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Web 2.0 vs mobile phones

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By contrast, and at such events you can spot the losers because of the vast gap between their rhetoric and their achievements, was Ajit Jaokar. Like someone frantically banging a shoe against a gerkin in the hope of making a goulash, Ajit is determined to bring the utopian nonsense of Web 2.0 to mobile phones. He runs a Mobile Web 2.0 blog - and he's written a book about it all, he reminded us. ("Bang, bang! Shoe – make stew!")

But recent evidence - a blog entry dated from only this month entitled "The Dawn of the Widget Widget Web" - suggests much of the collateral damage has unfortunately fallen on Ajit himself, with regard to his cognitive and linguistic faculties.

Asked to sum up the biggest promise/challenge of Web 2.0, Anjit Anjit could see no downside - but the upside was the "...change in the balance of power - the empowerment of the user".

Presumably through Widget Widgets.

I was reminded of Charles Eicher's description of the chasm between Google's promise, as the utopians really wanted it to be, and Google's reality as it is today:

"Many people have waxed lyrical about how Google was 'God's Brain' and contained some sort of magical Gestalt of all of mankind's knowledge. But now it's like an autistic brain that can't say anything except advertising jingles," he wrote recently.

On we went.

Someone who should know better - Cognima's Andy Tiller - professed himself smitten with a similarly autistic outburst by another presenter - "capturing intelligence at point of inspiration". A cold bath for you, Andy.

While the most curious demonstration of the afternoon came from two faces we recognised from years ago in Silicon Valley, Greg Simon and Manu Chatterjee. Now at a start-up called Lampdesk, they'd created a "Web 2.0" runtime that bundled an XML interpreter, SQL database, and a SOAP stack. This was WebVM.

It's an unwitting homage to 1060's NetKernel, but as you might guess, a lot less useful because unlike NetKernel, it isn't built on a sound architectural (and philosophical) basis.

And this was reflected in its demo: which showed an AJAX clone of Microsoft Word - complete with formatting ribbon - running on the 320x240 display of a smartphone. I could almost see half of that formatting ribbon. Marvellous.

It was only as the afternoon concluded that collective sanity broke out. One member of the audience said he'd been offered a job by a German company, only for it to be mysteriously withdrawn. He remembered that five years earlier, he'd made disparaging comments about that company's entire product line in a semi-private forum, but this was readily findable on Google. It was as an eloquent rebuttal as one might find to the "empowerment of users" rhetoric coming from the web cult.

In their resilient, secure, universally affordable, and universally accessible technology, the phone people already have what the web people hanker after, but will never have.

And in SMS, they have the only interface most people will ever want to use on the go. Let the web "evolve" into a crummy open-access cable channel - you could hear them thinking. Which it very nearly is already. ®

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