2006 Predictions 15 and 16

15. Mobile virus FUD will continue unabated, but with no real threat or impact.

16. Mobile blogging and photoblogging will grow, filling in a personal media-sharing gap intended for MMS.

MMS has never materialized as a replacement for SMS, mainly because it’s not suited for the types of communication at which SMS excels. Marketing MMS as "like SMS, but with a picture" doesn’t make it so. After all, how do I ask someone what they’re doing with a picture — and furthermore, why would I want to, particularly for a much higher cost than a simple text message?

SMS is great for simple one-to-one communications, perfect even. The ability to be able to send somebody a photo every once in a while is nice, but it’s little more than that. With the rise of digital photos, sharing services and blogs, communicating via pictures has become a one-to-many activity, something to which P2P messaging isn’t always well equipped. People like to share their photos — look at Flickr, Ofoto, Xanga, Myspace, Facebook and so on. Melding the mobile with these types of services will grow, conspiring to still hold MMS usage down.

We’ve written before about applications like ShoZu that let people send their mobile photos to their own Flickr site, along with applications like Nokia’s Lifeblog that let them post to their own blogs as well. These solve one side of the equation — letting people share their photos from their mobile — but the other side, accessing the shared photos from a mobile, is still a bit difficult. This is one place where an RSS-to-SMS service, like Yahoo’s makes a great deal of sense. Replace sending multiple MMS with a single upload to Flickr, then Yahoo’s service sends an SMS to all your friends when the Flickr RSS feed gets updated.

Instead of building their own moblog offerings or opening photo-sharing services based around pushing people to order printed photos, operators could instead leverage these existing services and help people better use them with their mobile devices. There’s far more value in helping people get their photos onto an open system like Flickr or Blogspot than trying to fence them into a proprietary operator-labeled service. Nobody’s going to send the same MMS with the same picture to ten different people anyway, so why not encourage people to use MMS (or whatever means) to upload the photo to a web service, then help them get word out to their friends’ mobiles to come and look at the photo?

Photo and video sharing, along with moblogging are ideal uses for the mobile, because they’re forms of communication — the central characteristic of the mobile phone. But MMS isn’t really the ideal medium. It can, though, instead of being a one-to-one service, be the platform for a one-to-many service. Facilitating this one-to-many sharing via mobile will be a hot market in 2006.

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