Mobile Social Networks

Here's a really good piece of analysis of the landscape of mobile social networks. I will not recount the findings in detail here but they reckon that the Internet biggies Facebook and MySpace rule the mobile social networking world already. MySpace is said to have had 1.4bn visits last month alone. Facebook also is beyond the 1bn mark. Impressive numbers! The largest pure mobile-play, Mocospace, a predominantly US-focussed company, recorded 1bn visits.

The article does mention GoFresh (with their ItsMy service) and Peperonity but fails to point out UK company Yospace who power the combined O2/3UK community.

Whilst the mobile-only players all point out that they're not worried because their offering was better ("he would say that, wouldn't he, your Honour?"), but advertising muscle may well be an issue: MySpace recently said that they would expect about half of their total traffic coming from mobile within 5 years, and reaffirmed that mobile is one of the most important strategic initiatives for MySpace. I am sure there will be loads of niches in the sector but the bulk of 1.5bn visits (probably steeply rising) is a tough proposition to beat when it comes to ad revenues!


Playphone's Pitch: start of D2C shake-up in Europe?!

US D2C mobile content distributor Playphone announced it would acquire (well, they call it merge) UK counterpart Pitch Entertainment. No details disclosed (yawn). Playphone operates its own content storefront as well as the mobile portals for the likes of ABC, Wal-Mart, Cartoon Network and RealNetworks. Pitch does similar things but predominantly in Europe and a few South-East Asian countries.

The move likely signifies the begin of the assault of the US D2C players onto Europe. This may have been a bit of a surprise a couple of years ago but it demonstrates the change the US market has undergone, which lets companies emerge that have a huge home market in their backs giving them the muscle to try out expansion into other markets. The advantage of US-groomed companies in this space is that they have been growing up in an environment that centers more around the web than it does/did in Europe. And they have become very, very good at that. Numbers are, as always, hard to come by but by the looks of it the likes of Thumbplay have slammed even D2C giants Jamba/Jamster pretty heavily over there.

With the market moving away from expensive, low-margin off-the-page distribution, which also provides limited scalability and the increasing attraction of the mobile web, that medium is likely to gain in significance fast. This will also be boosted by the tumbling walled gardens and the aggressive introduction of data flat rates by carriers (see a piece here). The trio of European D2C giants, Jamba, Zed (see here and here) and Buongiorno are girding themselves for this but a market entry by Thumbplay, which has been going from strength to strength in the US can surely only be a question of when not if. The battle for D2C Europe should be an interesting one...


Vodafone UK Embraces Data Flatrates!

Vodafone UK announced that they will make flat-rate data part and parcel of every post-paid contract. Price plans start at GBP 25 (c. $50) per month and do away with the additional GBP 7.50 for a data plan previously required. It is subject to a rather low "fair use" policy of only 500 MB although - somewhat funny - a Vodafone spokesman apparently said that they would not charge users for excess anyway. So what then?

Anyway, let's not dwell on petty details on a good day: flat-rate data will remove the fear users often have had in the past that they might incur horrendous charges if they would browse the web from their phone. On an "unlimited" data plan, this will be removed. Users will find it easier to access so-called "off-deck" destinations as well. This opens the playing field for the content industry and pushes a number of doors wide open. Great stuff!

As an aside, Vodafone also revealed some stats on mobile Internet usage on their network. In case you care, their top 4 searches were for:

  1. Facebook
  2. Bebo
  3. eBay
  4. Windows live Hotmail
The top 10 mobile internet sites were:
  1. Facebook
  2. Google
  3. BBC
  4. MSN
  5. Bebo
  6. Sony Ericsson
  7. Yahoo
  8. MySpace
  9. Windows live Hotmail
  10. YouTube


Adobe Flash Opens Screens

Flash maker Adobe isn't tiring on bringing out news these days: this time it announced the "Open Screen Project", in which it is partnering with a plethora of mobile industry giants, namely ARM, Chunghwa Telecom, Cisco, Intel, LG, Marvell, Motorola, Nokia (see also here re Microsoft's Flash competitor Silverlight), NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson (see also their initiative to marry J2ME and Flash here), Toshiba and Verizon Wireless as well as major media players such as the BBC, MTV Networks and NBC Universal.

It said "the project is dedicated to driving rich Internet experiences across televisions, personal computers, mobile devices, and consumer electronics. Adobe said it would open access to Flash technology, accelerating the deployment of content and rich Internet applications (RIAs)." This will include:

  • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
  • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
  • Publishing the Adobe Flash Cast protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
  • Removing licensing fees – making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free
Adobe says its Flash Player reaches over 98% of Internet-enabled PCs and more than 500m mobile devices today. It now expects more than 1bn handsets to ship with Flash technology by the end of 2009 (this means a year faster than previously forecasted). Flash technology is used to deliver vector graphics, text, interactivity and application logic, video and sound over the Internet. Currently, more than 75% of broadcasters who stream video on the Web use Flash technology (YouTube will be a big contributor to that number).

Following my many posts on mobile Flash (see e.g. here and here), this now looks like a real assault on the medium. Given that Flash reduces developer cost (less porting because of vector-based graphics) means it is a likely boost to the content industry: more and richer content at lower cost. Could this be it?