The Growing Mobile Web

Since the beginning of the find.mobi project, I’ve been charged with building its index, and so I’ve been crawling a lot of web sites. This has given me a good vantage point from which to view the growth of the mobile web, and to notice general trends. The overall impression I have today is of a continuous growth in content and new sites, but no tidal wave just yet. Broadly speaking, most of the leading desktop site owners have thought about their mobile visitors, and have created a mobile version of their site, even if they don’t especially promote it. They are leading by example because of their popularity, in the same way the iPhone raises awareness of the existence of mobile web (even if users tend to confuse it as an “iPhone-web”).
Another trend is of large numbers of personal and small business websites, which, akin to the late 90’s, are mostly simple “presence pages” with company details or a few lines of personal information.

As I crawl the web to build the find.mobi index I try to discover the mobile version of a site, if one exists. To do this I try attaching the following common patterns to the base URL, both as prefix (subdomain) and suffix (the path): wap, m, mobi, mobile, imode, xhtml. These represent the most common conventions used to identify mobile versions of a website. Note that dotMobi domains are purposely omitted from this list since we don’t need to “discover” them for the find.mobi index since we know them already.

It’s interesting to see how the most popular URL conventions measure up:

  • 1st position: wap.site.com and site.com/mobile
  • 2nd : site.com/wap
  • The “wap” name is still popular, especially a lot of WAP1.0 Asian sites.

  • 3th: site.com/m
  • 4th: mobile.site.com
  • 5th: m.site.com
  • and then various combinations with “mobi”, “imode”, “xhtml” …

Overall there are around 0.2% of web domains that have a mobile version. (This is not a precise figure but a rough estimation based on the millions of domains I’ve crawled)

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