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August 15, 2008

OneWebDay and what it means to me, us, you

GLOBAL and LOCALOneWebDay is a sort of Earth Day for the Web. It’s a celebration of the internet, a time to reflect on how the internet has transformed our lives, and to encourage people to be responsible for the internet. This year will be the third OneWebDay and I’ve been asked to be an ambassador, getting the word out and introducing people to the celebration. As part of this, I have been asked to contribute a story to show up on the main OneWebDay pages.

Read on for our take on what the internet means to us.

Me and the Living Web

When I look back at my 25 years online (starting with the pre-Internet Bitnet and CompuServe), I’m not surprised by the extent with which I interact with the world of people and information via Internet services today. From the start, when getting my first email address and connecting to chat services, it was all about communication. Tools and services have come and gone, and still today my main activities are about communications, connecting with people in many ways through social Internet services.

It has indeed always been a living web, a World Live Web of people and activities and sharable social tokens that serve as an extension to my immediate surrounding physical world. I keep up with people, learn new things, know what’s going on in the world, and become part of an extended network of all sorts of interesting people.

Could I survive without it? Sure. But my online life enriches my offline life.

Nokia and the fusion of Internet and mobile

For Nokia, it is interesting to note that not only has the company been for many years trying to find the best ways to bring mobile and internet services together, but in that same time has been completely transformed by internet services.

The company is large, spread across the world, and full of people from different cultures, age groups, backgrounds, and interests. Communications and data sharing tools have been essential to keep the company cohesive. Today, we use a rich mixture of videos, shared publishing tools, email, and teleconferencing tools not only to meet and work together, but to share values, ideas, and hopes.

Once again, we could operate without any online connection, but interactions between employees and with partners and customers are made richer through online services. These days, one would be just as likely to ditch the online world as ditch electric power.

Struggling to bring things together

There is no doubt about the usefulness of finding and communicating with people and information through Internet services from a mobile hand-held device. The last ten plus years have been an interesting, sometimes frustrating, wending effort to fuse the mobile and Internet. The path behind us is littered with bold, foolish, misguided, and sometimes a bit too early internet services that are in some way or form mobile-savvy.

While some may say we’ve not made it far, I claim that we’ve done well. We, who are deep into thinking and building things, do not see or use the world in the same way as most people. There are over 3 billion mobile phone owners. Their main goal with that phone is to call or SMS a person. But, with a bit of Internet pixie dust the way the phone becomes part of their mobile lifestyle can be enriched. Indeed, even a simple SMS can transform how we communicate when complemented with an Internet service.

I try not to let it bother me when analysts report their views of how mobile and Internet are getting along. All too often the analysts’ world-view is simple and forgets the multitude of ways Internet services poke through or complement our hand-held devices, or, even, the many different ways our own hand-held devices project themselves onto, or complement, Internet services.

To me, the most exciting thing is how we don’t realize we are using something that courses through Internet plumbing. We use SMS or make a call or press a button and don’t realize that our actions ripple through networks and servers before reaching their final destination. That we take so much for granted (kinda like electricity) is a silent acknowledgment of how much the Internet has infiltrated our lives.

Then there’s you

Of course, my mind revolves around mobile use of Internet services. And I’d like to keep the discussion around that, since I expect much of the OneWebDay stories will revolve around things people do from large-screen, two-handed, desktop, broadband-connected devices.

I’m going to see if I can find more OneWebDay stories from folks around here, maybe kick up an activity or two.  And, as usual, when we find interesting stories of what folks have done with mobiles, there is usually some Internet component. So, we’ll keep those coming, OneWebDay or not.

What about you? Come up with a story or two of yours or an activity and let us know about it.

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