The mobile web is in its infancy right now, but all the rules are being made to ensure that the experience is just as rich in any handheld device
The mobile now has an Internet Top Level Domain (TLD) of its own. Launched in May, the ‘.mobi’ extension has been specifically released for websites related to handheld devices. While those supporting and opposing the .mobi are sharply divided, it’s now more than ever that the content you want is following you around wherever you go. Opponents of the .mobi say that the Internet should be fully free and device independent. Having different URLs for PCs and handhelds will lead to confusion, they feel.
Conceived by Nokia in 2000, the .mobi domain has already been snapped by most software, telecom and entertainment companies. The mobile web is expected to be the next big thing and the .mobi domain is readying things for that.
But why the mobile?
Says Motorola CTO Padmasree Warrior, “Two-thirds of the world still doesn’t have access to a computer. It’ more likely that the first communication device of these people will be a mobile and not a computer.”
There are many figures to back that. In 2006, it is projected that 1 billion mobiles will be sold. And what about Internet usage on the mobile? The GSM Association says that 1.3 billion people will be connected to the Internet through their mobile by 2008.
Even going on today, a recent Nokia report found that as much as 63% of smartphone users were using their handheld for Internet browsing. According to a BBC survey, 28% of their WAP users “did not visit the BBC website via a desktop computer, only via a mobile”.
The biggest thing in a mobile is that when compared to a PC or even a laptop, it has a much wider audience. One can be connected at all times and at all places. The future doesn’t even rule out an Internet-enabled mobile in your wristwatch.
Another big factor is m-commerce or mobile commerce. While right now downloading ringtones and games is a multi-billion dollar business, it is expected to go much beyond that. Services like mobile banking are already underway, but the biggest potential for the mobile is location-based services, where thanks to a little help from GPS, you’ll know exactly when and how to shop if you’re in a new place.
But why .mobi?
Well, there are two problems right now. The first is that there is not that much mobile content available. There is a need to create more of such content. The introduction of the .mobi extension may fuel the growth for web pages specifically for the handheld.
Secondly, while millions of people are already viewing web pages on the mobile, not all the pages are optimised. Some don’t open properly and others don’t show the whole page, keeping out key information.
Researchers are working on making web pages more and more palatable for handhelds. There’s DIAL (Device Independent Authoring Language) that will take into account different screen sizes and resolution of mobile devices. There’s also a move towards more interoperability between pages for both PCs and mobiles. USB drives with an inbuilt OS and programmes could also power small devices.
Developers have realized that though technology and computing power will change a lot, the screen size will be more or less the same. Whatever has to be done has to be done keeping that constraint in mind.
What’s already happening
Giants Google, MSN and Yahoo have already jumped on to the bandwagon. They all have mobile versions of their web portals. In fact Google Mobile not only searches through the Web for documents and images, but also searches through specifically the Mobile Web. Directory searches are currently among the easiest things that can be done.
Another example is Orange’s PocketThis service in the UK. The mobile service shows Times and Directions, the nearest subway stop, the nearest Wi-Fi location and services like “What’s nearby”.
Opera released the Opera Mini and claims that there are more than 3 million users. Recently even eBay went mobile using the Opera Mini.
Do you want a you.mobi?
In May, a Limited Industry Sunrise was launched and in June the Trademark Sunrise was launched. However the domain will be open to the general public much later.
DotMobi will launch the Landrush Registration Period from August 28 to September 10. For details of Indian registrars, you can check out:
It remains to be seen whether the .mobi domain enjoys the success that has been enjoyed by .com, .net, .edu, .org, .gov, .in etc.
The .mobi extension is also the first extension that is not meant for the computer, a point that has led to protests from people who believe that the Internet should be free and device independent.
Other dot extensions that are in the pipeline include:
.tel: This will serve as a text alternative to phone numbers for telephone services.
.kid: For child friendly sites
.asia: For Asian sites
.post: For the postal services
.mail: To identify non-spam mail
.xxx: A separate domain for pornographic sites. This should have been up by now, but may not see the light of day due to violent protests from certain quarters.
(This article appeared in the July 2006 edition of Living Digital magazine)