Someone once asked me whether I knew where mobile search was going, and how I thought it would be monetized. I didn’t know then and I do not know now; but whatever is in the future of mobile search, www.mtld.mobi is definitely going to be in the future of mobile technology. I mentioned the Dublin-based company briefly in my last article on mobile search here on SEO Chat; you can just skip to the last page of the article to view the relevant excerpts.
When the mobile web took off with WAP, I wondered whether the Internet would be stuck in that phase. I browsed hundreds of websites from various Sony Ericsson mobiles and Nokia phones, and each time I can honestly say having a tooth pulled was a better experience (even though I have never had a tooth pulled). This, by the way, was after coughing up extra lire to have the "privilege" of first a 2.5G and then a 3G network; the only one marginally acceptable was the EDGE network.
Fortunately, web site design is currently progressing so quickly that certain products can make relatively low end devices browse the Internet with some modicum of ease. It is for this reason that dotMobi is around.
.mobi is rapidly making strides despite its relative novelty. It has made headlines with several large domain sales: Flowers.mobi for $200,000, Sportsbook.mobi for $129,800 and Fun.mobi for $100,000. DotMobi ( i will be using .mobi and dotMobi interchangeably) is a top level domain name which gives its clients certain requirements to meet to ensure the clients deliver their content to users to handheld devices.
DotMobi provides free tools for creating websites and also offers training and ebooks for creating mobile web compatible websites. DotMobi has its adherents and its critics; it was an organization that allied with the W3C Mobile Web Initiative (MWI) to help formulate the MWI Best Practices for mobile content. Basically we’re looking at a situation where the service provider writes the rules.
This article will look at dotMobi, its advantages, its device dependence properties and several criticisms which have followed the TLD provider. Also I will write about the support platforms dotMobi offers to its customers and people interested in mobile technology, and how it is actively developing its reach in mobile web site creation.
I will first look at dotMobi’s current acquisition of Mowser, and whether the mobile web as a separate field can exist in the Internet of the future.
" There are one billion Internet users and almost two billion mobile users. DotMobi will revolutionize the use of Internet via mobile devices, it will be the first choice destination for mobile Internet. It is a great opportunity. " Telecom Italia
Russell Beattie (a co-founder of Mowser) announced that www.mowser.com would be shutting down as a provider of mobile technology for the Internet. The one-year-old company was wracked by debt and Russel Beattie issued a damning indictment of the North American Internet community, stating that he had expected development of the mobile web in the West to follow the upward trajectory of Japan and Korea, but is now sure it isn’t going to.
Mowser develops technology for browsing websites from mobile phones. According to their website, "Mowser mobilizes the web by taking HTML pages normally viewed on a PC and adapts them so they work on a mobile phone. During this translation process, Mowser converts the page in a predictable, linear manner." DotMobi snapped them up almost immediately; a report on dotMobi buying Mowser can be found here. DotMobi plans to integrate Mowser technology into new business-grade and consumer-grade mobile development tools, and to include aspects of it into dotMobi’s popular content creation tools like http://find.mobi, DeviceAtlas and http://ready.mobi.
This technology works for both blogs and websites, and developers can find resources and code examples for their web applications at their wiki page here. The plug-ins on this page allow for modification of WordPress blogs and also for web sites.
As a web developer I would really love to see where this will take web development in the future. With the particular plug-in for word press found here, the developer can redirect devices that seem to be mobile devices to the Mowser version of his/her blog. It also adds headers to the HTML that WordPress generates to inform indexes that any inbound mobile requests should go through Mowser instead of getting adapted by the search provider. You can also use domain redirection to provide a mobile domain which can be configured to use that instead of going to mowser.com.
To anybody who is still wondering exactly how all this is going to affect SEO, any technology that changes how web sites are designed and what devices are connected to the Internet is going to create new and unique marketing channels which we cannot even imagine. Indeed, .mobi may even replace WAP as the default for the mobile web; everybody interested in the future of mobile search and monetizing the mobile web has to watch trends, and if necessary jump on them – on the Internet, not jumping on a band wagon can be fatal. Let’s now look at the advantages of dotMobi for SEO and accessing websites from mobile devices.
At DeviceAtlas dotMobi is assembling a comprehensive database of the mobile features of ALL mobile devices (well, maybe not all, but certainly a large number). The complete listing of devices that are supported is here. With DeviceAtlas, dotMobi is seeking to solve one of the knottiest problems facing mobile web developers, which is the myriad of different devices and platforms and operating systems which proliferate with mobile devices. According to their web site, "Understanding the differences and similarities between those thousands of mobile devices is an important part of modern mobile development. And yet finding detailed and accurate information about them – and then using it sensibly – is remarkably difficult."
