The latest trend working its way into the small business world concerns mobile phones and Web sites. If you've ever tried to access your favorite site with a handheld mobile device, you're familiar with how bad most Web sites look and how hard it is to use them. That's the problem dotMobi was created to solve.
DotMobi, more commonly written as .mobi, is a top-level domain – as are other more familiar domains such as .com, .biz and .org. A dotMobi domain is designed to optimize Web content for mobile devices – PDAs, smartphones and Internet-ready cell phones. The desired end result is a site that looks as good – and performs as well -- on a handheld as it does on a computer.
The dotMobi domain is still a fairly young innovation, but according Jeff Grosman, senior vice president at Network Solutions, one of many Internet service providers that offers dotMobi domain registration, hosting and services, so far a total of 600,000 mobile-optimized domains have been sold in since October 2006.
This trend may gain traction since sales of handheld devices are eclipsing computers. In 2006, Gartner analysts estimated that sales of mobile phones alone would hit 986 million units. Compare that to IDC's estimates that PC sales will hit 300 million units annually by 2009.
The dot.mobi technology is still in the early stages, though Grosman said he expects things to advance quickly. "We expect to see the same progression with dotMobi as we've seen with traditional Web sites," said Grosman. He added that dotMobi sites currently provide basic information such as sales specials, menus, location, phone number and store hours. As the application technology develops, those sites will offer information services like tracking packages, account balances and e-commerce.
"Right now, there isn't a lot of sophistication as far as application software goes, but that progression should happen fairly quickly, within two years," he said. As for e-commerce capability, Grosman estimates the first dot.mobi e-commerce sites will come from Fortune 500 companies in approximately six to eight months.
Nearly 60 percent of Network Solutions' customers are service-oriented companies that don't conduct e-commerce, but still need a Web presence. Grosman suggested that any business should consider having multiple domains for each site: for example, MyRestaurant.com and MyRestaurant.mobi (and .org, .net and so on). That strategy prevents your competition from grabbing up the domains. And, of course, it also increases the Internet service provider's revenue stream.
Grosman also said that he envisions a time when search engines recognize when a search is conducted on a mobile device and thus consider dot.Mobi sites as more relevant and rank them higher than sites not optimized for mobile devices. "If you were to search for 'pizza,' for example, you would get listings of sites that are dot.Mobi compliant first," said Grosman.
You can find more information about which Internet service providers offer dot.Mobi domains at the official dotMobi site. If you want to see what your Web site looks like on a handheld, you can also try the dot.Mobi emulator.
Of course, Network Solutions offers dot.mobi domains, and starting in August, it will also offer a dot.mobi design service called Do It Myself. Customers who buy a dot.mobi domain can build a dot.mobi-compliant Web site with up to five pages – for $20 per year plus the cost of the domain. A dot.mobi domain costs $34.95 per year. Gosman said that the site will be rendered in a way that 99.9 percent of Internet-capable mobile devices can view it.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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