While the worldwide Web is already something that most American businesses can’t really live without, it isn’t that hard to remember a time just 20 years ago when the idea of computer networks were really the thing of science fiction. Given that, what’s in store for tomorrow? Most likely it will be “everywhere.”
This week we’re looking at how the Web will go mobile, and what it means for every day users. To kick things off we chatted with Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software ASA, developer of a multi-platform Web browser, about the state of the mobile Web:
AllBusiness: Given that the mobile Web is accessed by countless more devices, rather than the traditional PC and Mac, what are the challenges for delivering a browser to these masses?
Jon von Tetzchner: It clearly means supporting a lot more platforms. This includes smartphone platforms, but also traditional mobile operating systems, which are not really built to run advanced applications. This is the kind of challenge that we like and we are happy to deliver on any platform out there.
AB: Is it safe to say that we haven’t really reached the mobile Web 2.0 yet? Do you think we still have a way to go?
JVT: In our view there is only one Web and we have been delivering that Web on mobile for almost 10 years now. Whether you are on the PC, a phone, a gaming console, a TV, or a picture frame, you should have the same full Web experience, not a limited, mobile-only one.
We believe WAP or mobile-only content is dead or dying.
People want the full Web experience on their phone or mobile Internet device. How that experience is presented to them is where the innovation is still happening (faster speeds, acceleration, touch screens, widgets, user interface, etc.). In some countries, the only way to access the full Web (the real Web) is from a mobile device. Keep in mind that only 20% of the world has a landline based Internet connection with a computer (50% of the world has a mobile phone).
Also, in terms of applications, almost everything we use today is browser-based. The majority of people today have under five native applications on their computer. So, whether you are on your mobile or home computer, you want to be able to access your browser-based applications (Gmail, banking, social networks, calendar, etc.). They can be regularly updated in real-time; and can you imagine each of these applications having to make new versions and updating them for mobile, for desktop, for devices, etc?
AB: How do you think the mobile Web might evolve, especially given that people are likely to use it very differently from the traditional Web?
JVT: We believe, and we have the numbers to back it, that people will be using the mobile much the same way as the PC when accessing the Web. Do a quick comparison between the top 10 sites on mobile and PCs and you will see a lot of similarities.
We send out a monthly State of the Mobile Web Report that shows the usage data from our 19 million active Opera Mini users that shows what sites people are going to with their mobile device.
Check out the August report about the Long Tail. In the U.S. in particular, the usage totals for the Long Tail of Web sites (everything outside of Top 100 most visited sites) surpassed the usages totals for the Top 100 Web sites for the first time. This happened in a number of other countries as well. It supports our belief that people are using the mobile Web the same way and for the same things they are using their desktop Web for.
AB: Online advertising is still evolving as well in the traditional Web, do you see advertising playing a similar or vastly different role in the mobile Web?
JVT: We believe a lot of the business models of the Web will be the same as
on the mobile, but with some adaptation.
AB: Are there concerns that Firefox or Google Chrome–especially the latter when you factor in Google Android–will display Opera on the mobile side?
JVT: No. More choice is good. With competition comes innovation, and consumers are the ones that will ultimately benefit. There is so much market out there to take, so we are not worried about competitors. Plus, 90% of the mobile device market are NOT smartphones, so the opportunities are endless right now. Alot of the focus in regards to Google, Firefox, and Skyfire focus on the high end of that 10% (smartphones). We want to bring the full Web to all mobile devices worldwide. This includes older phones, lower-powered phones, phones in emerging countries, phones on very slow networks. You won’t see these other companies going after these markets or even touching other types of devices like gaming consoles, set-top boxes, mobile media players, picture frames, etc. It’s too much work. They are all based on Webkit and would have to create experiences like that from scratch (we’ve been doing it for 10 years).
In terms of numbers, we’ve seen a 20% increase in downloads of our desktop and mobile browsers since Google announced Chrome. More awareness of alternative browsers or browsers on mobile in general drives people to look for new or better options.