Mobile first, Web Second

As someone who's been as much immersed in the business as the technical end of the mobile Internet for the last few years, I'll have to admit that it is often not an easy sell to clients. By clients I'm referring to businesses, big and small and in-between, rather than OpCos – the operators themselves – who frankly deserve a rant of their own, so I'll stick to the former here.

The problem has it's origins in the original launch of WAP and how marketing bunnies around the World promised "the Internet on your phone" and how, when we instead got an often unreliable teletext service with poor content, the public, unsurprisingly, turned against the idea. You'd think we'd learned from our mistake. Unfortunately this is often not the case.

The issue with calling it the mobile Web is that it creates a false and, in some regards, limited expectation of what it is to potential clients. It conjures up an image in their minds of a purely content driven application, and while importantly ubiquitous, limits the scope for how it may be exploited for both end users' and their benefit alike. Clients already can get their heads around the limited idea of browsing on their mobile phone, yet time and time again we place ultimate emphasis on this rather than those benefits that clients are not aware of; location based services, WTA or even the parallel use of MMS or midlets. These become afterthoughts – add-on's to a mobile Web site that will never be quite as rich or user friendly as the ones we are used to on the Internet.

A lesson can be learned from MMS – the technology formerly known as WAP. Essentially by rebranding a subset of the technology and better managing user expectations of what it was and could do, it avoided the same negative comparisons and could be viewed as a separate proposition in itself.

In short, what sells the mobile Web is not how it is similar to the desktop Web, but how it differs.

The mobile Web is a phenomenal platform to build and exploit applications. But until even we, the industry who build them, stop thinking of it as primarily "the Internet on your phone", both users and clients will see it as little more than a poor man's browser, making it a far harder ROI to sell to potential clients.

Gaddo F Benedetti (gaddo at gaddo dot net)

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