We’re pretty well accustomed to the concept of Web 2.0 by now. Facebook, Twitter and other social media apps have defined the shape of the internet for the last four or five years. Broader and deeper integration of users’ personal lives has been de rigeur and people have been more than willing to divulge and share everything about them online. This has raised its own issues, ones that users and governments are still coming to terms with. Before we fully get our heads around all the implications of the so called Web 2.0 it seems like 2012 is going to be the first year in the next stage of online development which will take it all on the move. Web 3.0 is going to be MOBILE, so I hope you’re ready for it.
As it stands, mobile technology is the fastest growing technology wave the world has seen. The existing leaders of the last few years haven’t necessarily been the best at adapting to this changing scenery. Zynga and Facebook have struggled to take their core experiences away from the desktop, as their earnings calls earlier this month reflected. Zynga has been unable to recreate anything as compelling as Farmville on a mobile platform and their Mafia Wars II social game has been something of a flop.
Most established tech companies were built for the fully featured desktop PC experience. One of the advantages of companies like Instagram is that they were built from the ground up for smaller screens, scaled back performance and are thus significantly more streamlined than bloated desktop apps. Limited system requirements and minimal screen space means that they have to be exceptionally focused and targeted towards a purpose. The amount of data Facebook now holds means that it is hard to optimise the experience for mobile platforms.
Not only is optimising their service for users a problem, but also they’re struggling to optimise it from a profitability point of view. The enduring web giant Google was revolutionary in bringing in revenue because it targeted ads based on what you were searching. Facebook targeted ads based on what you liked. Mobile means that ads can be targeted based on where you are and it can do it in real time, straight to your pocket. This is an infinitely more efficient method of advertising than placing a billboard by the side of a motorway – the viewers aren’t necessarily staying around, you don’t know that they have any interest in the product and it’s hardly time efficient seeing as the advertiser has to pay for it to be up 24/7 rather than whenever it’s shown.
Waze is a great example of the potential that the mobile web has. It taps into GPS and social mapping features on your phone to provide free turn-by-turn directions with traffic information updates and rerouting to 20m users. As well as helping users find the fastest route to their destination, the app also shows cheapest petrol prices along the way.
What the future looks like is obviously impossible to say. However, you can be sure that those companies that are built for profitability on the mobile platform are the ones that will succeed. Many existing companies won’t be able to make the necessary shift into this new model. Even seemingly successful ones like Zynga and Facebook are clearly struggling. Its all well and good to build a great service which has at its core a great idea – it’s a wholly different thing to ensure that it is profitable. It is only the latter which can ensure longevity in the mobile tech sector.