The Ubiquitous Web


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The Ubiquitous Web” is the theme for XTech 2007 to be held in Paris, France from 15 to 18 May 2007. The Call for Participation reads as follows:
As the web reaches further into our lives, we will consider the increasing ubiquity of connectivity, what it means for real world objects to connect with the web, and the increasing blurring of the lines between virtual worlds and our own.

The technologies underpinning these developments include mobile devices, RFID, Second Life, location-aware services, Google Earth and more. The issues surrounding them include privacy, intellectual property, activism, politics, regulation and standards.

These leading edge thinkers are clearly ready to tackle some very tough problems. For many, this ubiquity of connectivity will start from their mobile device since that will be their most frequent companion. This ubiquitous connectivity will be possible provided the One Web Principle as proposed by the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices document is in full operation everywhere. This requires that content provided by accessing a URI yields a thematically coherent experience when accessed from different devices. In other words, a bookmark captured on one device should be usable on another, different type of device even if it does not yield exactly the same experience.

Others are not sure that this can be achieved. Luca Passani among others is particularly critical of the One Web Principle. He has an alternative approach as set out in Global Authoring Practices for the Mobile Web. As he says, “I understand that W3C is all about the Web and some may dream about a unified Web which can be accessed with equal ease by PCs and mobile devices, but this is just a dream: Web and Mobile will remain separate media for many, many years to come (probably more). There are three big reasons for this: technological, consumer-driven and industry related.

In summary, he is saying that new devices are always being introduced, consumers are not looking for this thematic consistency and industry sees no moneymaking possibilities in its application. Instead he is suggesting an emphasis on adaptation, whereby the server will adapt its output to the device, based on the characteristics of the device. This process is assisted by a resource he and others have developed, WURFL or Wireless Universal Resource File, which catalogues the characteristics of all devices. This certainly sounds like a plausible alternative way of getting to the ubiquitous Web.

Whichever way the ubiquitous Web is achieved, it still seems unlikely that a single URI can be used as a bookmark so that servers provide an acceptable user experience to any of the many devices. Much more practicable is the Multi-Web Practice suggested here in StayGoLinks whereby website owners arrange a series of associated web pages for all the major types of devices that may need to be served. If these are listed within an AGI (Array of Graphic Identifiers) as a bookmark that includes the separate URIs for each of the device-friendly web pages, then the device can select the URI that is most appropriate for it.

In the longer term, perhaps the ubiquitous Web will be achieved with much more exotic technologies. In the near future, the Multi-Web Practice seems a more useful and rapid way of making progress to achieve that desired ubiquitous connectivity.  The ubiquitous web will also allow for instant sharing of information about ourselves and others.  For example, a state background check used to be difficult to find.  You would have to go to a local police or government office.  Today, with the internet, you can find instant background check information no matter where you are, quickly, and efficiently.

Tags: ubiquitous, Web