The iPhone and Mobile Web 2.0

I was intrigued and then a bit confused by this iPhone column written last month by my friend and former colleague Noah Elkin. The intrigue came from considering the iPhone as bringing the dawn of mobile “Web 2.0” and then the confusion came when I realized that Noah was not talking about mobile “Web 2.0” but “Mobile Web” 2.0 — the tyranny of punctuation-specific jargon.

In any case, it’s one of the first pieces I’ve read to discuss the Web content implications of the iPhone. Noah’s raises valid points about the iPhone’s slow 2.5G radio and limited installed base for the foreseeable future. He also anticipates a backlash against mobile marketing. Apple is promising a “desktop-like” browsing experience courtesy Safari. Java won’t be supported but I believe that Flash will. If not, it should be.

The better Apple executes on that desktop experience (and the browsing UI is definitely one of the most promising features shown to date), the less distinction there will be between the next generation of the “mobile Web” and the one we access from our PCs in terms of information access (Web 1.0). We’ve also yet to see if the iPhone’s version of Safari will support RSS as the Mac’s does. However, there’s even greater potential if Web developers target the iPhone for the application-like features commonly associated with Web 2.0.

Certainly in the short-term, it could provide some relief for Apple’s third-party lock-out, but many Web 2.0 interfaces would have to be recreated to be optimized for the lower resolution and finger-driven interfaces of the iPhone. Apple should also open up widgets to third parties. It’s a limited access environment, after all, and third-party adoption was key to widgets’ success on Tiger.

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