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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 16:42 GMT
Mobile talk moves to Web 2.0
Spencer Kelly
By Spencer Kelly
Click presenter

With a growing demand for a better browsing experience on our mobiles, there is, according to the industry, demand for Web 2.0 on the go.

Vodafone handset
Vodafone users can now access YouTube and MySpace

While text blogging on a mobile is still seen as a minority sport, the explosion of camera and videophones now allows us to upload pictures and videos to our homepages. It is something that is already extremely popular on the successful South Korean social network Cyworld.

The social networking craze has seen phone manufacturers, network operators and big internet names announce various tie-ins to give users access to their own content.

Yahoo's mobile internet service now incorporates built-in access to photo-sharing site Flickr. Other deals include Vodafone's tie-in with both MySpace and YouTube, which will allow customers to access, edit and post to their MySpace pages and upload videos to YouTube.

Newbay is a company that provides mobile networks with servers and back-end support for picture and video uploads. They have seen their mobile traffic triple in the last year.

"Blogging on the internet is different from blogging on the mobile," said Newbay's chief executive Paddy Holahan. "The mobile user is more likely to take a picture or a video and upload it, because he's got a cameraphone in his hands. The internet blogger is more likely to type because he's got a keyboard in his hand.

"When you give people buttons, they press them, and it's a different experience. Mobile tends to be much more about your lifestyle; internet blogging tends to be much more about your opinions, politics, things like that."

Bandwidth issues

Mobile phones are not the best way to access the net.

So, whether it is pictures, opinion or general video buffoonery, the process for uploading your content is often quite complicated. And even with 3G, your top data transfer rate is 384 kilobits per second, which means your upload could take a while.

Second Life avatars
Second Life has a population of more than 1.5 million

"The bandwidth issue is basically an issue of quality and speed," said Mr Holahan. "The better the bandwidth, the better the quality image or video you can upload in a short time.

"People will generally wait 10 to 20 seconds to upload something at whatever quality that allows you to do, but they're not going to wait for one or two minutes for something that should be a snap or a snippet.

"One of the key things we do is turn the uploading experience into a one-click experience. At the moment you may have to go through 10 or 15 clicks just to upload a single picture, and in our opinion for every click you halve the usage."

But just as many of us are getting to grips with moblogging and video uploading, the idea of Web 2.0 has moved on. The virtual world Second Life currently seems to represent the cutting edge of the concept, populated as it is by user-generated characters, buildings and businesses.

Bridge between worlds

IBM's private Second Life play area is a kind of "thought lab" where, amongst the bizarre constructions, the company is trying out methods to combine Web 2.0 and mobile devices in a more homogenous way.

IBM's master inventor Zygmunt Lozinski explained his vision does not simply involve accessing Second Life from your phone - it involves using your mobile as a bridge between the virtual world and the real world.

People used to talk about service anytime, anywhere - it shouldn't matter if that's a real or a virtual anywhere.
Zygmunt Lozinski, IBM

"You have a group of people who use virtual environments like Second Life, and they interact within those environments using tools like instant messaging and chat. But what would happen if you could connect people and objects in a virtual world to real world communication networks? To your mobile phone, to phones at home?

"So for example, you can make your avatar ring a bell, like in a hotel lobby, and that would send a message to the owner of that area, to their mobile phone, to say 'there's somebody who's interested in talking to you'. Because obviously you can't spend your entire life in a virtual shop hanging around waiting for someone to stop by and buy something.

"You can then see a photo of the avatar who's calling you. You can then record a video with your mobile, and send that back so your potential customer can see that video being played to them on a video wall in the virtual world."

In effect, IBM's model removes the need for people to exist within a virtual world.

"If you're travelling you may not always have good enough connectivity to interact with people in a virtual world, even if you need to. People can communicate irrespective of whether they're in the virtual or real worlds," said Mr Lozinski.

"People used to talk about service anytime, anywhere - it shouldn't matter if that's a real or a virtual anywhere."

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