All you Blackberry and WinMo users out there that have been dejected, watching iPhone and G1 users download fun and practical applications from each phone’s respective application store, finally have something to smile about. This week’s big mobile news, at least thus far, has been the announcement of an application store for both Blackberry phones and Windows Mobile phones.
Why all the fuss? Well, obviously this means that a much larger number of handsets around the world will have mobile access to a wide selection of mobile applications. RIM and WinMo phones make up the vast majority of handsets in the corporate world, and although the corporate world doesn’t revolve on having a wide range of apps for various tasks, it does mean this: all those business users who, for whatever reason, haven’t adopted handsets like the iPhone that already have apps stores, they will now have the access to apps they will want to use in their personal time.
And aside from those users that have chosen to sport two phones, one for professional use and one for personal use, most folks prefer to pack only one phone on a day to day basis. So most folks will now be able to download mobile apps to whatever phone they’re tied to.
Again, for many of you, so what? Application stores mean that users have access to a wide array of social applications; beyond that, developers compete aggressively to produce the most intuitive and powerful applications every day, and to offer them at the best price points. Right now there are certainly aren’t enough applications for the most popular social platforms, but we’re going in the right direction. With the added stores for Blackberry and Windows Mobile, even more developers will be drawn to projects for mobile platforms. I can almost taste the quality to come.
Also, one of my biggest problems with the nature of mobile social networking to date was that social media really can’t be mobile until every phone is able to partake in the community. Until now, that wasn’t possible; when you rule out Blackberrys and Windows Mobile phones, you’re left with just a piece of the pie. Now we can at least say that we’re at the right staging point from which developers can now start working on truly intuitive cross-platform apps that allow everyone to connect, regardless of their carrier or handset.
This is big. Get excited.
Today the blogosphere is all a’tizzy about Facebook’s move to claim all rights, past and present, to user-uploaded content. And perhaps the reaction is justified; didn’t we already deal with Facebook on the privacy front just a short while ago with the whole invasive advertising debacle?
If you haven’t heard, Facebook updated its terms-of-service so that all user-generated content, be they photos, videos, links or annoying graffiti art, essentially belong to Facebook, not the creators. Certainly, in theory it sounds ominous and invasive. But at the nuts and bolts, it really isn’t in much different from the norm, whether we’re talking Facebook or any other social media or networking site.
Aaron Brazell over at Technosailer.com concedes, “This is fundamentally not all that out of sorts from what most services do when licensing user content,” but then goes on to state that he’ll be advising others to abstain from uploading content to Facebook, perhaps only excluding links. That sort of play-it-safe attitude might suffice, but it seems counterintuitive to the ideals and goals that many of us in the social media world share.
The real question I think we should take time to answer before storming the castle with pitchforks and torches is this: what does it change? If Facebook is just now putting to paper what has been largely accepted by everyone until now, what’s all the hulabaloo for?
Let’s say that Facebook used user content in the past without having the express rights written into the terms of service (which I’m sure has happened). If the user in question wanted to fight it, they could take it to litigation, and they’d certainly have a case. But I haven’t heard much from upset users bemoaning abuse of their content. And the only reason we’re hearing anything now is because it seems like a huge privacy issue, when in fact it isn’t.
Facebook is nailing up a loose end that could have been the source of endless grief, and one that could have been exploited by a savvy user looking to make a buck off the social networking behemoth. Twitter user @Nazgul makes a very good point in saying, “Just wonder if wasn’t issue of ‘How do we keep from having to pull an ad just because it shows screenshot of a deleted user.'” I would add, how do we keep from getting sued when the odd situation arises in which a user objects to having his or her content used? Express terms in contracts save a lot of time and money.
The way I see it, if you want to use Facebook, you need to know up front that Facebook could use your content. But I’d venture a guess that most folks aren’t reading the terms of service as it is. It’s only the social media and internet privacy people sounding the warning siren.
