When Merriam-Webster compiled a list of the most searched words of 2004, the word 'blog' (short for weblog) topped the charts.
However, blogging's younger sibling, the mobile-blog, is rapidly becoming one of the most popular online phenomenon worldwide. Mobile-blogging, or moblogging - basically, using camera phones to post pictures and text on a weblog - is captivating thousands of new converts every week from Atlanta to Zagreb.
A few numbers tell you why. More camera phones are sold than digital cameras, with one American research firm predicting global sales to rise from 150 million in 2003 to 650 million by 2008.
Little wonder the user base of popular moblog sites such as Text America (latest available figure: 500,000), Flickr (250,000), Yafro (100,000), Buzznet (20,000) and Mobog (16,000) is growing exponentially. The big daddy of them all, MSN Spaces, has more than 1.5 million users, but not all of them are mobloggers.
So what's the buzz all about? Well, moblogging provides a whole new dimension to the concept of a personal diary by providing the immediacy and intimacy of pictures taken anywhere, at any time. So, if you are inspired at your favourite local watering hole or on a road trip, you won't have to wait until you get back to your desktop to share your visuals with the world.
Not surprisingly, company after company has been coming out with applications and services to tap into what they think is a big blogosphere (and, perhaps, with the aim to also push other services such as MMS). But moblogging services from telcos lack the insight into blogging to actually make them useful tools.
Mobile-blogging tools enable one to post images, videos or text to a web location, but do little to engender the conversations that characterise blogs.
Rashmi Bansal, editor of JAM magazine, is an avid blogger herself and finds mobile-blogging a pretty "hassly job". "I cannot really express my thoughts in a three-line moblog. Additionally, there is no operator or service provider to direct me how to do it quickly," she says.
Bansal has had a tough time posting mobile blogs and has just given up. "I will wait until there comes a service provider who can simplify the process and also will be easy on my pocket."
Most 20-40 year-olds who remain hooked to their camera phones or communicators use their GPRS for a quick look at their inboxes or maybe send a quick message or two. The reason why they have steered clear of moblogging: service providers and telco operators do not provide ease of use.
Estimated figures predict that India will have 55 million online users and another 110 million mobile users by 2007 making it an interactive demographic for the mobile applications market. Taking the cue, a few companies like Coruscant Tec have stepped up to the plate.
Though not ready to take a big leap, Coruscant (a mobile content provider) is ready to release a new application named Moblogs.
The application promises to post blogs, edit posts, view and make comments, host your location to others, share posts with grouped communities, send out trackbacks, and much more. Initially, the application would be offered free of cost to all registered users.
Ajay Adiseshann, managing director of Coruscant, feels that mobile blogging is an emerging market but no one is clear as to how can this market can be tapped. "This is virgin territory. It is up to us to judge how to carve out a revenue model for this side."
The main revenue generator for mobile operators and service providers seems to be online advertisements. "The way blogs have become the new age signposts in marketing, mobile blogs can go the same way. Since mobile penetration is much higher, revenues can only be better," adds Adiseshann.
He earnestly believes that mobile blogging is the way to go but adds that the market in India is very small at the moment. With continuing growth of camera phones and interest in picture mail, moblogs are great places to document and store images. Most major blog sites offer some way to post to your blog with your phone, either via MMS or e-mail.The only hassle is finding a telecom provider that supports this facility. And that, for Indian mobloggers, is not a pretty picture.