Mobile Web 2.0: Discover the future of mobile applications
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Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Mobile Web 2.0

The term Web 2.0 seems to be popping up everywhere on the Internet these days. Many new and successful web services belong to the Web 2.0 trend, they support tagging, blogging, collaboration or they are simply more dynamic web applications, giving a better user experience than traditional static web pages.


Meanwhile, on mobile devices, the Mobile Web 1.0 is still about WAP and Java games. WAP, the wireless access protocol was developed as a low-resource solution to browsing, and all of today's mobile phones support it. In addition, most phones come with Java games preinstalled and support additional game downloads. However these features alone are not a solution for today's needs: we need connected mobile software, software that allows the mobile phone or device to interact with other devices or with the Internet. There are a few technologies that could be used by such applications:

>> Java. The aim of Java 2 Micro-Edition (J2ME) was to create a platform to allow portability of mobile applications. In practice, things did not work out as expected, each phone manufacturer added their own extensions to J2ME, so it ended up where it started: non-portable applications. In fact, the portable code was all about (basic) graphics, and that's one of the reasons why most of the J2ME applications are games. Some phone manufacturers even use the Games menu to include all J2ME applications.

Fortunately, networking support was added to J2ME and it is supported on most implementations, and this has caused a new wave of Java applications to appear. Two great examples of such applications are Mobile GMaps and Opera Mini. Opera brings in a web browser in 100kB that is quite fast, supports a subset of CSS and has a very nice user interface. MGMaps is a 40kB application that allows the user to browse maps (provided by Google Maps), perform searches, or find their own position on the map by connecting to a GPS receiver via bluetooth.

>> AJAX — Asynchronous Javascript And XML — is a technique that is widely used in recent web applications. It hides the communication between a client web application and the server, giving an enhanced browsing experience to the user. There is nothing similar on mobile platforms, because mobile browsers are not there yet — there is no mobile browser to support Google Maps, for example. However, there are mobile platforms that have taken some steps towards mobile AJAX, the most notable such product is Opera Platform. Some other people think that mobile AJAX is the key component of Mobile Web 2.0.

>> Symbian, Windows Mobile, Brew or Palm OS. I'm including these together, because they are all proprietary technologies. They all allow rich client applications with enhanced user interfaces, and have a pretty large number of compatible applications. Still there is no common platform for developing applications for all these systems — except for Java!


Which of these will it be? We'll have to wait and see!

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