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Title: .mobi doesn't play
Author: Chris Prather Date: 2006-04-05 22:34:58

.mobi doesn't play

So there's a big debate about the upcoming .mobi domain. Linked from #swig today was:

Even if you LOVE server-side handset detection and think it's both the absolute
best way to serve customers and the holy grail of the World Wide Web, the very simple rules above give us something what we've been desperately needing in the mobile web: A standard navigation scheme. Now users can guess "cnn.mobi" or "yahoo.mobi" or "amazon.mobi" and KNOW that their phone isn't going to barf at them, and the companies will have a standard name to rally around as well. Russell Beattie Notebook - Why .mobi is a Good Thing

Compare this to Tim Berners Lee's comments about the .mobi (and .xxx) domain.

The Web works by reference. As an information space, it is defined by the relationship between a URI and what one gets on using that URI. The URI is passed around, written, spoken, buried in links, bookmarked, traded while Instant Messaging and through email. People look up URIs in all sorts of conditions.

It is fundamentally useful to be able to quote the URI for some information and then look up that URI in an entirely different context. For example, I may want to look up a restaurant on my laptop, bookmark it, and then, when I only have my phone, check the bookmark to have a look at the evening menu. Or, my travel agent may send me a pointer to my itinerary for a business trip. I may view the itinerary from my office on a large screen and want to see the map, or I may view it at the airport from my phone when all I want is the gate number.

Dividing the Web into information destined for different devices, or different classes of user, or different classes of information, breaks the Web in a fundamental way. New Top Level Domains Considered Harmful

Having thought about this I agree with Tim (surprise surprise). Here's how it breaks down for me. I own one third of the most popular prather.tld namespaces, the other two prather.net and prather.com are owned by a large corporation and a Washington DC lawyer respectively. Now Russel's solution would require the three of us to duke it out for yet another TLD just so we can support mobile devices. Who wins here?

Prather.net's owners are a large domain reseller, they make their business by selling of vanity subdomains of prather.net (yes rather like chris.prather.org, the irony is not lost on me) they are I believe backed by a Domain registrar. Meaning they'll probably get first whack at registering the domain, allowing them to provide a nifty service to their customers, "Pay 15 dollars more and get yournamehere.prather.mobi as well, and support Mobile Customers!" This screws me, and my DC Lawyer counter-part. The same way if either of us purchased this TLD we'd effectively screw the prather.net people. Do you see the disconnect here?

One of the biggest phenomenon's of the net recently is Blogging and Wikis. A "true multi-party broadcast", blah blah blah, "lower barrier to entry", blah blah blah ... effectively anybody can create content, and their content is effectively equal (Except that it's not, I should rant on that later). What ICANN and by proxy Mr. Beattie are saying is that prather.net (or prather.com) because they have better resources and can acquire a .mobi domain have better content than I do. Or have content that will appeal more to .mobi users. Or something.

I hear you now, yes you Christy (I know it's you cause Jamie doesn't read this blog). Just shut up and buy a .mobi domain. But that's not the point. The point is someone is going to get effectively penalized because this "solution" doesn't solve shit, it places an arbitrary scarceness upon what has settled down into a market.

If you want to create a standard for mobile devices to know they can get mobile content the BY ALL MEANS DO SO. In http://www.example.com the www generally signals web content. what's wrong with http://mobi.example.com to signal mobile content? What's that you say? Nobody is required to serve content this way? Who's gonna stop me from serving DivX files of my cats on www.prather.mobi? (Other than the eventual owner of prather.mobi)? Oh there are standards. Phaw, there are HTML standards too, I can point to a number of sites that don't serve HTML 4.0 compliant content (let alone xhtml 1.1 strict).

Have a peer program, do some advertising. Get the phone manufacturers to support it and I bet you people will do it. Heck use a certification program, large companies love certification programs. This is what's really gonna be the enforcement in a .mobi domain.

I've had a nice long rant now, I bet when I look back on this post in 5 years I wonder what ever happened to the .mobi domain. My honest prediction is it won't do what Mr. Beattie is wanting, and it won't cause the havoc that Mr. Lee fears.

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