Mobile Search

This article will look at problems facing mobile search and some of the solutions (both present and proposed) that are being proffered. First we’ll define the problem and then we’ll look at Google Android.

I can see the future…………..

Mobile Search

Everyone has heard about Google Android. Okay, maybe not everybody has heard about it, but many have. I will come up with references to educate the uninitiated, but right now we will look at what this platform hopes to do for mobile search. It aims to answer a major problem facing mobile-application developers: how to make developing applications for mobile devices as open and easy as developing applications for the Web. 

Experts, users, and other "stakeholders" (what’s at stake?) agree that accessing the web from a handheld device or phone is vastly different from accessing it from a computer. Mobile users get the bare bones version of a Web site, with fewer applications, add-ons, and software. Combine this with an awful user interface and bad ergonomics, and accessing the web on a mobile device becomes a bit of a nightmare. The problems facing mobile Internet use have been blamed on networks, the mobile device itself, the software, the hardware, and the lack of a clear leader in the category, forcing developers to build their applications to work on a multiplicity of platforms.

The Problem

With ten billion devices projected to be Internet capable by 2010, we are facing an explosion in mobile search. Nonetheless, currently, Google has a totally separate platform for mobile web search and not every website is optimized SEO-wise for current levels of technology. This combined with the wide variety of mobile phone devices with differing technology leads to inefficient and uncomfortable browser capabilities. Phones come in all different shapes and sizes. They have different graphics and processing capabilities, which causes a problem for the less sophisticated "feature phones" that make up the vast majority of the market.

{mospagebreak title=The WAP Problem}

WAP will not be the way mobile phones access websites in the years to come. With XHTML being relatively more viewable than HTML, WAP should (and probably will) be pushed aside, since it violates the end-to-end principles of the Internet. What all this means is that a new protocol may also have to be created apart from the new software. The current situation, in which the mobile phone has a gateway middle man between it and the web, is basically inefficient and is one of the major problems for mobile Internet.

Not Only Apps And Devices, But Carriers

Applications need to be modified depending on the telecommunications carrier. Several networks carry 3G , but others have some other standard that may be incompatible with the device. Carriers cripple the functionality of their phones. Software has to be modified to accommodate that carrier. Early users of mobile devices suffer with rendering problems, awkward interfaces, and unfriendly key pads. The carriers, the devices, and the software are all part of an incompatible morass of details that simply (right now) don’t work together.

Follow the Money

Right now the money is in voice. But with ten billion devices projected to be online in two years time and two billion cell phones around the world right now, all the major players in the telecom industry (and the search industry) are looking into making money from cell phone ads. Well, apart from the ads that could make networks billions, there is the increasing number of people who are just breaking into the cell phone market in developing countries. And there’s even the possibility of poaching slower telecom companies’ subscribers, if one of the telecom companies come up with a distinct and clear competitive advantage.

Mobile ads are the next Internet gold rush, with companies hoping the current model, which locks clients into long term contracts, will allow them to win big. The worst thing that could happen to the telecom companies is if the current system is broken open and mobile becomes a free-for-all like the current Internet market. Right now, the oligopoly of companies pretty much set the prices without rocking the boat. And they are in no serious hurry to cut each other’s profits to compete seriously.

When web search becomes a norm online, the network that goes in first is going to steal a march on the rest of the competition. And yet…one company hoped to popularize it with the iPhone; instead, we hear more and more about iPhones being unlocked to run on other networks. And both Apple and its partner have come in for a storm of criticism for locking it down.

Web search is a problem. Web applications for mobile devices are a problem and the system seems set to give consumers a raw deal. But this article is not about the amount of money this service will cost, it is about searching for clear and present solutions to the issue of mobile web search and how to effectively optimize a website when that day arrives.

{mospagebreak title=The Other Problem}

Before we start looking at all the options offered for solving SEO issues in mobile web, let us look at some surveys by Harris Interactive (here). They show that only a quarter of cell phone users are receptive to banner ads on their phones, text-based or otherwise. However, they are attracted to relevant context ads returned alongside search results. Unless a new model of advertising is found to be better than the current system on the web, the current model will bring in the traffic from mobile search.

So far, we have discussed what has gone on in the past. We will look at the present, which includes the iPhone and .mobi sites. And we will look at new software that may revolutionize mobile search in the future. They will be powered by new devices and maybe (we can only hope) new systems and business practices.

The Apple Effect

The Apple effect is so astounding that it is anti-climatic. Gadget hounds have integrated the iPhone into their ensemble with little or no complaints. The word used to describe it seems to be a cliche, but in the case of the iPhone, that word comes naturally. The system is intuitive and the user interface makes web search easy. Physically interacting with it is easy. It is a complicated device that is unbelievably easy to use.

But enough of me spouting about how great the iPhone is. Let’s look at what has happened with it. Using the iPhone to search the web is painless. Now, not only can you peruse e-mails, but web pages and Google Maps can be used regularly, and all in a way that allows the full potential of web sites to be viewed. No images are cut out and text is read easily.

This is a portent of what we have coming in the future, since the iPhone is already here and more devices and supporting software are coming. Once developers are able to develop add ons that can work on various hardware, instead of the current mess we have (companies seeking to keep third party operating systems out of their phones), we could see a situation in which phones go to a browser-style arrangement, instead of hardware companies trying to develop software, or even worse, software companies, such as Symbian, creating software that is incompatible with applications built by other companies.

{mospagebreak title=Android Inc}

Jkabaseball scooped this story up before I could (kudos to him) and it is here on SEO Chat. Android is another piece of software — a platform really — that Google is hoping will catch on in terms of mobile web browsing. For now, the telecoms are leery, but Google is a little like the bull in the china shop – you ignore them at your own peril. A lot of what I will say in this article has already been hashed by jkabaseball, so you should check out his article (if you have not already).

Android will close down a problem, a big problem that the Apple iPhone did not solve, which is opening software to third party applications. Right now, the iPhone is a black box and is closed to third party applications. Android is based on Linux and will be open source. Companies that may jump on Android’s back include Research in Motion. Android should increase the ease of use and the versatility of mobile web search.

Although mobile devices and the networks that support them are improving, it seems like the mobile Web is almost a secret these days because sites can be hard to locate and have little content when you find them.   the .mobi team


This platform deserves its own article. It should still be researched, but this works to ensure that existing websites can make themselves viewable by current technology on phones. The company, whose website can be found at, gives domain name registration to the .mobi domain and enables you to build websites that can easily be viewed from any mobile device. This still gives website owners the problem of creating two sites instead of one, but at least website owners have a choice. Most websites that are heaven on an iPhone are miserable on (dare I say it) the Vonage Voyager (or any other "smart phone").

The company (nicknamed dotmobi) gives tools that allow firms to build mobile accessible websites. Quite a number of major companies have obtained top level dotmobi domain names. SEO has become more important than ever with all the devices that will be used to search for things online and all the search revenue to be had. More than ever, old approaches have to be tested to check their compatibility with new technology.

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