Verizon's Mobile Web 2.0 -- Get Less For More!
By Mike Masnick, Thu Jul 01 21:00:00 GMT 2004

You would think that wireless carriers would have learned to stop overhyping their wireless data services offerings. However, Verizon's latest Mobile Web 2.0 seems strong on hype and short on substance.

Back in the early days of mobile phone data services in the US, Sprint PCS made the huge mistake of calling their very basic wireless data offering the "Wireless Web." It didn't take long for most users to realize that it wasn't so much the wireless web as an annoying update on typical touchtone IVR phone menus -- just updated with text output instead of voice. Sure, it could get the job done in a pinch, but it was hardly "the wireless web."

A few years have gone by, networks have improved, phones have improved and perhaps some lessons have been learned. However, when Verizon Wireless launched its "Mobile Web 2.0" today it seemed like not much has changed. It's not the mobile web at all, let alone version 2.0. If anything, it is version 2.0 of that old not really "Wireless Web" from a few years back, priced at $5/month plus airtime.

First of all, it's not the web. It's a walled garden approach using technology and services from InfoSpace Mobile and Vindigo Studios. A true wireless web would let people surf wherever they wanted. Instead, everything is locked in. Second, if you're going to announce a next generation service for mobile phone users, there really ought to be something compelling. The press release tells us that this new Mobile Web 2.0 is "packed with new features and enhancements." Unfortunately, very few of those new features are all that alluring and the enhancements seem designed to either fix old bugs or to make it easier for Verizon Wireless to make money. Not too compelling.

The core of the service appears to just be that you can access (only Verizon Wireless' approved) content. What kind of content? The same you find on every data service: news, weather, sports, entertainment and business. What's so compelling that I need to use Verizon Wireless for this service? What has Verizon Wireless done that's so special? Again, the press release has the answers: "new graphics, easier navigation, clickable headlines and premium content."

New graphics are certainly nice, but not particularly compelling. Were people complaining about the old graphics? Besides, more graphics means more airtime, and since Verizon Wireless will charge you for the airtime, this seems in some ways less compelling. Easier navigation just means someone has worked out some of the bugs of the older system and (hopefully) set the whole thing up more like it should have in the first place. Clickable headlines is laughable. What did it have before? The real web out there has had "clickable headlines" from day one, so it's hard to see how this is particularly revolutionary. Finally, "premium content" doesn't seem enticing at all. All it's really telling me is Verizon has hidden away the good stuff to try to make me pay more.

In the end, it's a walled garden, with limited content, expensive pricing and the only features are designed to fix obvious mistakes or make the user pay more. If this is version 2.0, I think I'll wait a few generations.