Why You Need to Know About the 'Open Web', Now

04/07/2013 11:39 BST | Updated 02/09/2013 10:12 BST

The very first mobile phone call was made (by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper) 40 years ago this April. We've seen this nifty device's value in our lives skyrocket over the past few years, with the smartphone's explosion powering a union of two of the most innovative tech platforms - the internet and mobile communication.

Now as the web increasingly goes mobile, this is where it gets really interesting.

While the growth of smartphones (essentially putting a computer in everyone's pocket) is unlocking unheralded opportunities for businesses, at present just two platforms - iOS and Android - make up 92% of the market.

My question is - a massive market in the hands of so few? Do we really want to be locked in to one or two vendors?

We need to enable the web to return to its original purpose, providing open access to content and services regardless of operating system.

There's a battle being fought in mobile - and that's where the 'open web' comes in. In simplified terms, this refers to a web that isn't exclusive (hence non-proprietary), not tied to a specific technology and one that works across platforms. "Open Web Apps are a great opportunity for those who need to develop applications that work on the largest number of devices, and for those who cannot afford to develop an app for every vendor platform (such as Android, iOS, and "classical" desktop web browsers)" explain Mozilla (the guys that power Firefox). I second that.

Supporters of open standards (and a passionate bunch they are too) are vying to provide an alternative to closed app stores so that consumers have the freedom and choice to use the services they want regardless of device or OS.

Thankfully, we're finally starting to see new mobile operating systems emerge - for me, the viable contenders here are Ubuntu, Firefox OS and Sailfish. There's been some solid traction here - on 2 July, the world's first commercial launch of Firefox OS was unveiled in Spain with the ZTE Open device (retailing at under 70 Euros - see device photo below).


We're also seeing the rapid growth of open web standards in mobile such as HTML5, a web technology that runs independently of environment, display or technology.

But what's the real potential of new mobile operating systems to disrupt the current state of play?

Earlier this year, I wanted to get some industry experts on camera to fire up the dialogue, and tracked down a tech evangelist, venture capitalist and global analyst to get their take on the subject. Take a look.