Mobile

Selecting a Mobile Web Site Domain: Choose Wisely

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 08, 2009
Mobile / Comments Off on Selecting a Mobile Web Site Domain: Choose Wisely

I recently did some research on the web addresses (or, host names) that companies use for their mobile web sites.  Turns out, there are quite a few varieties.  That isn’t helping anyone who is trying to find on of these sites on their phone, which can be a painful experience as typing is more difficult and network latency (for mobile) is high.

This all stems from a discussion I was having recently about one company in particular who uses the subdomain “pda” for their mobile web site.  “pda” seems to be somewhat of an outdated name for mobile devices.  I’m not even sure that the “pda” subdomain was ever in vogue.

What I came to understand is that the term “pda” was used heavily by the company, maybe stemming from internal use.  I’ve seen this sort of thing happen before — corporate vernacular turns into marketing speak.  Often, the only people who understand the lingo are inside the company.  On their own web site, this company referred to their mobile site as their “mini browser”.  For me, a “browser” is a piece of software and not a web site.

I initially assumed that “m.example.com” and “example.mobi” were becoming the heavy favorites in this area.  When I started digging around, I also found some other URLs that turned up frequently: “mobile.example.com”, “example.com/mobile”, “www.example.com/m”, “iphone.example.com”.  The last is obviously device-specific, but worth noting.

The term “wap” is also used by some companies in their hostnames (“wap.example.com”).  It stands for “wireless application protocol”.  This is not very consumer-friendly acronym, and should be avoided.

I also looked at a list of “top mobile domains” (I forget where I found this) and the sites that came up were:

  • m.google.com  (google.com/m and google.com/mobile are also used for some of their mobile services)
  • m.twitter.com
  • m.cnn.com
  • m.flickr.com
  • m.yahoo.com
  • m.myspace.com
  • wap.aol.com/moviefone/  (I don’t know how anyone would guess this one)
  • restaurantrow.com/avantgo  (“avantgo” was one of the original mobile products back in 1998-ish)
  • mobile.answers.com
  • foreca.mobi
  • weather.mobi  (also hails under “xhtml.weather.com”, which is another terrible acronym to use in a domain name)

Notice some of the trends here?

The mobile industry is still quite young.  Usage of mobile sites is on the rise.  To be found, companies need to make sure they select the right URLs for their mobile sites.  Help out your customers — don’t buck the trend.  Additionally, you should be casting your net wide.  It’s not technically difficult to pick up three of four of these URLs and forward them to your primary URL (and I don’t care what your IT department says, it’s not).

My guess is that within two years, you’ll see 90% of mobile sites operating under “m.example.com” or “mobile.example.com” (“m” being short, it’s easier to type on a little bitty keyboard).  These will stick with consumers the same way that they figured out what URLs were back in the ’90s.  Remember the first time you saw “http://” somewhere and thought, what the hell does that mean?

With any luck, I’ll be able to find your mobile web site in one guess of the address.

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A Review of Mobile Web Sites

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 08, 2009
Mobile / Comments Off on A Review of Mobile Web Sites

mobiThinking put together a panel of mobile marketers to review some of today’s top mobile sites. Their reviews and quotes provide a lot of good insight for anyone building a mobile presence.

Best and Worst of the Mobile Web

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The Economist on Linux Netbooks

Posted by Mike Brittain on December 15, 2008
Mobile / Comments Off on The Economist on Linux Netbooks

The Economist is running an article on netbooks, with specific advice on sticking to Linux as the operating system — rather than buying a beefy netbook that can run Windows.  I’ve been trying to avoid looking at these for a long time, thinking that when I get one, it will probably be an Apple.  But alas, Apple doesn’t have a netbook or tablet computer yet, and it’s difficult to predict when that will become available.

The sub-$500 price tags make current netbooks relatively cheap in my mind, and potentially disposable should the technology improve significantly in the coming months.  Much harder to call a $1500 computer “disposable”.

Most of what I would want to do with a netbook is pretty much what you should expect to do on a netbook: surf the web, send email, open documents and spreadsheets, and maybe some very lightweight development — which is, for me, typically Linux-based work.  Email and web can already be done well in a browser.  More of my own docs and spreadsheets are in a browser now, too, by using Google Docs.

And, hell, from what I can tell, Google’s “Chrome” web browser (along with its suite of web products) is the play for making the browser more important than the operating system.

It might be time to start taking a closer look at these.

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Future of Mobile (from Andy Rubin)

Posted by Mike Brittain on September 22, 2008
Mobile / Comments Off on Future of Mobile (from Andy Rubin)

An interesting article about mobile technology from Andy Rubin of Android fame.  A few interesting points:

it’s safe to say that the mobile phone may be the most prolific consumer product ever invented.

In comparison to computers that we may have owned…

The phone that you have in your pocket, pack, or handbag is probably ten times more powerful than the PC you had on your desk only 8 or 9 years ago.

I was in real awe when I got my iPhone a year ago (nearly to the day!) and remember tinkering with it on the subway.  At first I thought, “this is the most amazing item I’ve ever owned.”  I think that still holds true.  Nothing else does quite as much, in as small a case.

