May 23, 2006 12:54 PM PDT

'Dot-mobi' domain for mobile devices hits the Web

The first domain suffixes especially created for mobile devices became available on Monday, but some critics say a new domain naming plan is unnecessary.

On Monday, Mobile Top Level Domain, the company put in charge by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) last summer of allocating the domain names, opened initial domain name registration. Mobile Top Level Domain, or mTLD, is funded by a consortium of companies including Ericsson, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung Electronics, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

While cell phones and the Internet are pervasive in today's society, few people are actually using their cell phones to surf the Net, say experts. Part of the reason is that accessing content on the Web from a mobile handset is cumbersome, with some sites requiring a long Wireless Application Protocol, or WAP, address and others needing only a typical dot-com address. For end users, knowing which sites use their traditional Web addresses and which don't is hit or miss.

The new dot-mobi domain is supposed to solve this problem. The idea is that users will know that if they use an address with the dot-mobi suffix, it will be formatted especially for mobile devices.

"Some sites are optimized for mobile users, but others are not," said Vance Hedderel, a spokesman for dot-mobi and mTLD. "We are trying to make it easy for users to know which sites they can access from a mobile device. We have also developed rules and recommended best practices for developers to keep the mobile surfing experience consistent."

Thousands of domain names have already been registered within the first day, Hedderel said. Yahoo, Google, 20th Century Fox, Nokia, Sony, Vodafone and Microsoft, among others, have registered sites.

But not everyone in the mobile community thinks a new domain is necessary to spur adoption of the mobile Internet. Anil Malhotra, co-founder and vice president of marketing for Bango, a company that provides billing solutions for mobile Web sites, wonders if introducing a new mobile domain will actually slow development of the mobile Internet for a short period of time.

"Content owners would be better off just marketing one URL instead of having to introduce a second mobile URL," he said. "It will take time and money to market and educate users about these new site addresses. I think that it could confuse consumers for a short time."

Malhotra said there's no reason why developers of mobile Web sites can't use technology that identifies whether a user is accessing a site from a mobile device or a PC, so that content is rendered in the appropriate format. Many large companies, such as Google and Yahoo, are already doing this.

Despite his reservations, Malhotra believes most big brands will spend the roughly $200 to register their dot-mobi names anyway, because they will want to protect their names from cybersquatters. (By contrast, dot-com domains sell for about $10 to $20.) But he said it's unlikely companies will market a separate dot-mobi domain to consumers. Instead, mobile Internet users will be encouraged to use a single dot-com address that can be accessed from a PC as well as a cell phone.

He said what's really needed to push the mobile Internet into the mainstream is for cell phone carriers to allow users to openly surf the Net instead of restricting them to a subset of sites accessed from the carriers' programmed menus. He also believes handset makers need to develop products that make it easier to click and view content.

"Right now it's still too difficult to surf the mobile Internet," he said. "If you remove these barriers, it will inspire more companies to make their content more easily accessible on mobile phones."

Dot-mobi registration is currently open to companies belonging to a wireless trade association. Starting June 12, registration will be expanded to any trademarked name. All other names will be able to register for a dot-mobi address beginning Aug. 28.

See more CNET content tagged:
dot-com, domain, mobile device, domain name, Vodafone Group Plc.

9 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Why I don't use the "mobile web"
Several years ago I tried to get info from my mobile carrier about "internet enabled" means in their publications about phones they sell. All I could get from the sales person is that "it's not the internet you know from your computer". It's another internet, so all I could learn is that the sales person doesn't understand anything. When I finally got a wap enabled phone I found I could access my email provider's wap site and see my email, but it required navigating through all the "content" offered by my carrier (horoscopes etc...) and then I have to enter a complete url including <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://" target="_newWindow">http://</a> using several keystrokes per character, and in a way that is not consistent with with the way characters are entered in other phone fubctions (phonebook, sms) and that is not documented anywhere. Then I had to change my password at my email provider so it contains only characters the phone could cope with. And finally I could see my email but not anything that is encoded in a way the phone cannot handle.

The main obstacle was really the close to 5 minites time to get to start reading email each time. So I never used it. And I didn't upgrade my phone to something more modern because mainly I saw that my carrier abuses its position as a supplier of connectivity to push its own "content".

There's a conflict of interest between supplying connectivity and supplying content, and at least with my carrier it means I never got to see any explanation about how to use the phone for accessing the internet except for advetisement of their "cool content". They are focused mon selling ringtones and similar junk and not on providing connectivity.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good Comment! UI is still a big problem...
The interface is definitely a big obstacle to mainstream adoption of this technology. Even small "keyboards" as found on Blackberry devices are not the answer to the problem.

I think the missing piece to the user interface puzzle is voice recognition/dictation. I believe when speech recognition on mobile devices is finally done right, we will see the "mobile web" taking off.

