Bruce Lawson’s personal site

Predictions for the mobile web in 2009

Whether it be newspapers, the gogglebox or the Interweb, now is the time that pundits everywhere write their predictions for the next year.

Most are wrong. Mine are right.

Hurray! A new bandwagon

We’ll see more companies realising the incredible pentration of mobile phones. Worldwide, there are far more phones than there are computers – some 73 million people in China (29% of its Internet-connected population) use only a mobile to connect to the web. (Source: The Economist, citing the China Internet Network Information Centre.) Given the relative difference in costs between a phone and a computer and the looming recession, mobiles will continue to dominate.

We’ll see lots of fumbling around as people work out how to serve these mobile users. There will be “mobile versions” of sites that attempt to use GPS information to serve location-based information to mobiles, but this year we’ve seen notebook sales outstrip desktop sales so these are portable devices that can equally benefit from location-based services, yet they’re not mobiles. Confusion will ensue, just as it did in the early years of this decade when people made allegedly separate-but-equal “accessible versions” of sites.

More and more mobile users come online

We’ll see consolidation/ continuation of trends we’ve seen in 2008: exponential growth in the number of mobile users and the number of web pages each user consumes will continue to rise. The next billion human beings who come online will do so with a mobile device, and the majority will be in the developing world where we already see the highest growth: page views per user in Indonesia and the Philippines are significantly higher than the worldwide numbers—growing more than 1120% in the Philippines this year, for example. Libya saw 3780% growth in 2008. (Source: Opera’s State of the Mobile Web reports taken from aggregated statistics from the Opera Mini servers.)

One world, one web (let’s get together and feel alright)

We know that users across the world want the same kind of services on their mobiles: trustworthy news sites (BBC) and uncensored information sites (wikipedia), search (Yahoo/ Google) and social networking (different territories have different favourites: Indonesia favours Friendster, India and Brazil favour Orkut, others like Facebook). Users do not like stripped-down “mobile-versions” of sites. They want the full web, on their phones (even older models that are not Smartphones). This is the same in the developed world and the developing world. No more “separate but equal”, thank you very much.

So we’ll see lots of interest from browser manufacturers in the mobile space (Microsoft, Google Android, Mozilla’s Fennec), encouraging competition and helping make mobile web mainstream. Site owners will be looking to tap these developing markets, and require developers who know how to do mobile development, of whom there aren’t many.

Using web standards to develop single websites that can be consumed by any device will prove to be the most cost-effective development methodology, just as it is accepted to be the best way to develop sites that are accessible to people with disabilities. The question is whether developers will get that message in 2009.

Surprise success for Internet Explorer 6 Mobile

After its 2009 launch in China, IE 6 mobile will be rolled out and embedded in such diverse places as a GPS system for the Penny Farthing, a migration tracking device for Dodos, and a web-enabled 8-track cartridge and Betamax home entertainment system.

So have a happy Hogmenay. Try not to die in 2009. xxx

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