Industry Leaders Push For Mobile Top-Level Domain
By Carlo Longino, Wed Mar 10 18:00:00 GMT 2004

A number of vendors and carriers are applying for a mobile-specific top-level domain. But is .mobile really what the mobile Internet needs?


A bunch of companies, carriers and the GSM Association said today that they're going to apply for a mobile-specific TLD from ICANN in the current application round that ends March 16. Textually did some digging and found a list of their proposed domain names.

A problem that plagued the early mobile Internet was that it was difficult to figure out a site's mobile or WAP version, assuming the site had one. Some used wap.sitename.com, others www.sitename.com/wap or /mobile, and one early effort was to label mobile sites mmm.sitename.com. It's still an issue, perhaps one that's gotten even worse with the wide range of mobile versions people are generating -- some just plain text in HTML, some WAP, some XHTML.

It's a good step to come up with a mobile domain, and hopefully it will catch on so users can just point their devices to whatever.mobile and get a page they view on their devices. But I've got a few more questions about it.

What's the value of a mobile-specific domain and mobile-specific sites versus things like Opera and XHTML that look to narrow the divide between the wired and wireless Web? Opera's key selling point is that it can render standard HTML pages for mobile devices' small screens, and one of XHTML's benefits is that it makes mobile browsing more WWW- and less WAP-like.

Opera does a great job of shaping the Web down to size for mobiles. But there are still times where having sites specifically intended for mobile consumption is beneficial, since we still consume information differently when we're mobile.

But that leads to my next point -- will there be a standard format for .mobile sites, or will the problem shift from locating a mobile-specific site to discovering if it's compatible with your device? While a growing number of browsers can handle any number of formats, they don't always render gracefully, and there's still a lot of inconsistency and incompatibility out there. Hopefully the growth of XHTML will curb this, but history indicates that defined standards don't always mean standardized implementations (cough cough Bluetooth cough cough).