Friday, September 19, 2008

The elephant in the web

The nice thing about cliches is that everybody's heard them. So if I say "the blind men and the elephant" you know what's coming ...

From an "immobile web" point of view like mine (and I suspect I'm not quite in a dying breed yet), the web is relatively text-heavy. In particular, with my full-sized keyboard and mad touch-typing skills I can crank out post after post of, well, whatever it is I crank out. With my full-sized screen, I can take in big web pages with multiple panes, whether a news portal or a bunch of javadocs. Twitter? What's that? My web is big and slow, and I like it that way.

From a "mobile web" point of view, I would expect the web to be or become audio and video heavy. Audio is easy -- you can listen to music on a portable device as easily as you can at home and there's already plenty of stuff to listen to on the web: podcasts, live streams, tunes, what-have-you. Video on a small screen is not exactly fully immersive, but it's fine for stuff like YouTube (which gives you small-screen video on your big screen anyway). Video still wins despite the small screen mainly because it doesn't require typing. When it comes to writing text, Twitter seems like a more natural fit than full-blown blogging.

But hang on here. Is this really a blind-men-and-elephant situation? I've only got two contestants here and their perceptions of the web actually have quite a bit of overlap. It might be harder (though certainly not impossible) to blog from a mobile device, but everyone can read a blog. Similarly, most major portals have mobile-friendly editions with scaled-down layouts. Back in big-and-slow land, I can watch YouTube at my desk and listen to podcasts and tunes. I can even Twitter if I like [ahem ... that's "tweet", but in my defense I'm not sure if "tweet" had escaped beyond the twitterati yet when I wrote that].

As far as I can tell, the biggest pain point on the mobile web has got to be typing. Since I do a lot of that, my view is bound to be biased. For most people, it may not matter so much. And, to be clear, I'm not against the mobile web and may yet end up immersed in it. That pocket-thing certainly has a lot of potential.

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