Seven simple thoughts about the Mobile Web

I've simplified my thinking about the Mobile Web. After years of hating everything about cellphone companies, subscription "plans," half-baked "standards," slow connections, crappy phone software and inept vendors, it's all becoming clear:

  1. There is no Mobile Web. There is only one Web, and it is the real Web. All the pseudo-Webs and WAP-services and walled-garden fakery are dead.
  2. Mobility is about interests and utility, not technology. Feeding your crappy old shovelware website is not a mobile strategy. Easy mobile access to the entire Web opens a broad field of opportunity. Pursue it.
  3. Your old website should Just Work. This is not a contradiction of the last point. When someone wants to use your website from a mobile browser for whatever reason, including following a link that someone sent them through Twitter, it should detect the user's browser and deliver an appropriately formatted page.
  4. There is a new baseline. Forget about everything below the iPhone - Blackberry Curve - Palm Pre - Google Android layer. Lesser phones are irrelevant and are going to be "accidentally" dropped into the sink before long anyway. The arrow points up, not down.
  5. Broadband changes everything. Did we not learn this when cable modems arrived in our homes? We're going to quit fighting slow connections, and if AT&T can't keep up, most of the places I go have free wi-fi already.
  6. We are mobile people. There is no Mobile Web, but in our mobility we will expect simple, direct, easy tools that meet our mobile needs. Those who provide them will win.
  7. People, not programmers, are what's important. Every programmer seems to want to build a downloadable app. It's an ego trip. Forget it. Make the Web work for people.


Yes, yes, yes! Completely agree. Item no. 3 on your list is a particular frustration of mine. I will never be an iPhone user unless they lose their AT&T exclusivity and come on over to Verizon. However, as a WinMo 6 user (eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Pre), I can't tell you how many times newspapers -- NEWSPAPERS! -- redirect me to their mobile or not-so-mobile home page even if the link I follow is to a specific article; or how many blog sites, not including this one but including sites from a lot of people who should know better, don't reformat at all. It takes forever for them to load, and you wind up with all kinds of stuff that you don't want and that really slow down access. I've bailed out of following many links because it was just making me too old, and yet newspapers wonder why they're losing audience. Huge pet peeve. Didn't think it even needed to be mentioned, but apparently it does ...

Couple of thoughts on your thoughts: Re #1: You'd think that this lesson would have been learned by now. Re #2: Anyone with a crappy shovelware website doesn't deserve much of an audience, much less a hip, mobile one. Re #3: Hallelujah! Re #4: I might put it a bit lower at Windows Mobile browsers. And I really wonder how much market share the iPhone, etc. are gonna capture compared to, say, the second-tier phones (like, say, the EnV and the Rant). Re #5: Yeah, but we're still waiting for 3G, WiMax, whatever to actually live up to the mobile broadband hype. And free wi-fi isn't nearly ubiquitous enough. Re #6: Simple, direct and easy. Should be tattooed on the inside of every developer's eyelids. Re #7: I would say that if you're gonna do an app, you'd better provide something above and beyond what the mobile Web itself can do or is doing. See, for example, the iPhone XKCD apps that display the alt text and Facebook's app that looks vastly better than the home page does on the real Web.

Most (online news org based) programmers that I know, understand very well the offerings of the typical online news operation can not really be improved on by stuffing them into a stand alone app. It IS ego, but not from the programmer's level, it is from those above them who don't really understand the medium or its capabilities.

Point 4 is the one you've got very wrong, and the reason that a bunch of the others like points 1,3,5 are also not 100% correct. Your point of departure is being a geek in a technically advanced country that discovered mobile technology late. Typical of the USA, UK where broadband internet was prevalent before mobile took off in any meaningful way. Look at markets with under-developed internet infrastructure where mobile devices have become the dominant network access devices and you see a very different picture. In countries like Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and others, nobody throws away phones that work. Nor can most users afford high-end phones like Android, Blackberry, iPhone and others - in these markets Samsung, Nokia, Sony Ericsonn dominate, and the "mobile web" is very different to what you browse from your iPhone in the USA. Have a look at the Buzzcity campaign planner for a more balanced view of what's going on around the world

You're right, news Web sites, the articles, photos, videos should work on mobile phones like they work on computers. Mobile news apps, however, bypass unneeded user steps. Instead of clicking Safari, waiting Safari to load and typing my newspaper's Web site and waiting for it to load, mobile apps allow users access to news in one click. Computers are starting to mimic this technology with applications like Fluid ( But there are more reasons why apps are important. For example, I can't make the Web work where the Web doesn't exist. I download the Wall Street Journal using an iPhone app every morning and read the news while I'm underground on the Metro without Internet service. More importantly, mobile apps allow programmers to use technology unavailable in a browser. Instead of keeping news possibilities as they are, we can experiment with what news can be. Mobile phones, like the iPhone 3GS, allows for possibilities like augmented reality and, soon, possibilities like the News Flash from the Future session with IDEO ( We can do more and we can do better when we utilize technology in new ways without hanging on to the past. That's not my ego talking, that's my excitement for the future.

I agree with every single word you have written in this article. All this stuff like WAP and so on is really necessary. There is one and only WEB and we must follow it's rules. But you know sometimes making another website version, just for mobile phones really helps. I mean you can make less scrolling and so on, why not? If I clearly understood you, your statement is that people will read your website through their mobile phone despite the fact that it will be not comfortable to do that yes? I don't fully agree with you at this point, because for example I am always shutting down those websites that are not comfortable for me and searching for alternatives. However thanks for the great article and I will be waiting for more great ones in the nearest future. Thanks! Sincerely, Rick Davidson from mobile development

I am also agree with you, Its all depends on strategy and ideas and the way you delivered it, Today almost every single company are focusing to build better environment for mobile applications and its development like Android, Blackberry, iPhone and others - in these markets Samsung, Nokia, Sony Ericsonn dominate, and the "mobile web" is very different to what you browse from your iPhone in the USA. So every single users are able to understand the way market growing. Thanks Regards, Ben Williams From Technology News