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India Mobile Web 2.0

India to Leapfrog Web 2.0 to Mobile 3.0

Much like India missed the industrial revolution, it is clear that India is going to miss the Web 2.0 revolution as well. There are many “Web 2.0” startups in India and some have been doing well, e.g. Zoho and SlideShare but that’s mainly due to an international user base and not indigenous Indian users.

I’ve been hard pressed to find an Indian Web 2.0 company, doing well and making money by serving the Indian subcontinent. The simple reason for this is that there are just not enough Indian computer and Internet users. Most casual Internet users will check stock prices, buy an airline ticket, look for a job, check their email, hit a social networking site and chat with others. There is a younger Indian demographic that is heavily using social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut but the amount of time they spend on these social networking sites is questionable.

Beyond the tech-savvy in India, very few people have heard of Wikipedia, Digg or the power of social media. The social “web” is taking form in India but not as most of us from the West have experienced. I predict that India will mostly leapfrog Web 2.0 and go directly to Mobile 3.0. Mobile 3.0 being highly personal, highly location specific products and services that allow 3G+ phones and even lower-end phones capable only of SMS to become part of the social fabric of the Web. There shouldn’t be any distinction between the Internet and Mobile platforms. One is just an extension of the other. As innovative user interface designs are produced, India’s 250 million mobile users can be brought into the social web much more quickly and provide them with true value which, unfortunately, they aren’t aware exists on the Internet today.

The largest impediment to bringing these 250 million people into the social web is going to be cost and the carriers holding the golden keys. Expecting the carriers to work with these small startup companies will be difficult at best. Not to mention, Indian carriers have a very bad reputation of bleeding their partners dry. They also have brought the “walled garden” to mobile phones. Companies like Airtel try to push their “Airtel Live” services instead of unfettered GPRS/EDGE. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing right now to allow non-tech-savvy people access to a limited online mobile experience, the way AOL gave subscribers an online version of a walled garden in the late 80’s and 90’s. Users will eventually outgrow the walled garden and seek more.

Estimates put the Indian mobile VAS space at about USD 1 Billion in March of 2008 and predict that it could hit USD 2 Billion by the end of 2008. These aren’t numbers to sneeze at. It’s just the beginning of the mobile application usage. Today, over 40% of VAS revenue comes from SMS. As smartphones like the Nokia N96, Blackberry Bond, Nokia E71, and Apple iPhone penetrate deeper into the Indian market, the desire for richer mobile applications connecting people together will only grow.

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Web 2.0

Web Timelines

Recently, I’ve seen three interesting timeline applications. Kronomy which Guy Kawasaki twittered about, LifeBlob which presented at Proto.in and I just stumbled upon the third, Dipity.

Here’s my Dipity timeline (it might be a little slow to load b/c of the various pictures and videos):

I haven’t tried LifeBlob yet, but creating a time line using RSS feeds made setting up a simple Timeline on Dipity really easy – 5 minutes easy! Kronomy was a bit more of challenge to setup RSS feeds in.

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Crowd Sourcing India Internet Mapping Mobile Web 2.0

Social Mobile Mapping (Mapiki)

With Google’s release of Google Maps for Australia, I am hoping Google Maps India isn’t going to be that far away. Being a complete outsider to Indian roads and traffic, it would be a very welcome addition to our list of expat related sites and tools that we’ll be relying on after we move to India.

I know the challenges of putting together Google Maps in a place like India. I’ve been to the tiny little alleys that are at least 400 or 500 years old. I’ve also been to what was farmland 6 months ago and today is a luxury residential development outside Bangalore. In a country where the streets are thousands of years old and where farmland and undeveloped land is changing so rapidly, it will be an immense task to keep the data updated. However, could this be the perfect place for an experiment in Social Mobile Mapping or Mapiki? This is the term that I’m going to use for what I think could be a tremendous addition to the social web.

Imagine an application that will redraw maps based on GPS transmitters and SMS text messages, submitted by none other than the users of the mapping application. In a place like India, a rikshaw driver can pull out his mobile and type in a message and sms it to a service that will instantly display on the map the changes reflected by the rikshaw driver. Of course, this can be gamed but so can Wikis. The question is, can the wisdom of crowds provide cleaner more accurate mapping information just like it has helped to create Wikipedia?

For now, however, at least I can get driving directions in New Delhi.

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Internet Misc. Web 2.0

Flock RSS Reader + Online Synch

I’ve been using Flock as my primary browser on my work Ubuntu 6.06 PC, my MacBook and my Mac Mini PPC. It is an awesome browser on each platform!!

I’ve never been impressed with the RSS readers built into Safari or Firefox but I like Flock’s RSS reader. I would use it consistently if:

  • It was easier to mark a specific RSS feed or a group as read
  • Keyboard shortcuts that allowed me to easily navigate through RSS feeds
  • There was a way to synchronize read and unread articles, feed additons and removals, and groupings – all across different computers ( think of it as a lightweight BlogBridge ) – maybe even over a a free email account like GMail

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