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MWI: Leading Mobile Web Access to Its Full Potential — 14 June 2007

Recently I was forced to present my thoughts on the Mobile Web Initiative in a more coherent from than the continuous chit-chat of e-mails, online chats, phone conferences, face-to-face meetings and blog entries that usually characterizes our discourse. So here's a text that for that purpose, describing the promise and potential of the mobile Web access, and what W3C's Mobile Web Initiative is contributing to realizing this promise - I thought it would be useful to share this with a larger audience. Mobile Web: The Promise Mobile Web access has many advantages. Unlike the traditional “wired” Web, the mobile Web will go where users go. No longer will users have to remember to do something on the Web when they get back to their computer. They can do it immediately, within the context that made them want to use the Web in the first place. With mobile devices, the Web can reach a much wider audience, and at all times in all situations. It has the opportunity to reach into places where wires cannot go, to places previously unthinkable (e.g., providing medical information to mountain rescue scenes) and to accompany everyone as easily as they carry the time in their wristwatches. Mobile Web access is particularly promising in emerging markets where wired networks are underdeveloped. Anecdotal evidence suggests that wireless as primary means of We access plays an important role in developing countries: According to statistics of July 2006, 61% of the BBC’s international WAP users came from Nigeria and 19% from South Africa. (“BBC Wap use flourishing in Africa”, BBC News, 2006). Mobile Web: Huge Potential As shown in Figure 1, today, around 1.7 billion of the 2.7 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide have some form of browsing capability. This represents about 25% of a world population of 6.7 billion people. Figure 1: Mobile Browsing: A significant proportion of subscribers have terminals enabled for browsing. The active user population is rapidly growing, and despite the downward pressure on prices, mobile browsing is a strong revenue generator (Source: Nokia internal market study/MWI, all figures for global market) The number of subscribers with browser-enabled phones exceeds the number of
  • cars (800 million)
  • personal computers (850 million)
  • wired Internet users (1.1 billion)
and even the number of television sets (1.5 billion - Source: “Putting 2.7 billion in context: Mobile phone users”, Tomi Ahonen, 2007). Moreover, the percentage of web-enabled subscribers is predicted to increase significantly in the coming years. As shown in Figure 2, in 2010, there will be three billion subscribers with browsing-enabled phones. Mobile Web: Lacking Use While the huge number of deployed browser-enabled phones indicate a large potential for mobile Web access, only a minority of the subscribers today actually use their phone to access the Web (see bar “Active Browsers” in Figure 1). There are about 200 million active browsers today, and this number is expected to rise to 500 million by 2010. Still, this represents about 50% of today’s active wired Internet users, which is non-negligible. As a consequence of the lack of usage, in 2010, “households with a Web-enabled phone that don’t buy mobile data services” constitute the largest of several “revenue gaps” identified by Forrester (see Figure 2). Revenue gap Figure 2: Forrester Revenue gaps The Forrester numbers are for the US market. In Europe, the revenue gap may be even higher, since use of Web browsing in many countries of the European community was lagging the use in Japan, South Korea and even the USA in 2005 (see Figure 3). Mobile browing statistics world-wide Figure 3: Europe lagging in Wireless Web Access W3C’s Mobile Web Initiative Today, many of the technical problems of early mobile Web access solutions have been solved. Contemporary phones have color screens of reasonable size that allow display of Web information. Moreover, the bandwidth of mobile networks has increased, and is expected to increase even further with mobile and wireless networks beyond 3G. The W3C and its members have established the Mobile Web Initiative (MWI) to tackle two of the main remaining challenges that European mobile Web access is facing today:
  • Lack of Usability: Mobile phone users in Europe often find that their favourite Web sites are not as easy to use on their mobile phone as on their desktop device.
  • Lack of Interoperability: European content providers have difficulties providing mobile Web services that work well on all types and configurations of mobile phones.
Solving these issues requires a concerted effort of key players in the mobile production chain, which are all participating in the W3C:
  • Web content production tool vendors need to support standards in a correct way so that content works independently of the particular handset or browser used by the mobile phone subscriber. Specifically, content production tools should create content that is conformant to the mobileOK mark developed by MWI.
  • Content providers need to follow “best practices” for mobile content that enable a user-friendly mobile Web experience – the content should be conformant to the mobileOK mark.
  • Handset manufacturers need to ensure that descriptions of the capabilities of their devices such as the screen size are readily available so that content providers can use this information to adapt content to specific devices – information about devices should be available through a device description repository. MWI is working on standard-APIs for device description repositories.
  • Browser vendors need to implement Web standards correctly, so that mobile Web content is displayed consistently in different browsers – the browsers should pass MWI-developed test suites.
  • Mobile phone operators need to encourage use of standards when providing access to mobile content – the mobileOK mark and the MWI-developed test suites are tools for this.
by Philipp Hoschka in Current state 2 comments Permalink

Comments, Pingbacks:

Comment from: Shanti [Visitor] ·
Nice summary. I noticed that most of the data is from 2005. Does anyone have any more recent data to share?
PermalinkPermalink 2007-06-20 @ 02:36
Comment from: Michael Molin [Visitor] ·

My name is Michael Molin. I'm working on a standard hardware platform for the Mobile Web. Also, join the discussion:

PermalinkPermalink 2007-06-24 @ 00:02

Contacts: Dominique Hazael-Massieux