Mobile Web: Wikis

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A web page viewed with Opera Mini mobile web browser

The Mobile Web refers to using a mobile phone handset device incorporating a web browser to access the World Wide Web. The total number of mobile web users grew past the total number of desktop computer-based web users for the first time in 2008 (source: International Telecommunications Union, Oct 2009)[citation needed].

Mobile Web access today still suffers from interoperability and usability problems. Interoperability issues stem from the platform fragmentation of mobile devices, mobile operating systems, and browsers. Usability problems are centered around the small physical size of the mobile phone form factors (limited resolution screens and user input/operating limitations).

Moving forward, the distinction between the Mobile Web and native mobile applications is anticipated to become increasingly blurred, as mobile browsers gain direct access to the hardware of mobile devices (including accelerometers and GPS chips), and the performance of browser-based applications improve (speed- and capability-wise). Persistent storage and access to sophisticated user interface graphics functions may further reduce the need for the development of platform-specific native applications.

Once users are unable to differentiate between native and mobile web applications, the Mobile Web will refer generically to applications and web access from a mobile device.

Contents

Mobile Internet

'Mobile Internet' refers to access to the Internet from a mobile device, such as a smartphone or laptop via integrated capabilities or via an independent device (such as a USB modem or PCMCIA card).

Today USB modems are HSPA (3.5G) modems. Many users "tether" their smartphones to their laptop or personal computer with the wireless device providing access to the Internet via 3G, GPRS or CSD.

Standards

Total data consumed by Opera Mini users worldwide from 2006 to mid-2008 in TB

The development of standards is one approach being implemented to improve the interoperability, usability, and accessibility issues surrounding mobile web usage.

The W3C Mobile Web Initiative is a new initiative set up by the W3C to develop best practices and technologies relevant to the Mobile Web. The goal of the initiative is to make browsing the Web from mobile devices more reliable and accessible. The main aim is to evolve standards of data formats from Internet providers that are tailored to the specifications of particular mobile devices. The W3C has published guidelines (Best Practices, Best Practices Checker Software Tool) for mobile content, and is actively addressing the problem of device diversity by establishing a technology to support a repository of Device Descriptions.

W3C is also developing a validating scheme to assess the readiness of content for the mobile web, through its mobileOK Scheme, which will help content developers to quickly determine if their content is web-ready. The W3C guidelines and mobile OK approach have not been immune from criticism. This puts the emphasis on Adaptation, which is now seen as the key process in achieving the Ubiquitous Web, when combined with a Device Description Repository.

mTLD, the registry for .mobi, has released a free testing tool called the MobiReady Report to analyze the mobile readiness of website. It does a free page analysis and gives a Mobi Ready score. This report tests the mobile-readiness of the site using industry best practices & standards.

Other standards for the mobile web are being documented and explored for particular applications by interested industry groups, such as the use of the mobile web for the purpose of education and training e.g. Standards for M-Learning Project.

Development

The first access to the mobile web was commercially offered in Finland in 1996 on the Nokia 9000 Communicator phone via the Sonera and Radiolinja networks. This was access to the real internet. The first commercial launch of a mobile-specific browser-based web service was in 1999 in Japan when i-mode was launched by NTT DoCoMo.

Evolution of mobile web standards

The Mobile Web primarily utilises lightweight pages written in Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) or Wireless Markup Language (WML) to deliver content to mobile devices. Many new mobile browsers are moving beyond these limitations by supporting a wider range of Web formats, including variants of HTML commonly found on the desktop Web.

Top-level domain

The .mobi sponsored top-level domain was launched specifically for the mobile Internet by a consortium of companies including Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, and Vodafone. By forcing sites to comply with mobile web standards, .mobi tries to ensure visitors a consistent and optimized experience on their mobile device. However, this domain has been criticized by several big names, including Tim Berners-Lee of the W3C, who claims that it breaks the device independence of the web: 1

It is fundamentally useful to be able to quote the URI for some information and then look up that URI in an entirely different context. For example, I may want to look up a restaurant on my laptop, bookmark it, and then, when I only have my phone, check the bookmark to have a look at the evening menu. Or, my travel agent may send me a pointer to my itinerary for a business trip. I may view the itinerary from my office on a large screen and want to see the map, or I may view it at the airport from my phone when all I want is the gate number. Dividing the Web into information destined for different devices, or different classes of user, or different classes of information, breaks the Web in a fundamental way. I urge ICANN not to create the ".mobi" top level domain.

