Social bookmarking using del.icio.us and similar sites is huge on the web and I think it’s about to really take off on the mobile web too. Surfing, bookmarking and sharing your bookmarks doesn’t require intensive keying, so it works as well on the mobile web as it does on the full web. I’d go so far as to say that social bookmarking has the potential to become as become as big as sharing ringtones and photos.
A great way to do mobile social bookmarking is with the Opera Mini bookmarklets I recently posted about (and which are working again, BTW) but it’s not the only way. I’ve been looking at a new site that takes a server based approach. Putting the bookmarking functionality on the server means you can use any browser – good news for the millions of users (including all Verizon and Alltel customers) whose phones can’t run Opera Mini.
The free service, called Mobleo lets you create a directory of your favorite mobile and non-mobile websites. You can setup your bookmarks on the web at mobleo.net and access them from your phone at mobile.mobleo.net. Lots of sites let you do that but what sets Mobleo apart is that you can dispense with the PC and save bookmarks directly from your mobile browser. As you surf the web with Mobleo you are actually going through a transcoding proxy which adds a form to the bottom of every page with an Enter tags field and a Tag Page button. You can instantly bookmark any page you land on. The proxy also transcodes non-mobile websites to a more mobile friendly format. Mobleo’s transcoder doesn’t resize images but you can tell it not to display them. There is even a link on every page that lets you jump out of the transcoder and view the page in its original format. The whole thing reminds me of a concept Charlie Schick proposed half a year ago in A website, wrapped in a transcoder, inside a browser.
Mobleo’s PC site lets manage your bookmarks and fine tune the transcoder. You can delete and rename bookmarks and for each bookmark you can specify whether you want the linked site transcoded or not and whether the transcoded pages should include images.
There’s no bookmark management on the mobile site, you can only add bookmarks – you can’t delete, rename or change their tags. You can however, register for Mobleo on the mobile site which features the first mobile captcha I’ve seen. The lack of mobile editing facilities keeps Mobleo from being a service that doesn’t require a PC to use to it’s fullest. While personal computers are ubiquitous in the US, worldwide mobile browsers outnumber PC’s by 10 to 1 and are often a user’s only way to access the web. I’d like to see more mobile services that don’t require a PC to use their main features.
The thing that keeps me from using Mobleo all the time is that the transcoder can’t handle some of my favorite sites. I haven’t been able to login to Google Reader or Bloglines using Mobleo and those are the sites where I most often want to bookmark something. When Mobleo can’t open a page you still have the option to view the page in its native format although you can’t bookmark pages viewed in native format. Sites that don’t require a login generally work well. Mobleo is a beta (launched in November) with some beta bugs but it’s a great start which will surely improve with time. Writing transcoders that work with any site and browser is obviously very difficult – in my use, even Google’s transcoder fails with an error message about 10% of the time.
It doesn’t seem possible to search or view other users public links by tag on Mobleo like you can on del.icio.us. Maybe I’m missing something as the About page speaks of sharing your links with “…the Mobleo community” but I can’t figure out how to do it. I can only see the tags of friends who have explicitly shared theirs with me – not everyone’s public tags. What makes the buzz on a social bookmarking site is the ability to discover what the community is giving it’s link love to. Public bookmarks provide a great pool of searchable data that Del.icio.us leverages with their hotlist, what’s popular and fresh only filters. I’d like to see Mobleo do something similar.
Even in it’s beta state Mobleo is a great mobile bookmark site, you can set up mobile bookmarks on the PC or phone, assign tags to them and share your favorites with friends. The phone GUI is easy to use. Switching from one tag to another on the phone is convenient using a dropdown list at the top of every bookmark page.
Mobleo, which was created entirely by developer, Tom Boilard in his spare time is more attractive and polished than the sites of many well-funded startups. It’s a great showcase for the mobile social bookmarking concept.
Mobleo is filed on Yeswap.com under Technology/Mobile/Mobile Social.