Yesterday, I had a great, if rushed, conversation with Nokia's Browser Master, Franklin Davis (nice bio on this page). Franklin has been deep into mobile browser and Web technologies for a very long time and I like to go to him for insight into where things are going. His big thing now is the Nokia Open Source S60 Browser that is based on the same code as Safari from Apple. I've been using the browser on my N93, but it's also available on a bunch of other more recent S60 phones, if are lucky enough to get one. It's really the fullest browser on a mobile, allowing you to do a lot more than most PC-based browsers only a few years ago.
But, here comes my blindspot*: As you may have noticed from reading my site, I am not too fond of passive mobile browsing or content consumption. And, talking to Franklin, I was wondering how to put my thoughts in a positive light, since he's a 'browser' guy. After talking with him and then doing some more thinking today, I have better positioned the S60 OSS Browser in my model of the mobile world.
We are not consumers. We are active participants in our life.
The mobile has taken communication and sharing to a new level for humanity. The two most used features of a mobile phone are voice and text messaging - communication. Unfortunately, most mobile service providers think all we want to do is sit and watch TV, download ring tones and wall papers, and, yes, browse information. Eh, that doesn't fit my idea of the Mobile Lifestyle.
If the survivors of Web 1.0 and the poster children of Web 2.0 are any indication, even on the PC-based Web, people aren't just passively consuming. Ebay and Amazon are not about consuming, but connecting via an enabling platform. Google is not about browsing, but about seeking and finding answers to our questions. Flickr is not about browsing, but about sharing images of our life. On-line journals and logs are not about browsing, but about communicating intimately.
Then what is the fascination with mobile browsing? I want mobile cognecting, sharing, finding, interacting.
I admitted to Franklin that I really don't think it's about full access to Web content, but full access to Web services. I think a full browser on a mobile phone that enables browsing of full Web sites is nice. It's part of a continuum from simple sites that are mobile-savvy, to mobile-friendly (they don't break on a mobile browser), to all the millions of old and current sites that ignore the mobile. And, it's surely a better option than .mobi (which Franklin and I didn't discuss) and maybe transcoders (which we did discuss and Franklin is aware of the legal issues brought up by Scott Rafer and Dave Harper).
Furthermore, my head lately has been in low-end, mass-market phones with simpler browsers, so full browsing is not part of my daily thoughts. On my mind, when it comes to the mobile browser, are the kind of services, like Winksite, that create a helping intermediary between the capabilities of my phone and the services I want to reach. On my mind, is not the 10s of million S60 phones, but the 100s of millions basic phones with no access to Web services.
Words of wisdom
Franklin and I have had many discussions of this sort over the past years and I can sometimes see his influence in my thoughts. Nonetheless, it pleased me when, once again, it turned out we were of the same mind - his vision is to have the best mobile browser out there so that mobiles no longer have to be second-class citizens on the Web, so that mobile users can interact with all the services out there, so that, as more mobiles actively and interactively use the Web, the Web will have to become mobile-savvy.
He envisions a two-prong approach of 1) evangelizing this versatile browser and what it can do - convincing folks to become mobile-savvy, and 2) increase the numbers of mobile phones accessing the Web in general - to wake people up to the rapidly growing numbers of phones accessing their sites and hence convince folks to become mobile-savvy.
And, in response to some of my desires as to how I would like to interact with the Web from my mobile (and not just browse), he let me in on some current and future developments. I'm not sure what is public of not, so just a tease right now - sorry. Suffice it to say, Franklin is part of a cool team that has a long-term vision of how mobile phones will interact with Web services in the future.
Model holding steady
I can still say that I am not so keen on mobile browsing. Nonetheless, my idea of the mobile Web is well within the plans Franklin and the browser team have. Indeed, the browser team is not really building a browser, but a tool to interact with the Web, with the same freedom and flexibility I have from my PC.
Maybe Franklin and team should no longer call it a 'browser', that's too passive and misleading, considering their vision. What could it be called? Hmm. :-)
*I call a 'blindspot' anything I don't get or think others don't get, basically trying understand why I don't agree with the general consensus. Click here for other blindspots I have written about. Sadly, I have a long list of other blindspots of mine that I still want to write about.