Seven mass media

Since the first ringing tone was sold on the mobile phone in Finland in 1998, the mobile has emerged as the seventh of the mass media. Today a wide range of paid media content is consumed on mobile phones ranging from 9.3 billion dollars of music and 5 billion dollars of videogaming to horoscopes, virtual gifts, jokes, news, adult entertainment, etc. Also like on all other media, advertising appeared onto mobile when a free news service launched in Finland sponsored by ads in 2000. In 2005, The Crazy Frog ringtone became the first mobile ringtone to cross over into the mainstream music charts, beating Coldplay for the Number 1 spot on the UK charts[1].

Advertising

Advertisers are increasingly using the mobile Web as platform to reach consumers. The total value of advertising on mobile was 2.2 billion dollars in 2007. A recent study by the Online Publishers Association reports that about one-in-ten mobile Web users said they have made a purchase based on a mobile Web ad, while 23% said they have visited a Web site, 13% said they have requested more information about a product or service and 11% said they have gone to a store to check out a product.

Limitations

Though Internet access "on the go" provides advantages to many, such as the ability to communicate by email with others and obtain information anywhere, the web, accessed from mobile devices, has a large number of limitations, which may vary, depending on the device. However, newer smartphones such as the iPhone and Android operating system devices overcome some of these restrictions. Some problems which may be encountered include:

  • Small screen size – This makes it difficult or impossible to see text and graphics dependent on the standard size of a desktop computer screen.
  • Lack of windows – On a desktop computer, the ability to open more than one window at a time allows for multi-tasking and for easy revert to a previous page. Historically on mobile web, only one page can be displayed at a time, and pages can only be viewed in the sequence they were originally accessed. However, there are apps for the iPhone (e.g. Oceanus), as well as browsers such as Opera Minibut [2] for Java ME, allowing multiple windows, but sometimes a limited number, and not multiple windows in the same screen.
  • Navigation – Most mobile devices do not use a mouselike pointer, but rather simply an up and down function for scrolling, thereby limiting the flexibility in navigation.
  • Lack of Javascript and cookies – Most devices do not support client-side scripting and storage of cookies (smartphones excluded), which are now widely used in most Web sites for enhancing user experience, facilitating the validation of data entered by the page visitor, etc. This also results in web analytics tools not being suitable for uniquely identifying visitors using mobile devices.
  • Types of pages accessible – Many sites that can be accessed on a desktop cannot on a mobile device. Many devices cannot access pages with a secured connection, Flash or other similar software, PDFs, or video sites, although recently this has been changing.
  • Speed – On most mobile devices, the speed of service is very slow, often slower than dial-up Internet access.
  • Broken pages – On many devices, a single page as viewed on a desktop is broken into segments, which are each treated as a separate page. Paired with the slow speed, navigation between these pages is slow.
  • Compressed pages – Many pages, in their conversion to mobile format, are squeezed into an order different from how they would customarily be viewed on a desktop computer.
  • Size of messages – Many devices have limits on the number of characters that can be sent in an email message.
  • Cost – the access and bandwidth charges levied by cellphone networks can be high if there is no flat fee per month.
  • Location of mobile user:
    • if advertisements reach phone users in private locations, users find them more distressful (Banerjee & Dholakia, 2008)
    • if the user is abroad the flat fee per month usually does not apply
  • Situation in which ad reaches user – When advertisements reach users in work-related situations, they may be considered more intrusive than in leisure situations (Banerjee & Dholakia, 2008)

The inability of mobile web applications to access the local capabilities on the mobile device can limit their ability to provide the same features as native applications. The OMTP BONDI activity is acting as a catalyst to enable a set of JavaScript APIs which can access local capabilities in a secure way on the mobile device. Specifications and a reference implementation[3] have been produced. Security is a key aspect in this provision in order to protect users from malicious web applications and widgets.

In addition to the limitations of the device itself there are limitations that should be made known to users concerning the interference these devices cause in other electromagnetic technology.

The convergence of the Internet and phone, in particular has caused hospitals to increase their mobile phone exclusion zones. A study by Erik van Lieshout and colleagues (Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam) has found that the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) used in modern phones can affect machines from up to 3 meters away. The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) signals, used in 3G networks, have a smaller exclusion zone of just a few centimeters. Surprisingly the worst offenders in hospitals are the doctors (New Scientist, 15 September 2007, pg.5).

References

External links

See also

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