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The Mobile Web – A Turbulent River

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Both Vint Cerf and Bill Gates have described the Internet as a tidal wave, however as mentioned in a previous post it may give a clearer picture if we think of the Internet or the World Wide Web as a river.

In this picture, we are not just thinking of the electronic infrastructure that connects all Internet participants, but rather the totality of what can be found in cyberspace including all those websites and the software and the devices that are used to participate. That indeed is a very turbulent river.

Turbulent River

This picture came to mind in thinking about a post by Ross Dunn on the Mobile Search Site Creation and Optimization session at the Search Engine Strategies (SES) Conference in New York. He describes sessions by Cindy Krum of Blue Moon Works and Rachel Pasqua, Director of Mobile Marketing at iCrossing. The two took diametrically different approaches to designing mobile websites.

Cindy Krum felt strongly that an existing website should pull double-duty as both the wired and the mobile version by using CSS to provide an alternative, mobile friendly version shown only to mobile users. On the other hand, Rachel Pasqua stated firmly that offering your current website to users, reformatted or not, would likely provide a less than desirable user experience. She went on to explain that mobile users should see an entirely different, more time efficient version of your website because such users are task oriented. In other words, Cindy was following the One Web principle while Rachel was using the Multi-Web practice.

That’s where old Heraclitus suggesting you cannot jump into the same river twice came to mind. Thinking back to a simpler world, the main problem was which browser you should design for. One history of browsers by Peter-Paul Koch suggests that following the browser wars from 1997-1999, you had a period of Explorer dominance from 1999 to 2003. Cindy Krum could have been giving her presentation in 2003 to help push the One Web message that web pages should use CSS style sheets and be satisfactory whatever the browser used. Even then the Internet river was somewhat turbulent and the One Web canoe had a bumpy ride. Some websites even now do not always display well in all the major browsers.

In 2004, the river was looking to become much more turbulent. The browser confusion continued but in addition a massively diverse set of devices was available. There was also the possibility of .mobi domains specifically for mobile devices. Well we now have dotmobi domains and websites. In addition there are many other players doing what they believe to be right and in their own interests on this Mobile web. The One Web canoe that might almost have worked in 2003 does not stand a chance in the extreme white-water rapids of the Internet river of 2007. So all strength to people like Rachel Pasqua, who are taking a practical approach to having websites that work.

Related: The Internet Tidal Wave

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