And while it’s our responsibility to make it unequivocally clear what will and won’t fly to the less-than-visionary Zuckerberg, I don’t think this is one of those battles that needs to be fought. Furthermore, what kind of job would we be doing by discouraging people from uploading their content to Facebook? Are we really saying, “Yes, Facebook is the biggest and most-used social network, and you should definitely participate in the interests of advancing social media and your own brand/image…but scrapbook your photos and have get-togethers in your homes to share your video content instead of uploading it.”
We talk about clouding and cross-network integration, and how amazing it could be if we just got the support of the general public behind it. I use my Blackberry to update my favorite social networks all at once, and I’m not going to stop doing so simply because Facebook did what any good business would do and put pen to paper to protect itself. And I certainly won’t be advising anyone to hole up in a bunker socially just because Facebook’s looking out for numero uno.
A recent article on CNN.com, written by journalist Leslie Sanchez, suggested that Obama”s success in garnering an impressive following of young voters demonstrated that for the GOP to succeed, the party will need to match Team Obama”s savvy use of social media in future elections. Though John McCain”s team certainly didn”t match the efforts of Obama”s in social media, there is a much more significant reason why McCain and the GOP as a whole won”t succeed in winning over the young vote, which runs to the very core of the party.
Here’s a little secret from me to you regarding mobile social media and networking: if it is too frustrating or time consuming for people to access social content from handheld devices, they will simply stop trying.
I’m a Blackberry user. You might even say that I am a Crackberry addict. I won’t say it, because that means I have admitted that I have a problem, and experts tell me such admittance must preclude a recovery of some sort. But for better or worse, you might say my life revolves around the shiny little Blackberry Curve Sunset that never escapes my person.
There are days when I wake up to the same blase stream of information filling my feed reader, and then there are days when I am genuinely excited about what’s flowing through the web of tubes known as the internet. Yesterday was one of the latter category.
You see, along with the many various hobbies I entertain, I’m a self-proclaimed gadget geek. Full blown. I read somewhere that my Myers-Briggs personality analysis explains my need to have a new shiny gadget in my pocket at frequent intervals; thank you, whoever managed to connect psychology to my gadget addiction. I now effectively have a doctor’s note to wave around at loved ones who wonder why I can’t stick with a cell phone for more than a year (at most) at a time.
With that said, I’ve been somewhat disenchanted with mobile web browsing until just recently. The iPhone was the very first device that actually made me want to use the internet on the go. I don’t have an iPhone, though. All the folks who browse the internet on Palms, Blackberrys, HTC devices or any other smart phones probably can relate when I say that mobile browsing can be a bear.
That isn’t necessarily the fault of the handset or operating system manufacturers. The biggest problem is that there really aren’t really any rules or established guidelines for websites to follow when it comes to designing mobile-friendly pages. Text can appear all jumbled up, you have to scroll every which way like you’re playing a game of Snake to navigate — no rules usually translates as anarchy.
I said a quiet prayer of gratitude yesterday when I read that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) finally laid out its first set of guidelines for creating mobile websites. Anthony Ha of Venture Beat writes, “The consortium, commonly known as the W3C, is the primary international body that develops standards for the web, and now it’s turning its attention to the mobile world. The idea is to have a set of guidelines that developers can follow so that their sites can be viewed without difficulty on any device.” If that doesn’t excite the pocket warriors amongst you, I don’t know what will!
With standardization of rules that demand mobile websites be accessible by any web-friendly mobile phone, more consumers will get on board with mobile browsing. As more consumers become connected on the go, there will finally be the boom of users necessary for mobile social networking to really take off. The scope and potential is huge! With browsers being packed into every purse and pocket, we’ll see a huge boost in dependence on mobile social communities, and you can bet your britches it will change the way we think about mobile social networks and the devices we choose.
If, at this point, you still haven’t quite grasped how exciting this is (at least for me in my gadget-driven geek frenzy), I suppose you could imagine me doing an Irish jig in my office. That’s not something I necessarily recommend.
