The Mobile App Era
We are in the mobile app era. Some call it Web 3.0. Before launching into our article on the mobile app era, it should be noted that not everybody agrees that mobile constitutes a new technological wave in the evolution of the Internet.
Some commentators see mobile as part of the expansion of access to the Internet beyond the PC. In other words mobile is just another device by which you can create, collaborate and share content with other consumers and friends. It is Web 2.0 on a portable device.
Some Internet pioneers including Tim Berners-Lee postulate that the next wave in the evolution of the Internet will be the so called Semantic Web, and that the Semantic web is Web 3.0 and not the mobile app era. (3) In short the semantic web is a more intelligent Web that is ubiquitous and that interprets user wants and needs in context. It is able to do this by a complex contextual artificial intelligence analysis of user personal data and meta data. It is semantic because it isn’t just analysing keywords based on a pattern of matching algorithms and probability theory, it is actually applying logic and contextual intelligent analysis to data about the user. There is an article that refers to ubiquitous computing on this resource – Google glass
As the title suggests, this article is based on the supposition that Web 3.0 is the mobile app era. It is the opinion of the writer, that the Semantic Web will happen eventually, but it is more likely to be in a Web 4.0 or 5.0 wave.
(1) Mobile offers characteristics that are clear and distinct from the PC website as follows:
(i) It offers the adaptability and openness for business in a way that websites cannot;
(ii) It is ubiquitous (it’s always with you and you are always connected);
(iii) Geo-location technology is far more effective in transit;
(iv) It is sensor enabled;
(v) It has a tailored smaller user interface; and
(vi) All modern mobiles come with high quality audio, visual, camera features.
It is now paramount when launching a website to seriously consider building it for mobile first. Having Android, iPhone, IOS and iPad applications and mobile optimised websites is now the industry standard.
Mobile’s smaller screen mean that many of the features that add value to the website user experience are missing from the LinkedIn and Facebook mobile site. Tailoring the user experience to the smaller screen, means rethinking features that take advantage of the characteristics unique to mobile, not just reproducing the existing website.
Geo-location and transit
The real-value of the mobile era is the fact that the user takes their mobile with them from one place to another. this means that you have a far more efficient real time interaction with merchants. A customer can now receive an alert, when they are physically within a few feet or/and while in the merchants store, about a product or a service that they wish to purchase. Mobile can leverage real-time/real world information including current location, weather, traffic, local merchants and friends nearby, that the PC never could.
There are several companies that are already leading the wave including Waze, ShopKick and Foodspotting (1).
Distribution and monetising
There is the iOS App Store and literally hundreds of Android App Stores and mobile app distribution platforms. (4)
The distribution of mobile apps is effortless. Once your app is built you simply transfer the requisition to the relevant platform and customers can begin downloading your application. No need to worry about ecommerce payment engines. The platform takes a percentage – usually 30% – and the balance goes to the developer.
So how did we get to the mobile app era? Here is a break-down of the last two decades in the history of the commercial internet.
In the early days of B2C and B2B ecommerce it all started with a domain name and a website. It was all about connectivity, and the ability of users to communicate with each other. Almost all commentators seem to ignore how the humble email evolved the traditional ways of communication. Additionally, there was the availability of information. Giants like AOL, Yahoo and Google emerged during this era. Google was the dominant force with its Cost-Per-Click model, dominating the search market place. (1) This new wave of pioneers transformed the existing advertising landscape by introducing the kind of measurability that was significantly disruptive to traditional advertising models. This era is widely accepted as the Web 1.0 era in Internet speak.
More internet availability along with robust connectivity and capacity ushered in a new era focusing on the front-end of the Web. This new era of websites made user generated content, as well as the ability to collaborate and share the Web’s new focus. Companies that lead this new wave of websites include Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Linkedin and Quora, to name but a few.
Unlike the Web 1.0 era, users are not just consuming information, they can also create it, leading to an explosion of websites built around the social media concept. A main feature of these websites is that they enabled application platform interfaces (APIs). Developers have taken advantage of these APIs and concepts like mash-up applications have arisen.
Facebook and Twitter are probably the tier-one flyers of social media and therefore of the Web 2.0 era. Facebook dominates the landscape with huge user growth. Facebook had 1.28 billion monthly active users (MAUs) as of March 31, 2014, and 802 million daily active users (DAUs) on average in March 2014. (2) The problem is how to effectively convert these active users to revenues and therefore profit.(1)
Additionally companies like Facebook face another significant concern, the growth and increasing dominance of mobile.
However a word of caution. In the Web 1.0 era businesses mistakenly assumed that all that was needed for a successful Internet business was to reproduce your terrestrial business in the form of a website. “So all I have to do is to reproduce my Web 2.0 website into a mobile site to have a successful mobile site, right?” Wrong! Mobile sites must be built from the ground up as a separate expression of the same idea. This is because mobile has characteristics that make it distinct and separate. To be successful mobile sites must do more to bring prospective customers directly to advertisers.
Finally, as a lawyer. I should mention that the increasing use of mobile and so called ubiquitous computing has raised fresh privacy concerns. The difference with the modern waves of technology has meant that the old definitions of data subject, controller and processor need to be applied in a new context. There is also the issue of territorial and personal scope that has been introduced by the incoming data protection regime. There is an article that refers to the subject on this resource Right to be forgotten.
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