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Mobile – one internet today, but moving to two

By March 5, 2007 24 Comments

Mobile internet 2 

People get pretty excited when debating whether mobile is sufficiently different to the fixed internet that we should think of it altogether differently.  I looked at this in October with my post One internet or two, and you can see from the comments how this question seems to polarise people.

In that post I argued for one web because:

  • The distinction between PC and mobile is collapsing.  There is a range of devices through 3G enabled laptops, to notebooks, to palm tops, to tablet PCs, to large smart phones, to small smart phones to mass market phones.  If there is no clear distinction in devices it seems wrong to me to distinguish in the sites you build.
  • The sites people look at on their mobiles are mostly the same as on the PC

Given these observations the arguments of ‘two web’ proponents such as the .mobi crowd (where my good friend Jo Rabin is active) about small screen, limited input capability and narrow bandwidth didn’t seem compelling.

However, at the end of the post I wrote:

[Entrepreneurs and VCs] need to look for things that are truly different on mobile – not different just because of screen size etc.

I don’t remember how I found the Communities Dominate Brands blog but it is excellent.  They have two recent posts on this subject – Mobile the 7th Mass Media and Role of the iPhone in 7th Mass Media.  Fantastic posts both, espescially the first, and take some time to read the comments.


Because author Tomi Ahonen offers a great list of four areas in which mobile is truly different.

These are more than the auto-tagging arguments we hear so much at the moment.  I am not sold on the argument that the ability to take pictures wherever you are and have them automatically geo and time stamped is a game changer.

I recommend the whole post, but in summary Tomi’s four points are (if you read his post he has five, I have collapsed two of them):

  1. The mobile is a uniquely identifiable device – so personalisation and targeting can be an order of magnitude better.  Every time you go back to a site it recognises your number.  The media owner can know with 100% accuracy when you visited his site and what you did whilst you were there.  No need to worry about cookies.
  2. It is always on and always with you – so you can have alert services.  Apparently seven out of ten people sleep with their mobile within arms reach – and most of them literally have their phone in bed with them.
  3. The phone has a built in payments channel – twice as many people have phones as credit cards and their is no 18 year age limit – combine this with unique identification and the result is truly revolutionary
  4. Mobile makes media input and creation unbelievably easy and convenient.  Simply snap and post to your blog or Flickr.

Tomi is an author, so he needs soundbites, but to him mobile will be to internet as TV was to radio.  Apparently over 25% of all internet access is already from mobile.

I buy all this.  For these reasons it will become sensible to build different services for the mobile web.  Timing will be everything though, and as we stand here today I don’t see the infrastructure in place that would persuade me to build for two internets rather than one. 

The change for me is that I am now watching and waiting for that day to come (and planning to get in ahead of it).  There are a few plays around already which play into this trend – Ray Anderson’s Bango and Shozu spring to mind.