Posted by Joseph Peart

There’s an interesting global dimension to the war over internet territory, which is now focusing on social media.
Diverse sources comment frequently on the extent to which mobile technology socialises our experience shopping and travelling.  And one of the fastest changing experiences will be that of regular travellers carrying their ubiquitous smart phones. 

Unlike occasional tourists, frequent flyers will be networked via NFC (near field communication) and RFID (radio-frequency identification) from the moment they enter the terminal (if not before). 

According to the journal Business Traveller (July/August 2011), their phone will say things like: “Your gate is five minutes away.  Walk straight ahead and turn to your right”.  After security, it will add: “You are cleared to board” and will act as your boarding pass as you enter the plane.

Your mobile receiver will also give you foreign language translation at the swipe of a screen.  The temptation is to place ourselves in greater dependency on one of those social media pretenders who would be our king.

For example social media platforms, Facebook, MSN, Twitter and Yahoo will give you a free translation service through Ortsbo ( from a person who speaks the language.  Outlook has an add-on which translates emails, while Penpower Technology’s Worldictionary is available from iTunes for your iPhone.  There’s also Google Translate and Android apps free from Holfeld.  Possibly the biggest such service is Amazon’s Travel Toolkit (US$11.95), available for Kindle e-readers.

All this is but another skirmish in the giant social media war between the combined forces of Facebook, Microsoft, Nokia and Skype, versus Google, in alliance with Apple and Twitter.

An Australian Associated Press-sourced article on the NZ Herald website (Thursday September 8, 2011) quotes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as saying during his announcement of the Skype deal that Facebook had passed 750 million users.  That puts Facebook in a seemingly unassailable position on the battleground of the social internet.  But search engine dominator, Google, is massing its cavalry around its high ground position in the form of Google plus (Google+).

This is not like an old-fashioned war on a clear ground, well away from the towns and villages: civilians are involved, and there could be what modern generals call ‘collateral damage’.  For instance, after a recent uprising by Facebook users, we were given a new suite of privacy settings, not before some casualties.   But we are now adding more and more pictures, videos and private information about our daily lives to Facbook, while Google tells us that if they supply more information, we will get better search results.

Like most wars, the social media conflict is about sovereignty, and the protagonists depend on our social media profiles as their foot soldiers. That means our choices will get more hazardous as mobile technology seeks to rule us by making our lives easier.

September 2011