www on the Move

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)

Will you buy pizza from your TV?

While business on the Internet hasn’t taken off as much as predicted, the key could well be your mobile and the TV

When the Internet came, everyone talked of it replacing brick and mortar business altogether. But the dotcom crash happened. The second dotcom boom (for the key Internet companies anyway) looks like it’s here to stay. Also, business related to financial services, travel services and the casino are booming on the Internet.

So how close are we to having the Internet become the preferred choice for business? The truth is that a lot of companies still don’t use the Internet because they still don’t understand it. The Internet can do things for a business which no other medium can. For example, the Internet is so targeted, that it will not let you waste your time. Since it’s focused, Internet marketing is steadily gaining in popularity. And the future could well belong to contextual marketing. A case in point is Google AdSense. The revenue generated is on a per-click basis and advertisers feel that they get value-for-money.

Beam me up Scotty!

Says Fintan Orourke, CEO of Natural Search, “The Internet itself is going to change. In five years, we will be communicating with the Internet through the TV screen. The business of e-commerce will be through voice interaction. Imagine asking for a pizza directly from the TV screen.”

He also talks highly of handheld devices, saying, “It will be something like Star Trek. The way Captain Kirk said “Beam me up Scotty,” we’ll talk to our mobile and say “Find me a flight to Goa” or some such thing. Over time, TV and mobiles will be the most popular access devices for the Internet. The iPod and all will converge into the mobile phone.”

The mobile and the TV are among the most familiar and comfortable devices the world over. People trust the mobile and TV and they may be more open to doing business on the Internet through these two.

Where the world is headed to

Internet TV or peer-to-peer (P2P) TV could be the next big thing. In the long run, it will bring down operational costs and also help in accessing all kinds of content from the TV. The BBC and CCTV of China are already experimenting with P2P TV. BBC is working on Dirac, which is an algorithm encoding and decoding video and sound.

Another person who is backing Internet TV is Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. During the keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, he said, “The set-top boxes that have been connected up to cable can take a new generation of hardware and software and be far better. There’s a generation that can go even further as we get more video on-demand capability and literally anybody can watch any show at any time, even the ads can be targeted to you.”

Gates also added that Internet TV was where the world was going and that video, data and voice would finally come together.

Going mobile and how

While P2P TV looks like a revolution waiting to happen, the mobile convergence one is already happening. Mobiles are getting more and more sophisticated, screens are getting bigger and clearer. And when the 3G era finally arrives, then surfing on your mobile will not be such a painful process. Mobile ecommerce could be the next big thing. Wherever the size of the screen is not a limiting factor, the mobile will be the preferred device for accessing the Net. With mobiles getting cheaper, access is on the rise and sales are expected to top $1 billion by 2009.

The Internet is still evolving on handheld devices. Norway-based FastSearch and Transfer (FAST) has launched mSearch, which helps mobile users search for content on the Net. Starting with just ringtones, games and images, FAST believes that mobile search will be a big business in the long run. Yahoo has also tied up with Nokia and now the search giant’s data communications and entertainment services will be available with Nokia’s Series 60 mobiles. Google isn’t far behind and is also doing research on mobile search too.

(This article appeared in Living Digital magazine in October 2005)