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10/1/2007
09:46 AM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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The Top Five Reasons The Mobile Web Rocks

Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 last week claimed that, bluntly, the mobile Web sucks. Karp is a blogger for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect, but, on this topic, he's totally wrong.

Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 last week claimed that, bluntly, the mobile Web sucks. Karp is a blogger for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect, but, on this topic, he's totally wrong.I'll grant that the mobile Web isn't perfect. Neither is the desktop Web, for that matter. I'll also concede that the mobile Web can be slow and that latency is still a big issue, even on 3G networks. But even if we concede all of this, the mobile Web still offers access to the entire Internet from almost any place at any time. If that's not cool, I don't know what is.

1. 3G Networks Are Fast And Getting Faster. 3G is here and thanks to the advance in network speeds, users can access content on their smartphones and other Web-enabled handsets from much of the world. While 3G still isn't as fast as desktop broadband, it's pretty good. And with mobile broadband services for laptops, like Verizon Wireless' BroadbandAccess, you can be amazingly productive on the road with broadband speeds that are close to DSL quality.

2. Public Wi-Fi Is Widely Available. OK, Mr. Karp, I can understand why you're annoyed with many paid Wi-Fi hotspot services, like those from T-Mobile and AT&T. For the casual user, they're expensive (daily access can range from $7 to $10 a day, with most hotspots in the $10 a day range). And in Europe, they're insanely expensive. But if you subscribe to a monthly service for one provider, you can usually roam for a discounted rate on the Wi-Fi networks of the other providers (and in some cases, roaming can be free).

For many users, public hotspot services are often cheaper than 3G data plans -- especially from carriers like T-Mobile, which bundles Wi-Fi with its EDGE data plans. And if your travel is limited to major metro areas, it can be almost as ubiquitous as 3G. What major U.S. city doesn't have more Starbucks locations than air molecules?

3. Mobile Web Sites Are Easier To Read And Access Than They Used To Be. I remember back in 2002 when accessing mobile Web sites on most smartphones was a truly painful experience. Load times were insane -- try accessing a mobile Web site that's not optimized for cell phones on a GPRS connection. It's pretty painful.

I do share Karp's criticism of surfing the Web on the iPhone. Who really wants to read a Web page that's designed for a 15-inch monitor on a device the size of a smartphone? But thanks to dotMobi and WAP, we don't have to deal with this problem. There are many Web sites optimized for mobile devices. This means the sites are easy to access on most cell phones and page load times are fast. On some mobile Web sites, blazingly fast.

4. Location, Location, Location. If mobility has any advantage over the desktop Web, it's the potential of location-based services. Location has the promise to make existing applications such as push e-mail, social networking, and IM more powerful. Location will also lead to all kinds of cool, new applications we haven't even thought about, all made possible by the power of being mobile.

5. There Is Still Very Little Advertising On The Mobile Web. This is a win-win for both consumers and advertisers. By using the Web on your cell phone, you can avoid all of the ads that gum up the desktop Web. Even search on Google is noticeably free of ads. Though, given Google's moves in this realm, don't expect this to last for much longer.

For advertisers, the third screen is a fresh, untapped resource of leads. Since mobile ads are still new, they can generate impressive results for marketers. Not that I am saying anyone should go out and start ruining my own mobile Web experience with tons of new ads.

Thanks to these advances, we know more people are using the mobile Web, including consumers in the United States. And as the networks and the devices continue to improve, and new features like location are embedded in more mobile applications, more people will continue to use the mobile Web.

For much of the developing world, the mobile Web will likely be the only Web billions of people ever access. Put simply, mobile, not the desktop, is the global future of the Web.

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