It's Dot-com vs. Dot-mobi

The Jury Is Out on Proposed Mobile Web Designation

By Published on .

SAN FRANCISCO ( -- What's in a name? That's what the mobile marketing community has been addressing ever since Microsoft, Google, Nokia and a host of other brands joined forces to bet more than a million dollars on the name "mobi."
The Weather Channel has launched a dot-mobi demonstration site,
The Weather Channel has launched a dot-mobi demonstration site,

But while marketers, the mobile industry and anyone else standing to benefit from the expansion of mobile web are backing dot-mobi -- a mobile-specific domain address similar to dot-com that allows people to surf the internet via cellphones, smart phones and other mobile devices -- others think the well-ingrained dot-com address works just fine, and keeping it will mean not having to spend money educating consumers about what the heck dot-mobi is in the first place.

"I don't think it's strategic in the long term," said Jean Berberich, head of mobile consumer strategies for Procter & Gamble Co. With dot-mobi, marketers would likely need to add text to their ad copy that instructs consumers to use dot-com for PC and dot-mobi for mobile surfing.

Man who invented www
Tim Berners-Lee, the man who in 1999 invented the World Wide Web designation, said there was "danger" in the dot-mobi classification. "I believe that all web content should be made, where possible, accessible with small and large devices," he said.

The mobile industry is already poised for rapid growth -- mobile ad revenue will top $1.5 billion by 2010, according to a February report from RBC Capital Markets. But dot-mobi supporters believe the designation will allow for even better adoption of mobile web, because it would guarantee consumers could find websites tailored to mobile's smaller screen and different download speed.

High-profile marketers are backing Dublin, Ireland-based Mobile Top Level Domain, or mTLD, whose CEO, Neil Edwards, said current searches on mobile phones for dot-com sites offer a poor experience for consumers. "We will make mobile content available to the masses," he said.

Battling against dot-mobi
But many dot-com websites, especially from sophisticated web marketers, already detect whether an inquiry is coming from a PC or a mobile device and respond with an appropriately designed web experience. So it's not surprising that a number of companies providing that service for marketers are waging their own PR battle against dot-mobi.

"The onus should not be on brands to go away and spend huge amounts of money to re-write their Web sites," Eran Wyler, CEO of InfoGin, an Israeli company that adapts web content for mobile devices, said in a statement. "Mobile operators have a responsibility to their subscribers to make the internet work as it was intended on all mobile devices, because that is what subscribers have been led to believe it would be like."

Anil Malhorta, VP-marketing for Bango, said the issue is "how to make sure the mobile websites work well. The answer is not new top-level domain names. Brand owners will have to pay for another domain name, even if they never intend to use it. Dot-mobi is unnecessary."

Fond of dot-com
Consumers and marketers appear to be very fond of the dot-com domain name, which continues to dominate worldwide. At the end of the third quarter of 2005, out of 85.6 million domain names worldwide, almost half, 40 million, ended with dot-com, according to a domain report from VeriSign. Still, Jill McNabb, senior marketing manager, VeriSign, said there has been some increased interest in niche web names. For example, the dot-tv domain name, around since 2000, appears to be growing as the PC becomes more of an entertainment device.

Kanishka Agarwal, VP-new products at Telephia, a San Francisco mobile research firm, said there are two major issues impeding the growth of the mobile web: the difficulty in quickly searching for content, and the difficulty of rendering websites quickly and well on the so-called third screen. Is dot-mobi the solution? "I don't think you can say for sure," said Mr. Agarwal. "Who knows?"

Louis Gump, VP-mobile at The Weather Channel, launched a dot-mobi demonstration site, The Weather Channel uses dot-com in the U.S., dot-fr in France and numerous other designations for other nations but dot-mobi will eliminate duplication and will become a true global designation, he said. While he has been "very pleased" with the dot-mobi test, he said it still has not been put through its paces, particularly with volume demand. "The jury is still out," he said.

Thwarting 'cyber-squatters' on dot-mobi
MTLD's Mr. Edwards said that thousands of companies in mobile trade groups already have signed up for dot-mobi designations, with registrations opened next to those companies with trademarks, followed by a registration period for generic names in August. He said mTLD has taken the stepped approach to counter "cyber-squatters" that might try to corner well-known brand names, including charging a premium for registration -- $200 and up for dot-mobi compared with $10 for a dot-com or dot-net name. Mr. Edwards said the steep fee is necessary because mTLD will ensure sites with the dot-mobi are, in fact, mobile friendly. MTLD also plans to get its message out to marketers and consumers through public relations but also is in the process of selecting a media-buying and advertising agency, Mr. Edwards said.

Michael Denning, VP-general manager, digital brand management services at VeriSign, said persuading consumers to switch from dot-com to dot-mobi is a challenging task that most marketers are not interested in pursuing. "Most of my clients are not interested in changing use behavior," he said. While a few companies, Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting among them, have grand plans for dot-mobi, he said, most marketers are buying up the designation as a defensive measure. The likely success of dot-mobi, he said, "is not a slam dunk by any stretch of the imagination."
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