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Cellphones gaining on Web as best way to keep up image

SAN FRANCISCO -- While Walter Zai was in South Africa watching wild animals recently, people around the world were watching him.

Zai, a 37-year-old Swiss engineer, used his mobile phone to send out constant updates and images from his safari for an online audience.

"You feel like you are instantly broadcasting your own life and experiences to your friends at home, and to anyone in the world who wants to join," said Zai, who used a new online service called Kyte to create his digital diary.

The social networking phenomenon is leaving the confines of the personal computer. Powerful new mobile devices are allowing people to send round-the-clock updates about their vacations, their moods, or their latest haircut.

New online services with names like Twitter, Radar, and Jaiku hope people will use their ever-present gadget to share (or, inevitably, to overshare) the details of their lives in the same way they have become accustomed to doing on website like MySpace.

Unlike the older networking sites, which are still largely used on PCs, these new phone-oriented services are bringing the burgeoning culture of exhibitionism to more exotic and more personal locations.

Such services have the same addictive appeal for young people as BlackBerrys do for busy professionals, said Howard Hartenbaum, a partner at the venture capital firm Draper Richards, which is an investor in Kyte.

"Kids want to be connected to their friends at all times," Hartenbaum said. "They can't do that when you turn off the computer."

Central to the technology of Kyte and similar services is the marriage of mobile phones and the Web.

Users download Kyte software for their phones at www. and can send their photos and videos -- however grainy -- from the phone to their online Kyte "channel."

Daniel Graf, Kyte's 32-year-old cofounder, sees each of the world's hundreds of millions of camera-phone owners as a potential television broadcaster.

"To run a television network used to require expensive cameras, a satellite connection, and studios," Graf said.

"But the production costs have gone down to zero. Now you can share your life over a mobile phone, and someone is always connected, watching."