A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests we have entered the era of the mobile application. The use --- and particularly the growth --- of apps is trending such that it now is where the industry action is.

The report indicates more than one-third of adults --- particularly men and young adults --- have applications on their smartphones, although only one-quarter of adults use them. It is, as the report suggests, pretty significant in view of the fact there weren't such applications only a couple of years ago (pre-iPhone and Android).

Among cellphone owners, 29 per cent have downloaded apps and 13 per cent have paid for them.
 
 
The shift of searching to getting is at the heart of the Wired.com pair of pieces that identify the decline of the World Wide Web and the rise of the application in our digital lives.

Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff, one a prominent editor and the other a prominent columnist, have produced companion arguments that the Web is no longer what we use --- that the Internet is a mere conduit for the apps that dominate our time online.

"It’s driven primarily by the rise of the iPhone model of mobile computing, and it’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule," Anderson writes. "And it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing, not because they’re rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better or fit better into their lives (the screen comes to them, they don’t have to go to the screen)."

That it's also a more optimal environment for monetization only strengthens the situation, he says.

Wolff, meanwhile, examines how the open Web is closing and reestablishing a corporate hierarchy --- the "collectivist utopianism" is disappearing and a top-down theme is reemerging. The alternative to the Web came as some entrepreneurs sought to have the clout of Google, only without the open-source approach.

Wolff's piece is far more critical of the developments --- of the value of advertising, of the value of the audience, because of search engine optimization. He says we flirted briefly with the "transformative effects" of the Web but now are "returning home" to Apple, Facebook, Spotify and Netflix, all systems that are closed and traditional.

Anderson's conclusion: Blame Us. Wolff's: Blame Them.
 
 
Without any really large story online --- yet --- there are several headlines worth discussing:

1. Facebook is going to launch location-based service soon. Loopt is also going to upgrade its location-based offerings to permit multitasking and location updating.The implications are significant for news organizations aiming to use Facebook for crowdsourcing and storytelling.
2. Apple has issued its new operating system for the iPhone, tailored for the iPhone4 but still applicable to iPhone3.
3. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post and CNN writes on how non-profit organizations are filling some of the gaps left when newsrooms de-emphasize investigative work.
4. The New York Times announced former editor and publisher Arthur Brisbane as its new public editor. He succeeds Clark Hoyt. The implications of his appointment: As goes the Times in identifying standards for the craft, so can go the craft.
 
 
Apple's recent acquisition of Siri, a voice-activated iPhone application, leads Jemima Kiss of The Guardian to speculate that the company is aiming for small-scale, voice-commanded devices in the near future.

As she sees it, a voice-activated  phone could shed the screen and place the technology in a device smaller than an iPod Shuffle, with commands unfettered by menus.

As she notes, though, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has repeatedly denied his company is moving into the search engine business, which a device as she describes surely comprises. Mobile, though, is the next major scramble.
 
 
The Apple iPad makes its debut in stores in the United States today. Reviews have been largely positive. Applications are ready for launch and an exponentially larger number are in the works. Consumer and publisher expectations are off the charts.

It is tempting to hop in the car, use my Nexus pass to get through the absurdly long border lineups, try to find one this weekend in Bellingham, Blaine, Everett or Seattle, and pay the duty as I return north.

After all, the Wi-Fi version will work the way my iPod Touch works here.

But I think I'm going to hold out for the Wi-Fi/3G version or perhaps the 2.0 iPad (I think it can use a camera like the Macbook Pro). I'll sleep on it.

Still it is getting comical --- or tragi-comical --- that device after device takes longer to travel the short distance to market from a nearby head office (think Seattle and Kindle, or think Silicon Valley and Apple)  than to market across that head office's vast country.

We are led to believe the Internet has blurred borders, that we're in a global economy that finds receptive markets with few if any barriers. But it really isn't so --- witness the Web sites that won't let you surf from abroad. The most innovative technological devices (save the BlackBerry, which is from Canada) are oddly enough the ones held back in the most old-fashioned way.

The iPhone, the Chumby (still not here), the Kindle, Google Android and iPad have been hung up for months as our telecommunications firms worked out terms with manufacturers. The iPhone actually went to several non-U.S. countries before Canada. The irony is that Canada is the country with the most broadband Internet penetration.

The iPad is coming to Canada in late April --- shorter than the typically extended delays --- but pricing and carriage plans haven't been announced. What Canadians have found with other devices is that data plans have been anything but flexible and affordable.

Let's hope Apple and the carriers learn from earlier launches (Apple was reportedly upset with pricing of the iPhone plans in Canada). If so it'll be worth the few weeks' wait. But what the country needs is simultaneous release; we're seemingly backwards with it.
 
 
A recent study suggests social media is addictive. There is no real surprise in that: People obsess over a variety of things, so the users of social media are bound to be inclined to use it frequently.

What's more interesting is the pattern change the study identifies with PC and iPhone users. An increasing number of them are turning to social media for their fix of morning news.

The Retrevo Gadgetology Report found 16 per cent of social media users get their news first thing in the morning, including 23 per cent of iPhone users. Indeed, among iPhone users, 28 per cent said they check the news before they're out of bed.
 
 
The arrival of location-based journalism that employs technology to layer visual information with text --- a form of augmented reality --- offers great journalistic opportunities.

An example: Pointing your iPhone video application at a restaurant and seeing reviews of that eatery on the screen, or pointing one at a building and finding about its permits or liens or even its companies' subsidies.

The Poynter Institute E-Media Tidbits outlines some of the emerging work in the field from such places as The New York Times. It suggests there are not only fascinating journalistic possibilities but financial ones in the marriage of data to visuals for handheld devices like the iPhone and Google Android.

Expect a lot of activity on this in the months ahead.
 
 

North Americans have a far different experience with mobile Web than do Europeans and Asians. In short, we haven't taken to it for text, downloads and browsing. Even the iPhone is barely thawing the ice.
But the Pew Internet & American Life Project has produced a report on the evolution of mobile. It concludes people will use mobile for primary access to the Web --- by 2020.
What will it take? Lower-cost technology, standards across borders, content creation that fits the space. Meantime we'll watch a blurring of the line between professional and personal use, the diminution of personal privacy, and a race between copyright holders and pirates.

 
 

Jonathan Zittrain, the Oxford-Harvard Internet governance and cyberlaw scholar, has written a very accessible and provocative book called The Future of the Internet and How To Stop It. It stopped me dead in my tracks today and I had to steal away time to absorb its premise and enter the full-on reading of the book.
Zittrain's assertion is that the Internet's trajectory might be one of lost opportunity because of the rise of "tethered appliances" and technologies that essentially take control out of the users' hands (read: iPhone) and install a form of central command. In other words, tech that tells you to leave it alone --- and you do leave it alone because, after all, it provides security and stability.
He adores so-called generative technologies, in which development is left open to improvement by the users, and he worries the Internet's shift away from these technologies is leading to an inevitable meltdown. He provides a wake-up call for collaboration and hopes users don't stay asleep as more proprietary (and sterile) technologies surface and dominate. He's not suggesting only generative technologies are good, but he wants a healthier hybrid lean to them than the road we're taking.
Zittrain is a spacious writer and generous to varying views, so his book has a general public/not academic feel. Profound weekend reading.

 

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