New .mobi Domain Approved but Challenges Remain

Action yesterday by the body that governs the Internet to create a .mobi domain is being touted as a major advance toward making the Web more hospitable to mobile phone users, but according to one analyst the move might be more redundant than revolutionary.

“The answer isn’t having another extension; the answer is having more applications and more capabilities for supporting mobile devices,” Gartner Group Research Vice President Phillip Redman told TechNewsWorld.

“If you’re a service provider, we don’t think that a top level domain is an answer to any of the problems that you’re having today,” he added.

Feeble Attraction

Among the problems that the carriers are grappling with is why so few mobile punters access the Web from their phones. According to one of those touting the .mobi domain, the GSM Association, there are 1.8 billion mobile users in the world but only 12 to 14 percent have ever used the Web from their phones.

By carving out an Internet domain for mobiles, companies such as Ericsson, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Telefonica Moviles, T-Mobile and Vodaphone believe more mobilistas can be lured to the Web by destinations that they can be sure will work fast, efficiently and effectively with their handsets.

“This is not a technical standard,” observed Paul Twomey, president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which approved the .mobi domain yesterday at a meeting in Luxemburg.

“It is geared toward what the sponsors think will offer Web sites andcontent to mobile users in a way that is easily accepted on present and future mobile devices,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Backed by Bodies and Bucks

The new domain will be administered by a company called mTLD Top Level Domain Ltd, of Dublin, Ireland, which reportedly will have 20 to 25 people and an annual budget of US$10 million to run the operation.

Before awarding the first .mobi names in the first half of next year, mTLD is expected to release some style guides, policies and snips of sample code for potential domain buyers.

Mark Elliott, a communications manager for Sprint, hailed the new domain as an important form of recognition for mobile users.

Getting Respect

“It shows that mobile technology and information that’s optimized for mobile use is getting a lot more respect based on the demand that consumers are showing for it,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“This is a really an interesting development in the future of mobiletechnology,” he added. “It’s a little too early to say what impact this will have because it will be up to the consumer to adopt it.”

According to Gartner’s Redman, though, the backers’ rationale behind the new domain contains a significant flaw.

“They’re assuming that anything that says mobi in it will work on your phone,” he maintained, “which isn’t necessarily the case because there are different browsers, different form factors of phone and different ways of interfacing.”

“That’s one of the biggest issues with mobile wireless,” he continued. “It’s not about the domain name. It’s about the device and the network and application working in harmony.”

No Boon for M-Commerce

Asked about the potential of the domain to boost electronic commerce through mobile phones, Redman contended that carriers have been doing quite well in that area so far without a specialized domain.

“If it’s buying ringtones and games, there’s obviously billions of dollars that’s been done already and I can’t see how this is going to help that,” he said.

“If it’s buying cars and houses and looking for mortgages on your mobile phone, that has nothing to do with the domain name,” he continued. “It has more to do with the needs and applications of those mobile users.”

“So I think it will have very little impact, and we will most likely not see very much of this in the next couple of years,” he added.

1 Comment

  • I’m surprised that 12-14% even surf the web on their mobile phones! I’ve had a lot of different mobile phones and carriers. The best ones I’ve seen are probably:
    Palm Treo
    Tmobile Sidekick (aka Danger Hiptop)
    These products allow you to actually surf the web the way that it was designed. They don’t give you any crappy, proprietary WAP pages. The worst thing to ever happen to mobile phones was WAP. If bandwidth were a problem — maybe. But, WAP only made sense when 1G phones were around and analog networks existed. Nowadays they are up to 2.5 or 3 G networks. There is plenty of bandwidth and color screens are getting bigger.
    The reason nobody uses the mobile web it America is because the providers are clueless. Have you ever tried signing up for a mobile package? First you choose a plan, then you choose a phone, oh… wait… your phone won’t work with that plan….. then you have to add text messaging, email, and web access separately. Those aren’t included. Oh yeah… and you need a separate plan for Internet access and if you want to do it on your computer you need to by an additional card. Then, you get billed in incremental bits and are nickeled and dimed to death by the providers. When all is said and done you can go to the provider’s content (that is preselected for you) and you can browse a bunch of crappy WAP pages on your tiny little phone screen.
    If you want to be the next billionaire…. here is what you need to do:
    1. Develop a phone that works with bluetooth accessories like your laptop computer or a battery powered handheld LCD touchscreen. So, you have one small cellular phone and add-on accessories that can "beam" the Internet to various locations. All you need is the phone and appropriate bluetooth receivers.
    2. Unf*ck the entire process of getting wireless Internet access! Have ONE plan that includes everything. Tell the customer — "For $80 a month you get X number of minutes. You can either spend them on voice or data…. your choice. If you go over X number of minutes you will be charged Y cents a minute." That’s it! That simple! Bundle everything in one simple plan and put a price tag on it. Don’t make the customer choose a bunch of stupid add-on options and plans. One plan that includes everything. For a good example of this check out the Tmobile Sidekick. $40 a month and includes voice and data. No extra BS. Just a simple plan.
    3. Hit up the BIG providers to offer these services for mobile: Sports, Weather, Stocks, Banking, Maps, Tickets, Chat. If you offer these basic services the other sites might come along and start producing content. HTML is already a nightmare as it is. Web designers don’t want to modify their content yet again to produce yet another version for yet another browser. If you want to solve this problem of content:
    a) Get rid of WAP. It sucks. Admit it and move on…
    b) Make the mobile phone browser’s smarter. Don’t make me dumb-down my Web surfing experience because I have a mobile phone. Make the browser display web pages properly. Check with Opera if you are confused.
    c) Educate HTML designers as to why they would want to design for mobile phones. Give them sites that show them how to do it.
    I’d love to surf the web with my phone. But, right now it sucks. It is not even worth the hassle of doing it. The screen is small, and I only get a crippled experience. So, when I want to surf the web I pull out my laptop and leave the phone alone. Make it a better experience for me and I will forget my laptop ever existed.

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