A communication revolution and the rise of mobile user-generated content

Isn’t it time for text to enter the mobile UGC (UGC) revolution?

When Facebook bought Instagram for $1B last year, some called it genius, others called it luck. But whether we think that deal made sense or not, it marked an important change in the history of the web in general and of mobile internet in particular: the rise of mobile user-generated content.

Before Apple gave a new boost to the mobile web with the app model, smartphones had already succeeded as internet communication devices. Building beyond the unexpected success of the SMS, RIM, Nokia and others turned our phones into email devices and picture messengers. Blackberries led the massive adoption of mobile email and by 2008, Nokia became the largest camera manufacturer on the planet. Communication naturally evolved into social networking – a habit we formed on the web but got addicted to on our phones – and with iOS and Android apps reinventing smartphones, it became and still is a dominant category of the mobile web with consumers now spending 30% of their time online visiting social networks on mobile.

While this communication revolution happened to devices formerly known as phones (but less and less entirely dedicated to voice), another revolution was in progress: Web 2.0. While we now might define it in various ways, it basically comes down to the combination of two things: social networking and UGC. Rapidly touching all content formats from text to photos and videos, it also generated a wave of acquisitions such as Flickr’s by Yahoo or YouTube’s by Google for an impressive $1.65B (in a deal that some have compared to Facebook’s Instagram one).

But until very recently, while Web 2.0 had two legs – social networking and UGC – mobile Web 2.0 only was about social networking, the natural evolution of their legacy communication function. This is all changing now because of two major trends.

Mobile devices have come a long way. Not so long ago, they weren’t even seen fit for proper content consumption – let alone creation. Mobile carriers had to invest in specific mobile internet technologies such as WAP to even solve content browsing. Obviously today’s mobile browsers and HTML5 fixed that for good. When it comes to content creation, we’re still obviously confronted to very different capabilities: writing 1,000 words on a touch device remains as painful as it is awkward to take pictures with your laptop’s webcam. But “different” now doesn’t mean “inferior” anymore and Instagram might prove that mobile is actually a superior creation device for some formats – if only by using the exit valuation of Flickr as a comparison point (Yahoo acquired them $35m back in 2005). So isn’t it natural that this UGC revolution now also happens as a mobile phenomenon? Photos are a perfect example but it doesn’t stop there: SocialCam and others proved video was a mobile UGC format too and the popularity of the SoundCloud app might make sound recordings another one.

In addition, content creation itself has changed dramatically: the rise of the remix culture and of corresponding new publishing platforms completely change the way we look at creation. Just like songs are being sampled and remixed into new ones, video memes are created and news or blogs are being aggregated or curated with new meaning and context. Instagram is emblematic of that process, turning everyone into a creator by making boring photos interesting thanks to magic filters. And as Tumblr and Pinterest’s successes demonstrated and as we’re observing ourselves on our own Scoop.it, simplifying publishing from long form to content curation or even 1-click publishing makes it possible for a lighter form of content creation to emerge. Some will criticize this and say it’s not “creation” enough – just like rappers were originally criticized for sampling standards back in the days. But the point is not here: this new form of lighter content creation is actually perfect for mobile.

So how about editorial content?

We’re not going to blog from smartphones soon. But we already use it to read and consume a lot of text-based web content. We’re already doing most of the hard work from this device. Add filtering, short but insightful commenting, 1-click publishing and sharing – all of which being easy to do on smartphones – and you produce the first mobile-compliant text-based UGC format: content curation.

About Guillaume Decugis

Co-Founder & CEO of Scoopit. Entrepreneur (Musiwave, Goojet). Skier. Gamer. Blogging without blogging here: http://scoop.it/u/gdecugis