Sunday, June 1, 2008

Optimistic Revenue Forecasts for Mobile Web 2.0

Mobile Web 2.0 is an evolution, already started, that will create major changes in the online and mobile world. The Internet today is not just PC-based anymore. There are 3 billion mobile phone users in the world today, compared to less than a billion of PC users. The growth predictions for mobile Internet are better than for PC-Internet, and the estimated number of Mobile Internet sites in 2017 is 150 million. As some experts believe, there will soon be a new generation of users whose first interaction with Web will occur through their mobile devices. The research carried out by the Online Publishers Association showed that that majority of Mobile Web users are males about 25-34 years old with a medium level of income.

Mobile Web now is obviously becoming a mainstream market and opportunities for businesses are growing. According to Juniper Research, Mobile Web 2.0 applications, services and advertising will generate about $22.4 billion in revenues worldwide by 2013 as compared to the $5.5 billion of today. Juniper described Mobile Web 2.0 as the use of mobile devices for social networking, search, instant messaging and various applications and services.

The research states that social networking and user-generated content on their own would amount to $11.2 billion in 2013 from $1.8 billion in 2008. The report identifies the ‘prosumer’ – someone who both creates and consumes content and the ‘social web’ – a variety of social computing tools that enables users to develop online identities, create online communities and communicate to people sharing the same interests. As the Juniper analyst Ian Chard points out, ‘combining the power of the social network map… with that of mobility presents the greatest opportunity for revenue generation of any of the applications’.

Today North America, Western Europe and Far East are the main regions dominating this market, but the situation is about to change as more and more mobile phone users appear in the developing countries.

A lot of big brands, such as Pepsi, BMW, McDonalds, Google and others have embraced the opportunities offered by the Mobile Web. However, the challenges are present as well. Mainly, of course, the technological problems, but as well the problem of changing the business model for mobile operators, and, nothing new, the issues of privacy.

To my mind, the findings of the report could turn out to be far too optimistic. For example, three years ago Mobile Web already experienced a huge decline in browsing figures, and there is no guarantee it won’t happen again. Social networking sites are hugely popular today, but as the generation of their users is growing up they might be replaced by something entirely different. The number of PCs in the world is growing fast as well. What I can’t understand (probably someone can explain that to me) is why would anyone who is not able to get a PC spend substantial amounts on Mobile Web applications?

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