Personalization and autonomy are two important buzzwords in today's mobile browsing landscape, yet rather than being solely the domain of the end consumer, we think those words make a lot of sense for individual wireless operators as well. Our Skyfire Horizon mobile browser extension platform, which brings contextual and social browsing to an operator's smartphone browsers, allowing their users to feast upon an abundance of enhanced activities (sharing, shopping, saving) without ever leaving the page they're looking at, also ships with a content management system (CMS) for each operator. Operators can easily set up options for their own branded mobile browser toolbar in whatever manner they feel would be most desired and most used by their subscribers. Then their users can further customize their individual toolbars however they see fit. Personalization and autonomy, indeed.
We talked this week with Skyfire Horizon Product Lead Matt English about the Skyfire Horizon CMS, how it allows operators to extend and enhance mobile browsing capabilities for their users – and where it's headed in 2013 as it continues to roll out to new operators such as Sprint.
Describe how a wireless operator works with the Skyfire Horizon CMS, and what it allows them to do.
Matt English: In line with Skyfire’s strengths, our toolbar platform blends the best benefits of client- and cloud-based capabilities. The Horizon CMS allows all aspects of the toolbar experience to be managed via a secure dashboard. Operators don't want to have to open a ‘maintenance release’ window in order to push a brand new extension like Yelp or Amazon to their users' devices, so we've made it extremely easy for them to quickly add any new button to the toolbar. Even native Android functionality can be updated by the operator, with robust new buttons pushed to the toolbar that act just as a full downloaded application would.
Some popular buttons/extensions are simply useful tools or quick views, like the Facebook functionality that lets users check what's happening on their wall without leaving the page they're on. Others, like the Offers and Apps buttons that are on the Android devices our carrier partners are currently using, are more complex and more akin to native apps.
Operators who deploy the Skyfire Horizon platform use a desktop interface to log-in to the CMS. The buttons, and their behavior, are usually managed by their marketing and product management groups. You definitely don't need to do any coding to use it. The CMS lets them add new mobile browser extensions, remove underperforming ones, and shift the order of the buttons that show up the first time the user opens their browser. After that, the end user can also personalize and configure those buttons however they'd like, up to and including removing them. For both carrier and user, it's infinitely configurable.
We’ve made the whole updating process as easy as possible for both operators and consumers, so once the operator pushes a change, that new button goes live to all devices within 24 hours. The device "pings" the server just once a day to pull down any changes, so it has an extremely low impact on the network and the device.
How does ad insertion work within the Horizon CMS?
Matt English: Advertising is one of the ways an operator can generate revenue within Skyfire Horizon, but both Skyfire and carriers recognize that the toolbar needs to be valuable to users. Operators have the ability to turn ads on or off for their users. The CMS lets them decide whether and when to turn ads on, and once they do, there are multiple configurations possible. Where to run them, for instance – only with certain extensions? The ad unit, as well – banner ads, or video interstitials, or something else? The platform creates new inventory and advertising opportunities for operators to share in, rather than simply injecting an annoying ad on top of someone else's content.
How does Skyfire enable each CMS to be autonomous and unique to each of its operator partners?
Matt English: The Skyfire Horizon CMS follows a Software-as-a-Service model, and as such, can be configured as multi-tenant or on-premise. In the first example, operators log in to their instance of the CMS, which is running in the public cloud. In the multi-tenant example, we put the CMS inside their data center, and it runs within the carrier cloud. In either case data is kept fully separate from operator to operator.
How are you evolving the CMS and the Skyfire Horizon mobile browser extension platform in 2013?
Matt English: We're really looking to make it much easier for desktop browser extension developers to develop for our mobile platform. Operators then will have a much larger range of extensions to make available to their users, and can even create entire categories of extensions within the CMS for their customers to better filter what will make their browser more personal and useful to them. Operators will curate a dramatically expanded number of extensions this year, and it's my team's job to streamline the third-party on boarding process to enable this. Our cloud platform will soon have a developer CMS sandbox for testing and development, and this will make the Skyfire Horizon CMS that much more compelling for an operator's marketing and product team to configure and experiment with, in order to let everyone's browser be unique and personal to their interests and behaviors.