Playdo CEO Donnie Lygonis planted the idea for this post in my mind following the conference yesterday. He was telling me about a presentation he gave in which he was arguing that the mobile web today is like the wired was in 1997. I think he is roughly right, which is perhaps surprising given how long we have all been investing in it.
For me the key points of similarity between the web in 1997 and the mobile web today are:
- Narrow bandwidth
- High latency
- Browser wars
- Network operators trying to own the value chain (remember the portal wars between ISPs?)
- Geeks enthusing rest of the world not getting it – look at the scepticism today from many quarters about whether mobile advertising can work
Noting the parallels in stage of development is not to deny the important differences between mobile and the wired web. The heterogeneity of devices and OS’s, plus the small screen and limited input capabilities make mobile more difficult, whilst the fact that it is always on, always with you (i.e. mobile), has a camera and knows your location give it extra dimensions of potential.
As we know, the tipping point on the wired web came when broadband hit critical mass in terms of penetration. So it will probably be on mobile. But, and this is the critical point for me as a VC, all the really valuable internet businesses today were founded long before that point.
As I’m sure I’ve said before, timing is everything for young companies and the timing is (finally) starting to feel right for the mobile internet. Google was founded in 1998 after all.
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