Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Picture phones will change the world

I have had so many conversations with people who say that they don't get why it is interesting to have a digital camera built into a mobile phone. To this question I offer the typical example of parents on vacation taking pictures of the kid and sending them to the grandparents. But I have also offered the suggestion that putting power into the hands of the people always causes social change and ask people to think about what happens when thousands or millions of people can take a snapshot of injustice and instantly broadcast to the world.

Now comes the BBC with an example of this social implication of picture phones.

People thought that the Internet was going to be a new publishing medium -- like television, a way for large media brands to package and distribute content for the consumption of the masses. While it has become an interesting publishing medium, the interesting things that have created the most volume in usage on the Internet have not been when a few central nodes publish to all of the leaf node consumers but rather when all of the leaves become self publishers and start talking to each other without the need to have a central node mediating the conversation. Personal home pages were an early example and blogging has taken this to another level.

The bias of phone companies was to believe that these new mobile devices would become another broadcast medium, allowing central nodes to present information to all of the end consumer leaves. I believe the real transformation will come, however, as it did with the Internet when the end nodes become the publishers.