to be always online, but it can also have a lot of advantages to have available Internet access everywhere. However, for developing countries it will make a huge difference to fully be able to participate in the social web because mobile phones are the future. I am sure I missed a lot of things happening. Please drop me a line if you know of interesting examples.