If not for anything else, dotMobi should be commended for providing this comprehensive resource. One of the reasons they are able to provide ALL of this information is because they are financed and supported by a consortium of all the major telecom device companies. DotMobi is financially backed and sponsored by Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Ericsson, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Telefónica Móviles, Telecom Italia Mobile, Orascom Telecom, GSM Association, Hutchison Whampoa, Syniverse Technologies, and VISA, with an executive from each company having a seat on dotMobi’s board of directors.
DotMobi sites are optimized for viewing on a mobile phone. The man with the mouse is guaranteed a site optimized for usage on the go. This means device design parameters such as screen size, device form/size, device I/O options, existence of embedded sensors (acceleration, location, touch, light/darkness, ambient noise), and ergonomic factors and intuitiveness are taken into consideration. Although a dot com address can be adapted to mobile devices, most of them are not. DotMobi ensures that web content is properly optimized for the mobile devices.
"Ultimately, dotMobi will enable users to find predictable content and services from the businesses that provide them. This will have a major and significant impact on both the mobile and Internet industries." Microsoft
www.ready.mobi and www.dev.mobi serve as web sites which dotMobi provides for developers. Ready.mobi serves as a diagnostic tool for pages and whole websites. It gives previews of what the site will look like for different devices. It does part-by-part analysis of all the problems, runs tests and gives a prognosis of things that need to be changed with the site.
I did a few test runs with my personal tech-blog and got a mark of one out of five (extremely bad). Feeling ill-tempered, I tested seochat.com, and the grade was equal to mine. That made me feel better, but then I started worrying about all the Nokia users not reading my extremely well-written articles (all due to my editor [he said it, I didn't, but who am I to disagree? --Ed.]). Ready.mobi is simply a must-use tool for any mobile developer, and hence for anybody aiming SEO at mobile users.
It should be noted that dotMobi bases the tests used at ready.mobi on several tests which are recommended by W3C to standardize pages for the mobile web. You should also note that one of the two editors of the recommendation paper is from dotMobi, while the other editor is Google. Google takes mobile search quite seriously, as can be noted by the fact that they have a separate engine for WAP and mobile-enabled sites. The amount of work dotMobi is putting into the mobile web, and the amount of co-operation they are getting from the device makers, is unprecedented.
Dev.mobi brings everything together on one web site: training, support, links to DeviceAtlas and ready.mobi, e-books – the whole nine yards of training and resources when it comes to mobile web development. Also on this website are articles by various experts in mobile technologies and application. Sort of what dev is to developers, devmobi (it sounds alike now that I think about it) is to mobile web developers.
According to Tom Berners-Lee’s article stating the irrelevance of top multiple level domains, found here, the .mobi TLD will have a drastically detrimental effect on the Web. By partitioning the HTTP information space into parts designed to be accessed by mobile devices and parts designed (presumably) not for such access, an essential property of the Web is being destroyed.
He stated that the Web must operate independently of the hardware, software or network used to access it. Berners-Lee is very clear in his belief that dividing the Internet into segments (mobile web and "immobile" web) is not good, and that programming device dependence will not work over the long term, since it will encourage some redundant content on the web.
The fact is, Berners-Lee is probably right, but the mobile companies want this (dotMobi that is) — they want a device-dependent Internet, since this will reduce the amount of work they have to do. Heck, now they won’t even have to do what the iPhone did. It’s like having a problem with shoplifting and saying everything will be okay if you change your genetic code (instead of just stopping shoplifting).
The device companies do not want to have to build devices that can comfortably use any type of browser; they want to keep pushing their own software, their own platforms, their own SDKs, no matter how bad, unusable or otherwise complicated it is. Until a telco comes out with a handset maker and says that they are teaming up to develop and push open standards, and until it catches on, every telco and device maker is going to keep black boxing their hardware and software and trying to make sure developers make apps that can work on their devices (and LG’s devices, and Samsung’s devices and Acer’s devices).
This said, dotMobi is useful, but only because the device makers and the telcos want to keep everybody out of their lucrative fringe business of selling games and ring tones from telco and device maker stores, tying customers to the whole package. As long as this system remains in place, SEO has an obligation to do what is best for its clients and for the users by making sure that every marketing channel is covered — but we should keep hoping somebody out there is working on a truly disruptive system that will open the mobile web to open standards and device independent software.