Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mobile Internet Day 3, Berlin: The search for search

Day 3 of Mobile Internet in Berlin saw a lot of discussion of the difficulties facing the growth of mobile internet.
Professor Barry Smyth from Changing Worlds revealed an interesting set of figures from research into online and mobile use.
50% of searches on google etc online result in no action. In other words half of the searches don't return (at least on page one) what you are looking for.
In the mobile world that figure plunges to 10%. 90% of searches result in no click.
So perhaps we need a better search? Dan Applequist (Chair of Mobile Web Best Practices Working Group) presented the case for AJAX, better browser tech and converging standards. And as he dashed for the airport we continued the conversation via twitter.
There are those that argue that the iphone has ignited the use of mobile internet but that this is because iphone users are tech savvy.
Dan's point? His 3-year-old can find and use the browser on the iphone.
I have a 3-year-old too. Unfortunately she can't yet type. But she can speak. In this respect she is like much of the world - much of the world that has access to a mobile phone but not a pc.
So if search was voice activated... that would open up ease of use to millions.
I understand there are latency issues and operator/browser issues in delivering this (Phillip Hoschka, Deputy Director W3C filled me in during a roundtable) BUT as we move towards a more semantic web - one populated with images, sounds, video and people, rather than text-heavy documents, the demand for less text-reliant search/navigation/discovery becomes greater.
So we will have to solve those issues. And as mobiles represent more and more of the nodes on the network (they already offer more points of contact than pcs) then they will come to dominate the needs and the economics of the network and this alone will force change.

More of my thoughts from mobile internet were posted live on twitter:

Met loads of great people here and I'll be chasing up many an opportunity when I get to the UK later this week.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?