14 March, 2007

Mozilla, tell me you’re joking about the mobile web

Man carrying a desktop computer around as if it's a mobile device

iphone displaying a web site










I was astonished to read (on Dan’s blog) that Mozilla doesn’t think users want to access the Web on mobile devices. Hence my picture above of what Mozilla must have in mind when it comes to the Web on the move, anytime, anywhere.

Dan was commentating on the Browser Panel at SXSW which was run by Arun from AOL (a colleague of mine from the W3C MWI). My buddy Charles from Opera took part too.

Brendan Eich, CTO of Mozilla is the reason for this post though. According to Dan, Brendan said

I don’t believe people are going to browse the Web on their phone. I don’t believe people want to use Wikipedia from their phone.

I’m absolutely amazed by Brendan’s view and I sincerely hope it’s his personal view and not Mozilla’s. Otherwise this $300m business faces the prospect of ending up in the bin alongside it’s parent, Netscape. For a guy who’s incredibly smart working for an organisation that has gained a market share of 10% to 12% of desktop browsers within 2 years, his comments are a little surprising to say the least. Brendan’s comments in my opinion, lack vision. Hell, they lack logic.

I couldn’t disagree more with Brendan. There are more people in the world who don’t have access to the Web than there are people who do. Of those people, most of them are in developing countries. The vast majority of them are extremely likely to use a mobile devices as their primary access point to the Web as it’s more difficult and more expensive to roll out fix lined networks than it is mobile.

Google announced some statistics recently that back up my view. BANGALORE, India (AFP) – Google vice president and chief Internet evangelist Vinton G. Cerf has predicted that mobile phones, not personal computers, will fuel growth of the worldwide web as countries like India snap up millions of handsets monthly.

From 50 million in 1997, the number of people who have logged onto the Internet has exploded to nearly 1.1 billion, Cerf, who is considered one of the founding fathers of the Internet, said Tuesday.

Yet, the Internet only reaches a sixth of the world’s population, Cerf told reporters during a visit to this southern city, known as India’s Silicon Valley, where Google has a research and development facility.

Worldwide there are 2.5 billion mobile-phone users, whose numbers are growing rapidly in developing countries led by China and India, the world’s most populous countries, Cerf said in his presentation.

India, a country of 1.1 billion people, alone is adding seven million mobile-phone users a month, a powerful enough lure for British telecom giant Vodafone to pay 11.1 billion dollars for a controlling stake in local mobile firm Hutch-Essar this month. Read the original new article.

I feel so strongly about helping to bring the Web to more people, I decided to become a founding sponsor of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative (MWI). One of the goals of the MWI is to create best practice guidelines to help developers build Web sites that will work on desktop computers, but importantly, work better on mobile devices too.

Other founding sponsors include Vodafone Group, Nokia, HP, Opera, MobileAware, ftgroup and Volantis. Other active participants within the initiative include companies such as AOL, .mobi, Google and Telefonica.

One of my recent posts amassed a staggering word count that exceeded 17,000, with comments from Google, .mobi, Opera, WURFL and more. I had to splinter the conversation into a different post which is still ongoing and awaiting a response from me.

The mobile web is a hot topic and there’s always room for disagreement. However, I’m still amazed to hear the fastest growing desktop browser say that it doesn’t think people will want to use a mobile to browse the Web. Perhaps they should have a chat with Apple.

Mozilla, I love what you’re doing. Hell, we’ve got a cool Firefox extension ourselves. However, please pull your head out of the sand if you really believe mobile is only for calling your granny.

Thanks to Keith Waters (France Telecom) for the picture above.


3 Responses to “Mozilla, tell me you’re joking about the mobile web”

  1. [...] Paul Walsh, one of the founding members of the W3C’s Mobile Web Initiative, had this to say about Mozilla on his blog: “I’m absolutely amazed by Brendan’s view and I sincerely hope it’s his personal view and not Mozilla’s. Otherwise this $300m business faces the prospect of ending up in the bin alongside its parent, Netscape. [...]

  2. Mobile Web!…

    Mobile Web! Hilarious photo here, from Paul Walsh, about how the desktop web-development sensibility may translate into the needs of on-the-go people. (For the original topic, I suspect that pocket devices will do a lot with the wealth of HTTP/HTML con…

  3. Lal 29 March 2007 at 10:12 pm #

    so just because he has the same first name as me doesn’t mean is has my wonderful insight, vision, brain-power, sex-appeal (ok maybe going 2 far there!)

    Mobile will BE the way of the future. anyone who can’t c that is stupid. HOW web/email/systems/appls will be accessed – thats a whole other ballgame.

    Mobile access to the internet is only in its ‘baby steps’


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