Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How Do You Browse?

Generation C - Connected, Communicating, Creative, ...

When I first came at Jordanhill as a lecturer (nearly twenty years ago - grief!) I told students that, before my children left school, they would be carrying a computer with them the way that I carried a pocket calculator. As the years have gone by, I continued to make this prediction... but I was becoming increasingly worried that my prediction was wrong. Then, one day, I realised they already had a portable computer that they carried with them every day - it's just that it's called a mobile phone!

One example of the computing power of mobiles can be seen in their uses as web browsers. The Opera Browser people published a report in May (see this press release) which they titled: State of the Mobile Web that describes some of the trends they have noted in mobile web browsing. For obvious reasons, the report deals only with the use made of their Opera Mini browser but I suspect it gives a reasonable view of mobile browsing habits more generally.

The part that first caught my attention (and that made me chase up the full report) was:
Almost 40% of traffic worldwide is to social networks. In some countries, such as the United States, South Africa and Indonesia, the social Web accounts for more than 60% of the traffic.
Interesting? I think so. For example, the top site visited by Opera Mini users in the UK was Facebook. My guess would have been that searching for information would have been the top use (and to be fair Google was in second position in the UK) but clearly social networking was the dominant use.

Also of interest was Opera's claim that the use of WAP or special mobile versions of sites was in decline. This may have something to do with the power of the Opera Mini browser but it may just be human nature - stick to what you know. If you use a particular site while browsing at home, you are likely to use the same one while on the move. My own experience with mobile browsing (generally not not with Opera Mini... yet) has been to stick to "standard" pages. Occasionally, where a page is too hard to read (text too small, or graphics throwing everything out) I've gone to it through Skweezer, which does a great job of rendering tricky pages so they work on my phone.

I was told recently that mobile browsing was very common in Africa because mobile phone coverage was more reliable than Internet access. I'm guessing that this is unusual and that for most people, mobile browsing is the exception rather than the rule. However, do we, as the Opera people suggest, expect there to be One Web - not one for "standard" computers and a different one for mobiles? One web to rule them all... :-)

So, how do you browse? Do you use your mobile for browsing and if so, are you aware of altering your behaviour or expectations?

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Anonymous said...

it's an interesting questio, i almost exclusively do my browsing using a pc, but i check my emails using a google app on my phone and often have my wifi-enabled pda with me and check my feeds on that. in fact that is where i found this post (while watching wimbledon) but i normally would look again at anything interesting using a pc instead of commenting using the pda like this

Anonymous said...

aha, that was me,
Stuart Meldrum, but i can't fill in the form properly on my pda!

David said...

So you check your email and then browse the social network sites... You do realise this makes you Mr Average UK Mobile Web user? According to the survey, "The United Kingdom is the world leader in mobile e-mail, although that number remains small. More than 11% of traffic in Q1 was to Web-based e-mail services."


Anthony said...

I use my Nokia N95 8GB for loads of webby things - YouTube, Google Mail, weather, news, blogging, etc. Although it is capable of browsing the full internet, the key to usability for me is individual applications to access the web. So I don't go to, I use a program called Mobitubia which accesses YouTube in a more mobile friendly way. I also use the S60 GMail application. You get the idea.

David said...

Hello Anthony

Thanks for the reply. Mobitubia looks interesting. I guess for stuff you use on a regular basis, it is better to use a way that is optimised for for mobile. For general browsing though, I think I understand why people just use the full Web.