Derrick Oien

Monday, February 13, 2006

Mobile 2.0: The Revolution will not be televised

Over the last several days I have been thinking a lot about the disconnect between thinkers in Silicon Valley and the youth market. While saying that there is a disconnect is a broad generalization, I certainly feel that it is the primary thought process among those who are designing and developing services for the marketplace as it relates to the web. This post I wrote the other day was picked up on Digg by a guy in Europe who posed the question regarding the relevance of A-list bloggers.

I personally don’t have an opinion on whether A-list bloggers matter or not but one comment to the Digg post on this page struck a chord with me. The response to the question about why there has been no mention of RSS support by Mysapce was that the reason nobody covered it or that nobody frankly cared was that MySpace was full of the “omglolkewl” crowd. I loved the comment but it also started my mind thinking about how transformative wireless will be/is and how the general ignoring of the youth market as trivial will be the Achilles heel of a lot of the companies that are focused on mobile.

Kids live on their phone. The Myspace kids and the Xanga kids and the Live Journal kids. They have grown the ringtone market place to the point that it is saving the record companies from years of declining CD sales and P2P networks. These kids use SMS messaging all the time. These kids don’t own smart phones. They don’t own Symbian series 60 phones. These kids don’t want the web on their phone. They have the web on their computer. They do other stuff on the phone. Kewl stuff. ROFLMAO stuff.

These kids have taken a geeky technology called IRC and turned it into something cool ala AIM, Y! Messenger, etc. Not that they invented it mind you, but they helped to drive adoption. They helped to drive the user base of sites like those mentioned above into the 10s of millions, not millions. There is a whole generation that is alive today that knows that their phone isn’t just for making calls. It is an advanced communication device that does a bunch of things, even if it is just a cheap phone.

When I think about all the web 2.0 companies and all the brilliant people who have created all the amazing things that I have been using in the last couple of years like RSS, Blogger, Podcasting, etc. I know that these people, like me are in their 30s and 40s for the most part. We grew up with the first PCs or had access to mainframes and really wanted to push the envelope at the time where the envelope was small. I recall fondly how I screwed with a guy in my Fortran class who was an ass by sending him messages over the PDP1145 without him knowing what was going on. I loved that shit. It made sense to me.

Most people my age don’t use their phones they way kids do today. They don’t really feel comfortable typing messages on their phones. They don’t really understand why people would buy ringtones (personalization, which by the way is a big part of the success of Myspace). They want to put their Yahoo on their phone. The problem is that my phone isn’t a Series 60 phone. Or frankly, I don’t want to do CERTAIN things on my phone when I have a much better tool called a laptop. The problem with my laptop though is that I can’t take it to The Mars Volta concert. I can’t send a picture of it to my friends RIGHT now while it is happening.

My general point though, getting back to what struck me, is that I don’t see much discussion on the fact that the first generation of people who are walking around with mobile connected camcorders are in our midst. They are using a technology that many of us assume to be mere pre-cursors to a wireless handheld computer when in fact it is something else different. The use cases are being created today by people who live in that medium much the same way many of us were tinkering around with assembly language programming of the Z80 and the 6502.

Which leads me to the conclusion that somewhere in the back of a classroom somewhere some kids are hacking their BREW or J2ME phones and trying to figure out what is really cool and what really matters to impress and share with their friends. With all due respect to Gil Scot-Heron I would offer that the Mobile 2.0 Revolution will not be televised. Or rather…

The Mobile 2.0 Revolution will not be syndicated via RSS. You won’t be able to download an OPML file of all the things you read or listen to as a podcast. You won’t be able to download all your settings and stuff. Because the revolution will not be syndicated.

The Mobile 2.0 Revolution will not be syndicated. It will not be brought to you by AdWords from Google, or Ad sense. It will not be presented in a dazzling array of Flickr photo streams. It will not be reported on by the Daily Source Code or The Gilmor gang or any other podcast on iTunes. The revolution will not be syndicated.