I also remember saying to a number of people, “if this is the phone I have today, what kind of phone will my kids have 15-20 years from now?”

Rubin describes some of his predictions.  Read on…

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Polishing Mobile Sites with Validation Tools

Posted by Mike Brittain on September 13, 2008
Mobile / Comments Off on Polishing Mobile Sites with Validation Tools

I’ve been cleaning up some details on the mobile interface for One tsp., specifically so that I can serve the site properly using application/xhtml+xml to browsers that can handle that sort of thing.  Unfortunately, that means that when things go wrong, they really break.

Mind you, the site seems to be working just fine as text/html in most browsers and emulators I’ve checked.  I’m using this more as an exercise to make sure that browsers I don’t know of, or are more strict on markup, can display the site in a meaningful manner.  I also want to avoid having the site mangled by a mobile proxy or transcoder, and I suspect that serving proper mobile pages will allow me to escape them.

To improve the site, I’ve been using the ready.mobi checker and the W3C mobileOK checker.  These tools are called “checkers” and not “validators” because they really strive to do more than just validate your markup.  They look for valid CSS and compliance with mobile recommendations and best practices (proper use of CSS measurements, HTTP caching headers, links to non-mobile content, etc.).

Both tools are worth checking out if you’re building a mobile site.

Any other tools you use that are worth a recommendations?

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Translate Words From Your BlackBerry or Opera Mini Browser

Posted by Mike Brittain on May 17, 2008
Mobile, WWW / Comments Off on Translate Words From Your BlackBerry or Opera Mini Browser

I recently released a web application for use on iPhones for language translation while on the go. Enter a word or phrase and instantly get a translation into another language. Seems like it’d be a great tool for travelers and students, especially.

Today, I have added support for the BlackBerry and Opera Mini web browsers. Just point your mobile phone at this address to get started:

http://m.mikebrittain.com/tr

Lots of Dutch Visitors Using my iPhone Translator App

Posted by Mike Brittain on April 30, 2008
Mobile, Personal, WWW / Comments Off on Lots of Dutch Visitors Using my iPhone Translator App

I just wanted to say hello and thanks to the guys at iPhoneclub.nl for their coverage of the iPhone Translator app that I wrote last weekend. It looked like a good article, from what limited amount I could understand, and they even took a few nice screen shots of words being translated to Arabic and Korean.

I was surprised to find this week that Dutch users account for the majority of traffic to the app, and it appears (from web accesses to the home screen icon) that people are bookmarking it for future use.

Hartelijk dank!

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Translate Words and Phrases on Your iPhone

Posted by Mike Brittain on April 27, 2008
Apple, Mobile, WWW / 5 Comments

Screen shot of iPhone TranslatorI’ve been working on learning Japanese over the last two years, and have been making a better stab at it recently. What I realized would be helpful is a quick translation tool on my phone from English to Japanese. I tried whipping one up with the Google Language API.

Try out this iPhone Translator in your browser or on your iPhone.

  1. Open http://m.mikebrittain.com/tr in your iPhone.
  2. Select a combination of languages you want to translate between, e.g. from English to Japanese.
  3. Bookmark the translation page for quick access when your out on the run.

I have a trip planned to Vienna later this year, and it would be really nice to have a quick German to English translation tool on hand. This would be promising if only I had an international data plan.

Other supported languages include Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese.

Please try it out and leave feedback in the comments section below.

(Thanks to DryIcons for the icon I’m using on the site for iPhone and iPod Touch home screens.)

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Interesting Ad for MacBook Air

Posted by Mike Brittain on April 14, 2008
Apple, Gadgets, Mobile / Comments Off on Interesting Ad for MacBook Air

This YouTube video for the Salesforce and Google Apps Integration uses the MacBook Air as the hardware platform that demonstrates the new applications.  The cool thing is that this is where we could be in a few years as more and more data resides online, and not on your hard drive — lightweight, mobile, thin-clients.

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Getting more out of Google Calendar and Contacts

Posted by Mike Brittain on March 06, 2008
Gadgets, Mobile, WWW / Comments Off on Getting more out of Google Calendar and Contacts

I’ve been waiting for this news for a while, and friends of mine have, too. Google has opened a Contacts API to allow developers to manage or sync contacts with your Google account. Maybe I can finally ditch Plaxo, which just seems a little weird for me, now that they are trying to extend into the social network space with their “Pulse” product. All I want is an address book, and if I add a new one on my phone, I want to see it at home and at work. And if I delete one at work, I want it deleted on my phone and at home. And if my wife has access and changes one of my contacts, I want that change to show up for me, too. That seems like it’d be nice.

Additionally, there’s a first step toward syncing your Google Calendar with Microsoft Outlook. Looks like it only supported on Windows, so far. What I’m still waiting for is good syncing between Google Calendar and iCal, or even better, wireless syncing from the iPhone Calendar app. If Google were to open a sync API for Calendar, I’m sure plenty of application support wouldn’t be far around the corner.

Found this news on Matt Cutts’ blog.