A couple of months ago, Russell Beattie wrote a post about the end of his startup entitled The end of Mowser which is excerpted below

The argument up to now has been simply that there are roughly 3 billion phones out there, and that when these phones get on the Internet, their vast numbers will outweigh PCs and tilt the market towards mobile as the primary web device. The problem is that these billions of users *haven't* gotten on the Internet, and they won't until the experience is better and access to the web is barrier-free - and that means better devices and "full browsers". Let's face it, you really aren't going to spend any real time or effort browsing the web on your mobile phone unless you're using Opera Mini, or have a smart phone with a decent browser - as any other option is a waste of time, effort and money. Users recognize this, and have made it very clear they won't be using the "Mobile Web" as a substitute for better browsers, rather they'll just stay away completely.

In fact, if you look at the number of page views of even the most popular mobile-only websites out there, they don't compare to the traffic of popular blogs, let alone major portals or social networks.

Let me say that again clearly, the mobile traffic just isn't there. It's not there now, and it won't be.

What's going to drive that traffic eventually? Better devices and full-browsers. M-Metrics recently spelled it out very clearly - in the US 85% of iPhone owners browsed the web vs. 58% of smartphone users, and only 13% of the overall mobile market. Those numbers *may* be higher in other parts of the world, but it's pretty clear where the trend line is now. (What a difference a year makes.) It would be easy to say that the iPhone "disrupted" the mobile web market, but in fact I think all it did is point out that there never was one to begin with.

I filed away Russell's post as interesting at the time but hadn't really experienced it first hand until recently. I recently switched to using Skyfire as my primary browser on my mobile phone and it has made a world of difference in how a use my phone. No longer am I restricted to crippled versions of popular sites nor do I have to lose features when I visit the regular versions of the page. I can view the real version of my news feed on Facebook. Vote up links in reddit or Digg. And reading blogs is no longer an exercise in frustration due to CSS issues or problems rendering widgets. Unsurprisingly my usage of the Web on my phone has pretty much doubled.

This definitely brings to the forefront how ridiculous of an idea it was to think that we need a "mobile Web" complete with its own top level domain (.mobi). Which makes more sense, that every Web site in the world should create duplicate versions of their pages for mobile phones and regular browsers or that software + hardware would eventually evolve to the point where I can run a full fledged browser on the device in my pocket? Thanks to the iPhone, it is now clear to everyone that this idea of a second class Web for mobile phones was a stopgap solution at best whose time is now past. 

One other thing I find interesting is treating the iPhone as a separate category from "smartphones" in the highlighted quote. This is similar to a statement made by Walt Mossberg when he reviewed Google's Android. That article began as follows

In the exciting new category of modern hand-held computers — devices that fit in your pocket but are used more like a laptop than a traditional phone — there has so far been only one serious option. But that will all change on Oct. 22, when T-Mobile and Google bring out the G1, the first hand-held computer that’s in the same class as Apple’s iPhone.

The key feature that the iPhone and Android have in common that separates them from regular "smartphones" is that they both include a full featured browser based on Webkit. The other features like downloadable 3rd party applications, wi-fi support, rich video support, GPS, and so on have been available on phones running Windows Mobile for years. This shows how important having a full Web experience was for mobile phones and just how irrelevant the notion of a "mobile Web" has truly become.

Note Now Playing: Kilo Ali - Lost Y'all Mind Note


Friday, October 31, 2008 10:19:42 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The experience is better with a full browser, yes - I use the "real" web on my iPhone all the time.

But links on "full" pages are still painfully small on the typical smart phone screen, and hard to hit, especially if you're reliant on fingers and not a stylus. Zooming, while useful I see as a stop-gap measure, its too easy to lose your context if you have to keep zooming around, not to mention time consuming.

So I think there is still an argument to be made for performing some mobile-specific optimisations and layouts. Google Reader springs to mind as having a particularly good mobile reading experience...I actually chill in bed and read my Google Reader feed on the iPhone after waking up from the alarm, sad I know...
Friday, October 31, 2008 11:13:25 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Not all web sites need to be optimized for mobile devices. However, the more a web site resembles an application the more optimization is required. It is ridiculous to think that all interfaces can be useable on both an HDTV display and a device that fits in your pocket.
Friday, October 31, 2008 12:44:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
We at Mippin would say that web browsing solutions on devices such as an iPhone or G1 still require considerable effort on the part of the user, zooming in to view articles, openeing and closing new windows and so on. We believe in one web, but it's our belief that an intermediate formatting option exists where the best content from the internet can be delivered through a service that's considerably easier to view and consume on an iPhone or G1. Take a look at http://mippin.com through any mobile browser and let us know your thoughts. Incidentally Mippin is available for any phone, not just high end, and the experience is always fantastic! - in the last year we have seen some tremendous usage from users with medium to lower end phones. More info at www.mippin.com
Saturday, November 1, 2008 8:44:41 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

I made this realization back about the time that WROX (so pre-2003) put out a book on WAP/WML, way back in the dark ages of the pre-mobile web. That particular standard was developed because mobile devices were not considered to be versatile enough to work on the web, and so special limited access interfaces had to be created. Problem was, nobody implemented them in the same way, and the only "web" that sprung up around WML were those pages pushed by the device manufacturer through a painful gateway.

I don't think, five or six years later, that this situation has changed much, save that the devices have become more sophisticated. Few web developers think about mobile as a platform, and even fewer are willing to give up the flashy AJAX tricks and tips they've picked up in order to hit that "sweet spot" of Nokia users, for instance. Perhaps, in fact, that this should be something intrinsic to the browser, rather than the web designer - handling optimization of sites for mobile users through the browser interface.

This also makes one of the stronger cases for XForms. XForms gives you device independence (in theory) while at the same time remaining agnostic about the specific user interface implementations. As such XForms makes a lot of sense in this context.
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