LONDON, England – Day two of Nokia World kicked off with the inventor of the Web – Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Following an engaging keynote address, where Sir Tim talked about how essential openness is for the success of the Web, Conversations caught up with him for a chat. Read on after the jump to find out what they great man had to say.
Picking up from Sir Tim’s talk about the openness of the Web, we asked him for his thoughts on native phone apps versus a more open, accessible-on-any-device internet. Sir Tim was quick to highlight the disadvantages of native phone apps, “they tend to be less portable and less inclined to work on later phones” but more concerning for him was that “they produce information that is not on the Web”, Sir Tim referencing a recent debate started by Wired Editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, “The Web is dead. A debate”.
Qt, the cross platform application and UI framework from Nokia works hard to tick these boxes. Whether it’s through the cross-platform development framework of the Qt SDK or through the web app skills boasted by the Qt WRT, which supports HTML5 and CSS3. These tools are designed to help developers create apps which are truly device independent and are designed to adhere to open standards.
This ties neatly into Sir Tim’s desire to see low bandwidth applications to enable those in developing countries to get involved in the Web. With low-cost devices, capable of running Web apps, users need to send and receive less information each time, thus enabling them to take advantage of lower network tariffs.
However, according to Sir Tim, this requires a change in plans when it comes to the types of offerings made available to those in developing countries. “In developing countries the internet is very much a luxury. That sort of marketing is completely inappropriate to try and get the whole country access. They [network operators] might see that it’s good marketing to give users low bandwidth for free, then up-sell to high-bandwidth”. A simple concept which, when combined with Web capable devices offered at a low cost, could make a huge difference to getting those in the developing world online.
Nokia is working hard to expand its range of low cost web capable devices and recently introduced the Ovi Browser, compatible with a wide range of Series 40 devices, which is powered by cloud-based internet compression technology. This results in lower data usage and faster page loading for low cost devices. The browser also acts as a gateway, enabling users to utilise the user interface to get quick access to their favourite content.
Sir Tim also talked to us about real life cases he’s seen on recent visits to African villages. The challenge there, Sir Tim believes, is to get people using the internet and inspiring them to do more with it. In many cases, he sees people accessing and using the internet, but not necessarily contributing to it. In 2008 the Web Foundation was announced with a sole focus on helping the rest of the world to get online. It’s mission “advance the Web – empower people” sums up what Sir Tim and the foundation are trying to achieve. Recently an initiative was started which was designed to get locals “bootstrapped” and inspired to do more with the Web.
“It’s about suggesting to people, and connecting people to ideas, enabling them with technology, getting them bootstrapped”. This goes beyond helping people access the Web and is focussed on getting the interacting with it. Sir Tim says people he’s spoken to people in developing countries who use Wikipedia, but never thought to put their own town or village on there. He also believes that there’s tremendous creativity and “they’re already doing amazing entrepreneurial things, so the spirit is there and now it’s about connecting that spirit to the Web”.
It’s easy to see, then, why Sir Tim believe openness and accessibility are key. Not just refraining from keeping information in walled gardens or behind paywalls, but ensuring the information we share is accessible from any device, that it’s truly device independent. Just as important is that any connected device is able to access and interact with the Web in a useful way, a way that is suitable for the environment that it’s in, whether that be New York or New Delhi.
There’s much we can all do to contribute, whether it’s ensuring the Websites and Web apps we create adhere to standards and particularly now more than ever, mobile standards. Nokia does much to ensure that its devices are both affordable and connected and by keeping these things front of mind, the next billion becomes a real and distinct possibility.
Check out the interview in audio form below.