There will be no discussion of text messages of ASL? KEWL, LMAO, LOL, LMAO or ROFLMAO. There will be no commentary on Emo trends in music or the rise of Neo-Progressive rock bands and the return of Led Zeppelin. There will be no discussions of pre-paid phones, or Ying Yang twins ringtones. The revolution will not be syndicated.

There will be no highlights of Myspace Widgets, of goofy emoticons, of kids texting on their phones, day after day after day. Long after the discussions of Ajax and Flash Light and Windows mobile have died down there will still be tens of millions of people trying to find a away to get these damn communications devices to do more than they were meant to do. The revolution will not be syndicated.

Ok. So I may not be a poet. I think that the point of all of this is truly that there is something really big going on with kids and with phones and with communications and the creation of content and podcasting and videoblogging etc. But where it takes off, is with this generation that is more a content creator than a consumer. A generation that is more interested in seeing a funny flash show on ebaums world than on MTV. Ignoring that those who will decide which technologies are truly useful are large in number, long on time and short on attention will be a mistake. They are right in front if us but not many of us are watching.

6 comments:

nokia ringtones said...

Running the risk of sounding over the top, I really have to compliment your blog. I was hoping to discover a site about nokia ringtones, but yours was a great find. Gotta run.

rafer said...

The hype of Web 2.0 and the economics of consumer web services are not the same thing. None of us know yet what will work in volume as mobile apps. With Rabble, you guys are (if I understand it correctly) making a bet on mobile blogging, but hedging it with a bet on carrier partnerships, monthly fees for basic service, etc.

At WINKsite, we're going fully down the path of free authoring and sharing services that work around the carriers (170 of them last month), making it up on the back via AdSense-like economic mechanisms. Neither of us have enough users (we've got 13K publishers and almost 100k chatters, and you?) to say that our bets are well placed.

You and I agree that the important mobile users are the ones a lot younger than us (I'm 37). However, we disagree about syndication and the rest of it. Syndication is the substrate of online content creation, the basis of the remix, the majority without with original content creation doesn't shine. After all, what's the playlist without the music?

Scott Rafer
CEO, WINKsite.com

Derrick Oien said...

Scott,

I am not sure you have spent anytime with Rabble. We are hard core believers in the power of syndication between both the web and mobile world. Our integration with XML-RPC, Atom, RSS and company specific APIs like Eventful/EVDB and Zoto are clearly examples of understanding the value and importance of that.

I may be off the mark with WINKsite, but for us to generate a Wap version of each user on Rabble would be a pretty straightforward exercise for us but we don't currently see the value in that.

As far as being mobile blogging, although that is clearly a key element in terms of the type of behavior we are enabling, Rabble is more about communication and community. Our users interact with each other. We are not an RSS reader or a WAP enabled version of their content. We allow them to create content on Rabble and syndicate it elsewhere, or bring the content they create elsewhere an dbring it to the Rabblecommunity to share. We specifically made the decision to not just suck in a bunch of content where there isn't a mobile user to interact with that user.

As a mobile community that has gone through the efforts of working through carrier concerns and responsibilities regarding handset support and meeting the level of acceptability for a truly carrier grade application, we think that there is real value in what we bring to the users. As such our users pay us a monthly subscription fee. We don't have free users like you. As we start to do some interesting distribution things in the future yu will see multiple approaches emerge to conversion but at it's core, we think the value is in the community. Think Match.com.

As for your advertising model, I'd be really inerested in buying some inventory when you make it available.

Derrick

Anonymous said...

Someone has been reading their Palahniuk. (stylistically speaking)

Anonymous said...

What you said. Totally.
Know any VCs who share your vision?

Jim said...

the mobile phone has become the ubiquitous device that will allow you to communicate (via phone, sms, email, IM, or GPS [communicate your location to others]), your personal entertainment device (music and games), your PDA (anyone remember those?), your safety net (mobilealibi.com), your tailor made news sources (RSS), and your away-TV viewer (sling). It's only a matter of time when you will plug it into your dashboard and it will drive you to work.