Social networking gets second wind on the handset

14 Feb 2008

BlackBerry, Vodafone and Yahoo! are stirring excitement in the world of social networking at the Mobile World Congress 2008 in Barcelona this week as they introduce new services and technology that aims to inextricably join the social web and the handset together.

Vodafone CEO, Arun Sarin, said that mobile operators will have to work with and compete against net players in order to bring both user generated content and social networking to their customers.

He said the scope of the mobile is extending beyond text, voice and MMS (multimedia messaging) and that the customer wants to be increasingly connected and increasingly social.

RIM, creator of the BlackBerry device, echoed this, saying that social networking was the future. RIM was the first company to make use of Facebook’s developer platform by creating a Facebook application specifically for use on the BlackBerry handset.

Jim Balsillie, the co-CEO of RIM, said this demand for mobile social networking will extend to the need for data plans like the current tariffs on offer from mobile operators, such as SMS bundles and web-surfing data packages.

Also at the Congress, internet powerhouse Yahoo! unveiled its new social networking tool for the mobile phone: OneConnect, a service that will combine email, text, instant messaging and social networking all on one platform.

OneConnect is expected to launch later this year but no details have yet been given on which mobile operators will partner with the company. However, T-Mobile did say at the Congress that it was changing from Google to Yahoo! for its central and northern European web services.

An online service, Zyb, which acts as an organiser and can be synched with most brands of handset, also unveiled a new aspect of its service at the Mobile World Congress. It now allows users to build a social network, as well as handle their address book contacts.

By Marie Boran