Right now, the carriers are pushing applications but without a (viable) user interface -- they are putting the cart before the horse. (Incidentally, a local mobile carrier is currently advertising massively about their new mobile IM service. It's quite ridiculous when you think about it...)
Posted by dysonl (151 comments )
Link Flag
Need another TLD like a...
While this has more purpose (sort of) than the proposed .xxx top-
level domain (TLD), .mobi seems like a solution in search of a real
problem.

It's not the lack of .mobi that's limiting handheld/mobile surfing.
It's the lack of bandwidth and need, at least in the United States.
Posted by pencoyd (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why I don't use the "mobile web"
Several years ago I tried to get info from my mobile carrier about "internet enabled" means in their publications about phones they sell. All I could get from the sales person is that "it's not the internet you know from your computer". It's another internet, so all I could learn is that the sales person doesn't understand anything. When I finally got a wap enabled phone I found I could access my email provider's wap site and see my email, but it required navigating through all the "content" offered by my carrier (horoscopes etc...) and then I have to enter a complete url including <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://" target="_newWindow">http://</a> using several keystrokes per character, and in a way that is not consistent with with the way characters are entered in other phone fubctions (phonebook, sms) and that is not documented anywhere. Then I had to change my password at my email provider so it contains only characters the phone could cope with. And finally I could see my email but not anything that is encoded in a way the phone cannot handle.

The main obstacle was really the close to 5 minites time to get to start reading email each time. So I never used it. And I didn't upgrade my phone to something more modern because mainly I saw that my carrier abuses its position as a supplier of connectivity to push its own "content".

There's a conflict of interest between supplying connectivity and supplying content, and at least with my carrier it means I never got to see any explanation about how to use the phone for accessing the internet except for advetisement of their "cool content". They are focused mon selling ringtones and similar junk and not on providing connectivity.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mobile compliance really *isn't* the big issue
There are surely some much bigger barriers to address first:

* Carriers locking consumers into a 'carrier deck' that they can't leave
* Carriers selling phones with incorrect internet settings loaded
* Carriers changing their gateway settings and not notifying their customers and supplying new settings
* Slow internet data speeds
* High internet data costs per Kb instead of flat-rate all-you-can-eat
* Using a WAP browser is still like surfing the web on a PC with a 486 chipset, 14.4k modem and 3" monitor, using only the numeric keys of the keyboard

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://bluepulseblog.blogspot.com/2006/05/are-mobi-domains-solving-problem-that.html" target="_newWindow">http://bluepulseblog.blogspot.com/2006/05/are-mobi-domains-solving-problem-that.html</a>
Posted by bigyahu (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MOBI Boon for Smartphones
The one thing dramatically lacking in smart-phones is the ability to use the web as it was intended. Going from home PC or laptop to your mobile phone web browser is culture shock. Usability is virtually non-existent.

I and many consumers try to use our web enabled phones to check movie times, sports scores, price shopping and so forth. Having this information at our fingertips has become part of our busy lifestyles. Only we can't fully realize the benefits because of the inept way that handheld web browsing has been deployed.

Websites, even ones designed for webphones,display completely different depending on the phone you use. There is no consistency in design. Going from home page to the information you are seeking may take seconds on your home PC, but 4 or 5 minutes fumbling with your handheld, navigating through the incoherent structure of the website.

In order to keep pace with handheld technology, a new way of deploying handheld websites is mandatory...and MOBI seems to be the perfect solution.

I anticipate MOBI being so integral to the phone browsing experience, that websites will default to the MOBI TLD (Top Level Domain), rather than the familiar COM TLD. No more typing in extensions, unless you want to bravely forage into the dot com world from your phone. Type 'movies' and hopefully some entrepreneurial soul will have all the movie listings at your fingertips.

I can't count the times I have fired up the browser on my Treo, and given up in frustration.
Smart-Phones need a Smart-Web. The MOBI domain is it.
Posted by kwilsonjr (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Author
Ken Wilson
San Diego, California
Posted by kwilsonjr (71 comments )
Link Flag
There's one big problem for mobile internet...
Cost... most people that I know of who are using the mobile internet aren't paying for it... their companies are. So at 45-50 bucks a month with your wireless carrier, that's hard for the average person to justify... especially when the mobile onlineexperience isn't that great.

Perhaps once the cost barrier comes down, more people will use the internet. But until then, widespread mobile intenet use isn't going to gain a lot of consumer traction.
Posted by copypro4u (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Well it looks like this turned out to be unworkable - MTLD, who changed their name to Dotmobi, have given up on requiring .mobi domains to deliver content in a format suitable for mobile devices. They reported a big loss for 2007-2008, though financial results for 2008-2009 are not out yet. There's a full article at GoMo News http://www.gomonews.com/trouble-in-dotmobi-paradise/
Posted by browza (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.