Myths of mobile Web2.0 (and mobile Ajax)

One of the next buzzword these days is “Mobile Ajax“, as THE technology that will save mobile applications. This was especially true with the recent announce of “SoonR”, the first mobile enabled Ajax application. Looks good, but unfortunately, I have no Ajax enabled browser out of the thousands of handsets we have here at MobileScope….

But this generates some buzz, and as usual, some hype. So, in a “back to reality” attempt, I’ve tried to discuss a few myth of “mobile Ajax” here:

  • Mobile 2.0=Mobile Web2.0 (and Mobile Web2.0 = Ajax on mobile). Wrong, as this imply a choice of technologies. The good thing (or is it a bad thing?) with mobile, is that there is a huge choice of  technologies. If mobile is connected, does not mean that it is connected only through browser.
  • Ajax is the only technology to create mobile mashups: (this is the same wrong statement than in the web): No, basically ALL technologies can be used to create mashup, to access to existing Web services:
    • J2ME (and not need to use “JSR172″ to do this)
    • FlashLite can do it to
    • Native OS of course….
    • Even Wap/Html/Xhtml can be used to create mashups…
    • A few example of personal mobile mashups (done in “plain J2ME”)
  • Ajax applications will run the same on mobiles than on PC, and this will save us some porting costs. Wrong! Seems that the Write Once Run Anywhere myth is back!! It was actually already not achievable through technology designed for this, so I did not see how Ajax app (which is basically designed for one or two platform) will be able to address suddenly thousands of different platforms….. And all the existing so called mobile Ajax applications are ALREADY specific for mobile. The SoonR mobile version is not the same one than SoonR on PC….
  • Ajax applications are a way to by pass operators….There is
    absolutely NO link between operators and this. Java, Flash, Symbian
    applications can be acceded directly by end user as well as Ajax
    applications (and with a bigger installed base). In fact, there is a
    link: as an Ajax is an online application, it’s easiest for them to
    block certain site if they want too….And no way to install it outside
    the browser! The biggest issue is not the access, is the billing…Or
    the business model. How to make end user pay for services in an easy

I like Ajax as one of the technology that I could use to create a better experience, but as discussed in one of my previous post, I think that the complexity needed both in the browser and the application is unnecessary on mobile device, and we should take the mobile  opportunity to solve some of the technical issue raised by Ajax on the web. There is also an interesting article from Dioan Hincliffe raising a few of the Ajax issues: Seven things that every software project needs to know about ajax.
A few of his remarks:

  • Ajax applications are complex applications (even if they are doing simple things). This leads to this comment: “Good Ajax programmers are hard to find”
  • The browser model (of Ajax) haves some limitation: no way to access to some local resources of the handset…
  • The browser was never made for Ajax. In other way, ajax developer used the installed base of modern browser to create something unique.

Now, back to mobile….Should we try to duplicate current ajax complexity to mobile, with one model, or can we try to solve some of the issues of Ajax?

I am a strong believer of the last option. There are already three technologies that will play significant role in the future: J2me, FlashLite, and Ajax. Only one is really deployed now and it’s J2me. FlashLite is on the way and Ajax far from being a reality yet. But these three are complementary, and could work together in a perfect way, in a different and better model than on the web.

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13 thoughts on “Myths of mobile Web2.0 (and mobile Ajax)”

  1. I have recommended on another blog (another Thomas I know ;-) )the article you mention about Soonr. It is interesting particularly for features Ajax permits contrary to Wap browsing.
    But clearly I share your views about Ajax… You point the hype around it in PC world (point this too here : and soon to come (in fact already there) hype in mobile world.
    You point the real problem fo programming Ajax which is far from simple. Everyone agree on this and on the fact that Ajax is a quite old technology (funny no?). It makes me think that Ajax should only be an open door to an upcoming technology, we don’t know yet, which will provide same interesting features like ajax but with an easier programming experience, etc

  2. Trackback seems to not work, so I post as a comment:
    Great read from TomSoft about Mobile Ajax:
    TomSoft » Myths of mobile Web2.0 (and mobile Ajax).

    Really in line with what Thomas said, especially this point :

    …Ajax applications will run the same on mobiles than on PC, and this will save us some porting costs. Wrong! Seems that the Write Once Run Anywhere myth is back!! It was actually already not achievable through technology designed for this, so I did not see how Ajax app…

    Same for me … the more I work in this industry with european, chineese,Korean partners the more I see:

    see next at

  3. Hi Thomas, Here is my feedback on this blog kind rgds Ajit

    Is mobile web 2.0 = mobile Ajax?
    Thomas seems to think that there is a myth to that effect.

    Having written a 300 odd page book on mobile web 2.0, I don’t think that mobile web 2.0 = mobile ajax.

    web 2.0 is an emotive topic. Hence, we(Tony Fish and I) discuss mobile web 2.0 with great detail (i.e. it would have been easier to piggyback on a buzz word).

    Here is an old blog indicating the three characteristics of mobile web 2.0 which give an insight to my thinking

    Perhaps Thomas is just being nice and trying to help me sell more books :)

    Meanwhile, I am off to speak at the (gulp) Ajax world conference in Santa Clara. If you are attending it, I look forward to meeting you

  4. Honestly, I can easily develop an Ajax-like (or even Comet-like) asynchronous technology with Java ME.
    And I suppose FlashLite or Python developers can do it as well.
    In Italy, where I live, the 90% of the mobile users don’t have a “flat” connection: they jst pay every KByte of download. That’s why Ajax, today, is not the best possible choice (here in Italy).

    Right now, I think Ajax on mobile is more a commercial buzzword than a really useful technology.


  5. Andrea,

    One thing that I would like to explore, especially in regard of the kind of app I am interested in, is what are the current rate for data download for an “average” subscription in Italy?

  6. Tom,

    rates are quite different here, and – that’s the worst side of it – they often and suddenly change.
    I can tell you that you can spend from 20 up to 50 euros/month for a 3g connection, with various limitations (ie: from 500MB up to 9GB of downloads, or from 5pm to 9am and you pay per KB in the other times of the day and so on).

    It does not exist a completely flat subscription today (an ADSL connection – 4Mbit/sec costs you 20 euros/month without any limitation). that’s one and not the only reason why mobile apps are not very used in Italy.

    You can also pay a rate “per KByte”, which spans from 0.1 eurocents/Kbyte up to 0.4 eurocents/Kbyte but some carriers apply some additional rate such as “first slot of traffic rate” (definition is mine, so forgive me if you don’t understand it) that makes you pay a “slot” of 10 or more Kbytes for every new connection even if you download a smaller file.


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