Rise of next generation mobile web spells promise for users, developers, content providers

Editorials

I was intrigued by the assertion coming from Google’s Vic Gundotra at the Mobilebeat conference that browsers (and the web) had won / will win over app stores in the mobile landscape. I have to admit I had never thought of these as mutually exclusive technologies, but rather as two pillars in any vibrant mobile platform eco-system. In fact with the continued extension of the BlackBerry® web platform (like Gears support in the upcoming BlackBerry® Device Software 5.0), I am looking forward to more and more fully-featured, deeply-integrated web and hybrid applications appearing alongside traditional Java® applications in BlackBerry App World™. The point being that the power and value of the web as a platform, particularly in the mobile context, is not limited to the mobile browser as a content container. As Google has proven themselves, many users don’t know what a Browser is at all.

What matters is the experience and how users experience the web on a mobile device is starting to evolve in interesting ways beyond the request/response-oriented sit-down-at-your-PC-and-surf model, whether that be inside a browser or in a stand-alone application.

I see this evolution characterized by four key themes:

  • Web-content targeted to mobile form-factor without a reduction in richness. This is already happening. We just need content developers to step–up and accelerate the upward trend!
  • Deep integration into the on-device experience. My BlackBerry smartphone knows more about me than my PC ever will! This opens the door for compelling interactions via the integration of data and applications.
  • Accelerated change in web content production-consumption model. A mobile device is a much better conduit to fulfill the Web 2.0 promise of an Architecture of Participation. The bar for users to add value can be much lower!
  • Breaking free of the request/response interaction model. Delivering high-value content to users through subscriptions and notifications, and changing the way content and service providers are able to engage their audience to anywhere, anytime.

I’ll leave further exploration of these themes for a subsequent post but consider this: the way people connect to and consume the web is fundamentally changing. A recent FierceWireless report on wireless Internet use shows that more and more people are connecting to the web using a mobile device every day. I see it in my own behaviour. The amount of time I spend on the web on my Mac at home is diminishing; I don’t need to login to Facebook when I’ve been live all day on my BlackBerry smartphone (I use the Facebook® for BlackBerry® smartphones application). This is the promise that the next generation mobile web brings.

Post a comment and let us know how you feel about the next generation of the mobile web.

About Chris S.

Chris has been at Research In Motion (RIM) since 2001 and runs R&D for the BlackBerry Development Platform. Practically speaking, this means day-to-day he is busy harnassing the innovative power of a talented group of RIM engineers to serve the needs of the BlackBerry Developer community.

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