Standards-based approach to monetizing mashups

Chia Wai Kong, HP Services
09 Nov 2007

Together with the emergence of Web 2.0 is the rise of a little-known phenomenon called mashups, which many enterprises have been quietly using to save time and money.

In the network world, mashups have been supported by web-service providers that have used the internet as a transport, but network operators have not yet made any significant financial gain off that traffic.

Mashups are applications built using a collection of web-services widgets that are provided by the likes of Yahoo, Google and many others. These web services can provide maps, searches or a directory of information, to name a few.

Two parties are involved: the mashup application provider and the widget service provider. The widget service provider supplies the sub-services which the application provider then orchestrates to compose more complex, user-oriented applications.

An example of such an application is a taxi-booking service. The application can be built by a taxi booking company in conjunction with a map company, and using location, SMS and MMS services from the operator, bundled together as a web service.

The application developer initially does a discovery of services available with the map company and operator. He then chains these into a complex service that uses a taxi booking SMS as a trigger to determine the location of the user and send him a map to confirm his pickup point.

The services run over the internet, giving the same user experience across networks. Other advantages of mashups are that they are flexible (quick to build and teardown), they are free to use and can be targeted at niche communities.

However, the services today are not very reliable or secure and have no guaranteed service level. They also have no prioritization of requests or throttling should requests exceed system capacity. In addition, the network operator doesn't add value, thus reducing its contribution in the value chain.

Most of these mashups are built and used by a rather tech-savvy community. As these applications and services move into the mainstream, these problems need to be solved.

Benefit to operators

Network operators can work collaboratively with service and application providers. There are assets within the operator network and information systems that are in demand by the new service providers. Where there is demand and the demand can be met, there is opportunity for revenue.

Operators currently have a wealth of subscriber information, including usage and demographic profiles and subscriber contexts. Advertisers, network providers and service providers are trying to tap into this information goldmine, but only the operator owns this information. The trick is to enable access while maintaining subscriber privacy.

The network operator has billing capabilities in the country of operation in local currency with local taxation. The operator can do this in a secure and reliable manner, which subscribers and enterprises are familiar with and trust.

The operator has customer call centers that can provide call support and local language support, which can be a value-added service. As the applications are opened to the general public, customer support will be a key differentiator as less IT savvy users will need more support.

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