In 2004, O'Reilly Media coined the phrase 'Web 2.0' to describe what is ostensibly a second generation of Internet-based services – such as social networking sites – that foster online collaboration and sharing.

Free video sharing Web sites – such as YouTube – are an important channel for such social networking and online collaboration.

Three factors – pervasive public need, innovative technologies and a brilliant business model – have contributed to the dramatic and ongoing success of video on the Web. And, there's every reason to believe that the same three factors will drive what is likely to be the most significant online phenomenon of 2007: the advent of Web 3.0 – a third generation of Web-based services, where mobile devices are the platform for collaboration and networking among users.

And one vital aspect of Web 3.0 will be the transmission and sharing of video via portable devices. But first a reality check.

Mobile video – obstacles to adoption The technology that enables you to wirelessly download video over the Internet on to mobile devices has been available for some time.

However, take up has been poor because of a range of issues, notably: limited bandwidth, quality of service problems, and limited hardware capabilities.

In fact, leaving aside online video for the moment, the encoding of any video to a format readable by portable devices – such as smart phones, PDAs and Windows Pocket PCs – is often riddled with problems.

Many of these can be attributed to buggy programs for processing, analyzing and encoding of video content for mobile appliances.

I've had quite a few exasperating experiences myself when trying to use some of these applications.

One of these is Palm Media Studio offered by Makayama Interactive that develops consumer multimedia software for mobile devices. Makayama, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, promotes Palm Media Studio as the fastest DVD to Palm software on the market.

The company's Web site proclaims that small screens will become the dominant media delivery platform. This conviction, the company says, is leading it to develop "the tools of the future."

Well, going by my experience Palm Media Studio isn't one of these futuristic tools.

"In only 45 minutes, you can put a DVD on your Palm, that's 400 per cent quicker than other software," the company's Web site promises. It tells you the software will enable you to transform not just DVDs, "but also recorded TV and downloaded films" into video that can be watched on your Palm, Treo or Clié, in great quality.

It didn't work for me.

I first tried, unsuccessfully, to use the application to encode TV programs – recorded on the hard drive of my HP Media Centre desktop PC – for a Palm LifeDrive or Palm Treo 650.

The file types recognized by my Palm Media Studio application are: .avi, .mpeg, .mpg, .asf, .av, .vob.

The application did not recognize the Microsoft Recorded TV Show files on my hard drive – which is the recording format when you have a PC loaded with Windows XP Media Centre.

I then tried, also unsuccessfully, to encode a DVD for my Palm LifeDrive. The so-called conversion appeared to be successfully completed and a 3GPP file was generated on my desktop.

But when I copied the "converted" file to the LifeDrive, the device wouldn't play it. I got an error message on the LifeDrive: "No applications know how to open 3gp files."

If there are so many problems transferring static video files from a DVD disk or computer to mobile devices, how and when is seamless, real-time distribution of video over the wireless Internet ever going to be a reality?

"YouTube" for mobile devices?

Last Friday, Movidity, a Toronto-based company, claimed it had the silver bullet.

The founder and CEO of this privately held company is Mauro Lollo, former chief technology officer and co-founder of Unis Lumin.

Lollo unquestionably is an innovator. When he co-founded Unis Lumin 16 years ago, it was a two person outfit with a half-page business plan and very little capital. Today Unis Lumin is a major enterprise with clients that include major corporations, provincial ministries, health-care and educational institutions.

Lolo's new company, Movidity, has taken the YouTube concept of video sharing – where users upload, view and share video clips over a central Web site – and has added to it an additional dimension: of mobility.

The service, through which streaming media will be made available to mobile devices, is movy.tv. Its creators say it will be "the world's first truly mobile video sharing web service."

The company said it will make "limited" movy.tv service available to corporate clients by December 15, 2006. Public availability is slated for January 15, 2007.

How will the service work?

From the user's perspective, it seems it will be a three-step process.

-- First, members upload video and/or audio media to movy.tv site -- as they would do on YouTube.

-- Second, the uploaded audio/video is automatically "transcoded" by Movidity's proprietary (and patent-pending) mobile media system.

-- Third, anyone with a supported cell phone or PDA can download, view, and interact with the media.

Movidity says the majority of today's mobile devices "ranging from economy-class cell phones to high-end PDAs", will be supported.

For instance, supported PDAs include those based on Windows Mobile (CE) 3.0+ and Palm OS 5.0+. The RIM Blackberry and Pearl are also supported.

Client software is downloaded from movy.tv and self-installs on the mobile device. For the videos to be viewable and interactive, cell phones will have to be equipped with basic browser and java/midp2
capability.

The media, we are told, will "become interactive on a mobile device", permitting viewing controls, including pause, rewind and fast-forward capabilities -- as well as functions such as click-through advertising (one potential revenue-generation channel for Movidity, I suppose).

Success prerequisites

Theoretically, the potential for such a service appears to be limitless – for the users as well as for Movidity and other companies that jump on to the mobile Internet video bandwagon.

Practically, the success of this concept will hinge on a range of factors.

Some of these are technical – such as the speed and simplicity of the transcoding process.

Others are business-related, such as the value professional and commercial users -- the paid members -- see in the service, and, most important of all, the advertising revenue the service is able to
attract.

YouTube founders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim – all early employees of PayPal – were able to take a pervasive public need for sharing video content online and transform that into a billion dollar business (the company was recently acquired by Google for US$1.65 billion in stock).

Will Movidity be able to replicate YouTube's dramatic success in the mobile online video sharing space?

That, of course, remains to be seen.