Though I’ve said almost incessantly that social media will, in the very near future, start migrating as a whole to mobile devices, it is always nice to see a little evidence to back that theory up. iSuppli, an analyst group focused on interpreting trends in electronics, claims that the massive adoption of smartphones and internet-friendly handsets in 2009 will force businesses to radically revamp their business models to address the new mobile social phenomenon. With many social business startups gaining support in the mobile platform arena, iSuppli estimates that the scope of this shift to mobile social media could surpass the current impact of the technology, media and telecommunication industries, which currently control approximately 5% of the gross global domestic product (estimated at $3 trillion dollars).
Information Week claims that the adoption of smartphones like the iPhone is the catalyst for the market’s shift towards mobile-based social platforms. I agree with that opinion whole-heartedly, but there are a few very large roadblocks standing in the way of widespread adoption of social mobile platforms.
First, many consumers just aren’t ready to spend money on data transfer plans with mobile carriers because either the handsets that properly execute internet are too pricy, or the plan rates are outrageously priced. The U.S. carrier market is preying on consumers; while other countries have high-speed networks and advanced handsets available at competitive rates, the U.S. market is exploiting customers while the getting is good. For the U.S. market to truly adopt mobile social media, plans and handset prices will need to become truly competitive — what a novel concept!
Second, handsets will need to be powerful enough to operate mobile social platforms full-time without putting a huge strain on battery life, system performance or any other aspect of mobile communication. Apple isn’t allowing mobile social platforms to run constantly in the background on the iPhone for fear of system slowdown and drained battery life. Though that is a legitimate concern, by not allowing social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to run as background processes, the iPhone (which is the most popular touchscreen handset on the market) is stunting the growth of mobile social media. If the industry is truly going in the direction iSuppli predicts, Apple and other manufacturers will have to bulk up their handsets to compensate for the shift towards proper mobile social networking.
iSuppli also estimates that the cost of basic mobile social packages will be an average of $15.30 monthly. I have to say that I disagree with this analysis, and here’s why: the entire point of social networking is to share and communicate with friends, family and new people. Sharing, by definition, implies no cost. Do you think social networking and media would have become so successful if there were monthly price tags on every platform? That obviously won’t stop carriers from attempting to tag social packages with price tags. However, you can bet that people will choose to pay standard data rates and use free social platforms instead of opting into any carrier-exclusive for-pay mobile platform. If carriers can’t see that simple fact now, they’re wasting time by building or purchasing mobile social platforms they intend to charge users for.
It is likely that, like many other things in the mobile world, the U.S. will be stuck quite a few large steps behind other markets, simply because carriers aren’t willing to sacrifice a few pennies in the name of progress. Though other markets might see a drastic shift towards mobile social networking by next year, our nickel-and-diming U.S. carriers probably won’t have any problem shooting up the party here.
Often times, we think that being socially connected means fingers on a full keyboard, seated at a chair, staring into a display. That assumes, of course, we’re talking about socially connected in the internet sense. The fact of the matter is that being socially connected doesn’t mean you’re locked into a chair at home. You can very easily mix your in-person social life with your web social presence at the movies, the pub, your favorite restaurant, or the ball park.
Of course, you’re now curious what I’m referring to. Social media is starting to find a home on mobile devices so you don’t have to stress about staying connected at your home machine 24/7. If you’re the kind of person who loves taking pictures with a mobile phone, many mobile social networks will allow you to upload photos to an entire mobile social community dedicated to sharing different media content. If staying connected to a plethora of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and others is more your flavor, there are quite a few newly-emerging platforms that aggregate all of your most important social activity right on your cell phone.
That, friends, means freedom — freedom from the confines of your home office, freedom to live your life as you want and still stay in contact with your social communities. With smartphones, touchscreen handsets and very affordable standard handsets being compatible with these mobile social platforms, answer me this: why are you still sitting at your computer toiling over each and every update your friends send you on all your different platforms when you could be out? Instead of answering me, go out and go mobile!