New software offers context-based mobile web browsing

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Contextual Menus5o9, a company aiming to revolutionize mobile web browsing, has let us know that they’re working on support for BlackBerry now that Windows Mobile and Symbian platforms are just about done. Last week we got a comment from someone telling us how their software was bypassing data rates for LBS services, so we were obviously a little curious in what they had to offer. After having a lengthy chat with Peter from 5o9, he laid out how their server-side module did a lot more than just LBS. The idea is that owners put a little something called Mod_Mobile on their servers and put some code in the header of their page. (Techies might remember the name… 5o9 are the same guys that made mod_gzip). Users with the browser plug-in MobileMe installed then have site navigation shunted over to their browser menus.


Here’s the thing about MobileMe: you can voluntarily feed information about yourself into it, including GPS coordinates if your device supports it. Even if it doesn’t, you can still pop in your country and ZIP code. As a result of sharing this information, the menus of the websites you visit (given they have Mod_Mobile installed) become tailored to your virtual identity. Think of it a bit like OpenID for mobile. 5o9′s APIs are open, so third parties can develop widgets for MobileMe in which you can submit specific information tailored for certain services… medical, shopping, social networking, you name it. If the browser’s aware of your identity, it also opens up the doors for very precisely-targeted advertising; not just based on your interests, but also on your real-world location, which translates to ads that you might actually be interested in for a change.

5o9So, for example, let’s say Starbucks picked up this module and you’ve got MobileMe installed on your BlackBerry browser. You go to Starbucks.com, open up the menu, and select, say, “Order favourite beverage”. Thanks to the information that you plugged into your Starbucks widget, it knows you love those extra grande mochachoca-whateveryacallems, and based on the GPS coordinates that your device pumps out, Starbucks can find the franchise closest to you. You send your order by good old-fashioned HTTP and your drink’s ready for you when swing by on your way to work. A system like this really streamlines the browsing experience, and when data and screen real estate are at a premium, 5o9 could really change the name of the game in mobile web surfing. Apache and IIS servers are both supported, which means this software is building largely on the web infrastructure already in place. Keep an eye out for a BlackBerry client-side app soon.