Foreword by Ewan Macleod: Maybe it’s the 24 hour sound of money being well and truly spunked up the wall as you walk through the casinos or the plastic nature of Las Vegas that gets to you after one or two days — whatever the catalyst, James Whatley has found himself undergoing several epiphanies this week, most notably when it comes to S60, Facebook and phone user interfaces. Hit it, James…
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Before you all call “April Fool”, this idea came around when I was invited along by Debi Jones of Mobile Jones to attend a roundtable discussion hosted by Airwide and MobileMessaging2.com entitled:
“Web 2.0 comes to Handsets – New Issues and Upside for Monetizing the Mobile Web”
It started with a brief overview from Steve Bratt, CEO of the W3C about Web 2.0 and the similarities with the Mobile industry etc… And then we broke out into four separate groups to each discuss particular questions.
Our table had the not so easy task of answering the following:
“What are the three capabilities consumers will want in the future and what can the mobile industry do to help enable this?”
So, aside from the obvious “Consumers have NO IDEA what they want!” rant I could’ve launched into, I was sitting there with a few folk chucking around such themes as personalized UI, location-based services and, my personal favourite, passive contextual awareness, (I’ll come back to this one at a later date).
Chatting away, sharing ideas, brain working overload… I had an epiphany:
‘Scrap S60, give me facebook!’
The people at the table looked at me a little dumbfounded and I went onto explain it further…
“Rip out the standard UI in this handset (waving N95) put in facebook!”
The comments came thick and fast:
“Well, I like MySpace. Can’t I have a MySpace phone?”
“Didn’t Helio do that already?”
“Yeah. But you customize the UI couldn’t you? Give users that choice…”
“Ok. Give users the choice to customize their UI…”
“Blah blah blah…”
And that was cool and ok, it answered one of the three things we had to find and stuff… However, I think this is something that bears further thought.
What is Facebook?
By its own definition it is a Social Tool.
(Not a Social Network – You and your friends are the Network, not facebook – remember that one kids).
What is a mobile phone?
Also a Social Tool.
So my question is this: Why not converge the two?
I’ve spoken about facebook in the past and how the users can be segmented in different ways etc. But fundamentally, at the most basic level, facebook is when you think about it an extremely active contacts/address book, right?
Pour that into a handset and what do you get?
I’ll show you:
Your Contacts? Sync’d with facebook Friends.
But not only do I get numbers I also get pictures, updates, status etc.
Your Calendar? Sync’d with facebook Events.
But you get more detail, who’s coming etc (all linked across the different apps etc)
Your Games? Scrabulous anyone?!
What about SMS/Email/MMS? You’ve all sent a facebook message before right?
Your Camera? No change here. Oh, aside from photos being stored to your facebook gallery.
And Fun apps? If you read this blog I’m going to assume you’ve installed an app onto your phone before. You may well have even installed an app on your facebook too… see the link?
Don’t forget the Internet? Ahh… Here’s the killer see.
Facebook currently has no internet per se. No search. No Google box etc… That would be your link off and out of the facebook garden as it were. But hey, you never know with fb – they may well have Search on their roadmap.
Thinking about mobile search, searching the handset, like the current desktop search on the N95 or ‘Finder’ on any MacBook, would be like facebook!
Searching for “mobile geeks” and i’d be shown the event, the group and also any and all of the contacts in my address book that are part of said party.
What about my favourite app, Jaiku? Build it in.
Status updates on facebook? The mini-feed? That becomes your life-stream right there.
It could work.
Think about it.
The number one thing that people hate about changing handsets is relearning the UI: “Aww man, I’m still getting used to it” etc…
What if the UI was the same?
What if you knew how to use the UI before you took the thing out of the box because it’s the same UI that you use every day on Facebook?
And all that’s before we even begin to talk about the trusted relationship that the consumer already has with facebook as a brand…
Ok, so – taking a breath – maybe the web UI is not built to work on a phone. Maybe having a “facebook phone” would be almost as bad as Helio’s “MySpace Phone”.
But why not have the facebook engine running underneath a very basic UI. With all the information embedded and layered underneath each contact or event or picture, creating context sensitive content…Makes sense huh?
I guess what I’m getting at is the ideas and principles behind the semantic web, on your mobile.
It doesn’t have to be facebook. It could be anything. Just join the dots.
What do you think?