Analysts question the point of dot-mobi

Design and better access, not a new domain extension, will draw users to the mobile Internet, say analysts.

Despite keen interest from registrants, the dot-mobi domain extension is not the key to getting users onto the mobile Internet, analysts believe.

The top-level domain, which went live on Tuesday, is intended to help on-the-go surfers find sites that will display well on handheld devices with small screens. But, say experts, the initiative is not the right approach toward solving the disparity in Web experiences between the PC and mobile phone.

"It's PR spin," Windsor Holden, a senior analyst with telecommunications consultancy Analysys, said Wednesday. "It's not going to make it any easier to access the content--in fact it will add a couple of keystrokes to what you're doing."

Holden said that creating a dot-mobi version of a site was "not the be-all and end-all" way to target the mobile market. He suggested that, given the trend toward convergence between fixed and mobile communications, site designers "have to realize (their) content will be accessible via a great range of devices."

James Enck, an analyst with Daiwa Securities, echoed this view.

"It's really about Web design rather than domains," he said. Referring to the example of Google Mail, which automatically scales itself to a mobile device, Enck said the site's presentation was "ideal."

"You don't need a separate domain to do that," he added, while suggesting that the dot-mobi initiative could be "another mobile industry attempt to control something that's uncontrollable--another quasi-walled garden."

Registrars, though, are more upbeat, claiming "very good interest" in the domain extension throughout its preregistration period. "Dot-mobi is our most popular domain since landrush, easily outstripping the likes of dot-co-dot-uk, dot-com and dot-net," a representative for registrar Fasthosts said Wednesday.

Fasthosts' representative said initial registrants were largely composed of "lots of mobile and telecom companies and brand protection," adding: "There is certainly a lot of name-securing going on, but there is also plenty of opportunity for specialist mobile Web sites being applied."

Neil Barton of Hostway also described a "significant interest in dot-mobi over the last couple of weeks as the preregistration period was coming to a close and over the last couple of days as it launched."

Holden speculated that the first wave of registrants could be "people dipping their toe into the water because they don't want to miss out," arguing that greater emphasis should be placed on "ensuring there is an enjoyable user experience on the mobile so this real opportunity to get the Internet beyond the fixed experience is not ignored."

"You've got applications like the Opera browser, which do it anyway. But looking forward, the key isn't to suddenly say 'We're going to create a special little category,' the key is to make the initial access a lot easier," he added.

David Meyer reported for ZDNet UK in London.
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