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Social networking goes mobile

By CNN's Jim Boulden
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BARCELONA, Spain (CNN) -- The technology executives and analysts here in Barcelona this week are trying to figure out how take all the content found on the Web and migrate it to your mobile device.

There are a number of hurdles though. Most of what people find at Web sites is free to the user, whether it's silly videos on YouTube or news footage and stories on

The mobile phone network operators like to charge for content. One executive, who didn't want to be quoted, told CNN this creates a "closed garden" of content that is controlled by your mobile operator and is dependent on what deals the operator has with a select group of content providers.

That couldn't be more different from the advertising supported model of most Web sites and the hyperlinked world of the Web.

So some of the deals announced this week are attempts to break down the walls. Unless that happens, many people here say, mobile phones cannot become your fourth screen of entertainment as they cannot offer you everything you can get on a cinema screen, a television screen and a computer screen.

The second challenge is that so much of what is viewed on the Net is user generated content; videos, personal Web pages, social networking sites.

This is the material that phone operators and handset makers want to offer. Nokia for instance announced Monday that users of its N90 series of big screen handsets will be able to access YouTube's mobile service when it launches.

But all this content now has to be re-formatted for the phone. And so does the software.

Tech executives say that is all being done now. And, they add, many young people are already creating and sharing phone-friendly content with their handsets.

One site, was created in London for users to share their personal space with friends. It's only four months old, but sales director Ben Tatten-Brown says it already has 20,000 registered users. And that, without advertising the site. It's all word of mouth; so called "viral spread" as the ad people call it.

Another new social networking site, used the Barcelona show to launch. It allows users, with a target audience under 30, to create their own Web sites and then invite a closed group, a "cerkle" of friends to enter and share content through their phones. Within the first 24 hours, 2,000 people around the world joined.

People here are claiming that with the latest phones, faster 3G networks and a more user-friendly and cheaper approach by network operators, 2007 will be the year when social networking goes mobile.


New social networking sites designed for mobile phones are targeting the under 30s.


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