Mobile Web Best Practices Working Group News

Mobile Web: the dark horse of mobile data services? — 21 April 2006

At events like 3GSM and CTIA, the mobile community talks a lot about "mobile content" these days. But Web access is almost completely absent in these discussions. Mobile content means music downloads, multimedia messaging and, of course, mobile TV - not Web access.

But the market seems to tell a different story - over the last six months, good news on mobile Web use has been pouring in - two particular milestones:

  • In October 2005, Nokia published this figure, comparing the number of data packets generated by different data services for "smartphone" users: Datapackets per data service

    As you can see, browsing tops the list! The advance of browsing was even more pronounced when users were using 3G services. Of course, there were some caveats. For example, the experiment was run in certain regions, and results would look differently in other regions (more caveats available from Nokia). Nevertheless, this is impressive, and may even surprise many people.

  • At the "MWI launch event" in November 2005, the BBC reported that the number of requests to their mobile content had nearly doubled in 2005, and was approaching the 250 Million mark (see slide 3 in the BBC presentation). What's more, 28% of the mobile users only accessed the content from a mobile phone - they did not access BBC content from a desktop machine.

And there has been more good news recently (see Opera press release, news.com story on "Mobile browsing becoming mainstream")

Another point: I would argue that the potential audience for mobile Web access could equal the potential audience for mobile TV. The Web has become a true mass medium, quickly approaching the phone service or even (gasp!) television - check out "JupiterResearch Finds Online Consumers Spend As Much Time Online As In Front Of The TV", which includes the following insights:

  • "the Internet is becoming the most important medium for a large segment of the American public"
  • "the average online consumer spends 14 hours a week online, which is the same amount of time they watch TV"
  • "TV and newspaper companies risk losing an entire generation of users unless they immediately start promoting their online products"

What's more, mobile Web access has a head-start over mobile TV in terms of deployment. In contrast to handsets supporting mobile TV, handsets supporting mobile Web access are already deployed, and seem to be very widespread - according to data provided by Informa the majority of mobile handsets are already "web-enabled" - there are 1.1 billion Web-capable handsets world-wide!

Of course, today, this is only a potential audience, although it seems to be growing quickly. It will grow even faster if we can fix the problems that mobile Web access has today - and that's what W3C's "Mobile Web Initiative" is all about!

Philipp Hoschka Permalink

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Contacts: Daniel Appelquist, Jo Rabin, Chairs
Dominique Hazaël-Massieux and François Daoust, W3C Team Contacts