TECH TALK: Mobile Internet: The Incremental Web

To make the mobile internet a reality, one has to look at two webs the reference web and the incremental web. Think of the reference web as the one that has already been created for the PC world and for which Google has become the window. This web has been created for the big screen of the PC. The incremental web is about the present and future it is the real-time web. This is the web which will be increasingly built more for mobiles because it is a device through which access can happen anytime and from anywhere. Suddenly, it makes sense to create real-time information because there are users with two-way devices which can access this information with near-zero latency. I think of the incremental web as being about now, near, new.

The challenge for building the mobile internet is two-fold: repurposing the existing reference web content so that it looks good on the small screen of the mobile phone, and providing a capability for accessing the incremental web. The former can be accomplished by transcoding as many mobile proxy servers and browsers do. They take the existing sites and make them much more readable for the phone. But the reality is that as sites created for access on a PC become richer (because our PC browsers have more capabilities), making these sites accessible on a mobile phone will be harder, not easier. But it is important that this web is not invisible to mobile users this is, after all, our existing library of information.

The exciting part is going to be about enabling the incremental web because that is where the mobile shines through. This is a world which will be increasingly created out of RSS and microcontent. It is a world centred around publish-subscribe. Users will have the tools to publish easily. Those interested in this content can set up subscriptions just like we do for blogs in RSS aggregators (also called feed readers). In a sense, RSS is made-for-mobiles. Its ability to deliver incremental content can enable relationships between content creators (publishers) and consumers (subscribers). The mobile is a device on which our tolerance for spam is zero considering the limitations on screen size and the fact that we will be paying for the downloaded data. This is a world which will, therefore, be built not around search, but subscriptions.

The interesting thing in emerging markets like India is that the reference web has barely been built. So, we can think of doing it right keeping both mobiles and PCs in mind as potential access devices. This will mean keeping websites reasonably simple so that they are viewable on mobiles also. It will also mean focusing more on the incremental web where the tools for both publishing and subscribing are already there (think RSS aggregators). The elements are there but they need to be aggregated to make it seamless for businesses and consumers.

Tomorrow: Imagine

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Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.