Rise of the M-Dot Websites

A few others have commented on this lately - Katie over at GigaOm for one - but it looks like mobile websites starting with m.* is starting to become the new standard for mobile domains. I love it.

A year or so ago I decided that .mobi was a good thing. The downside was that you had to register a new domain, but the idea that there would be a standard was something that I really wanted to see, and so was bullish on the idea. I still am - if most users see a site with a .mobi ending, they know they can use it on their phones, and that's a good thing.

But now that Google, Yahoo!, Ask and others have started rolling out sites starting with m.*, I think that a defacto standard has been decided on for mobile sites without having to register a whole new domain. Today's launch of m.youtube.com is just another tick in the vote box for m-dot naming convention. This is great - a standard for mobile-accessible sites, no extra domain purchase needed, and no magic mobile detection needed on the server side as well.

In theory, all these sites should be able to auto-detect which browser you're using and optimize the page from there. In reality, it's a pain in the ass - and as the line between 'mobile' browsers and 'full' browsers continue to blur, it's going to be even more difficult. Having a dedicated mobile site that is meant to provide 'lite' versions is exactly what's needed. I'm sure every site will still continue to try to provide some sort of magical detection - have you spoofed an iPhone and visited Google.com yet? A new option appears on the front page asking if you want to use the classic version or the mobile version of the site. Why would they do that, you wonder, if the iPhone has a "full" version of Safari? Well, probably because someone using that full version of Safari over a GPRS connection will *really* appreciate the option. Just like they'll appreciate the option of just typing in an m-dot domain name directly.

Where does this leave the .mobi folks? Well, I'm not sure as the number one factor for choosing it - standardization - is gone. Also, in terms of search engine traffic, all the .mobi domains are automagically penalized for being so new. I've tried experimenting with some mobi domains before I launched Mowser, and though I was able to register a real 'word' (fidget.mobi), the search engines hated the domain. IMHO, they're going to need a 'hit' site to show up promoting a .mobi domain, and that will save them. Think about what del.icio.us did for the .us domain, for example - it didn't make it 'common' per se, but it definitely increase awareness and attractiveness of that TLD. The .mobi guys will need a similar success in order to continue being relevant.

So along these lines, I've done two things - first is that m.mowser.com now always gives the mobile version of the site. Secondly, I'm continuing to work on the code to let anyone have their own m-dot website by creating a new CName in their DNS settings (GoDaddy makes it pretty easy for example) and pointing it at m.mowser.com. At first it will automatically redirect browsers to a mobilized version of your site with the mowser.com domain in front, but I'm hoping to get the logic baked in soon enough so that it will be completely virtual and hidden, (except for links to external sites). You can see a demo of this working now by hitting my personal site at m.russellbeattie.com.

I feel like I've announced this before - I think I had written about it in the green-release, but I'm still working on stuff and tweaking the site on a daily basis. I'm starting to streamline some things and make the functionality more obvious for new users. I've also taken down the publisher's wiki for now, as it was yet another area I had to maintain and it was too much for me solo. So I'm going to be using this blog and the my.mowser.com forums to document Mowser for the time being - please free to email me if you have any questions.

Okay, I think I actually broke the above example doing something earlier - so I'll have to fix that right now. If you're reading this shortly after I post it, give me a few minutes to figure out what I did and get it working again. :-)


P.S. Went back to the orange logo again for now. I've got a black and yellow one in the bag as well... they'll pop up sooner or later, I'm sure.

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