The iPhone is the face that launched a thousand mobile websites-actually, more like 326,600, according to a recent study by Taptu, a mobile search engine. That number is growing by leaps and bounds in various areas of the web, such as shopping and services, the survey concludes.
“By the end of 2010, we forecast that the mobile touch web will have grown to more than 500,00 sites,” says Steve Ives, CEO of Taptu, “and to one million sites by the end of 2011.”
There seems to be no stopping the trend, or is there?
With its 10-inch screen, the iPad has the potential of slowing the development of mobile websites and bring back traditional desktop ones. The reason: Traditional websites look great on the iPad. Website browsing is the reason the iPad was developed in the first place. “iPad offers the best Web browsing experience there is-way better than laptops,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Taptu’s 750 servers regularly crawl some 220 million websites and, by piecing together certain characteristics such as the amount of words and links on a page, can identify whether or not a website is a mobile one made for touchscreens. Taptu can also crawl native iPhone apps that tap the Web.
Moreover, mobile web content makes it tricky for traditional search engines to ply their trade. “Algorithms on the desktop web fall apart on the mobile web,” Ives says.
Less than two years ago, Taptu’s servers found only a few thousand mobile touch websites. The birth of the App Store in the summer of 2008 caused a massive spike in mobile touch website development, as the number of mobile websites surpassed 300,000 in 12 months.
Recently, Taptu has unearthed trends in the areas of mobile website growth.
One out of five mobile touch websites offers shopping and services-the largest category of mobile websites. They are some of the highest quality mobile websites, too. The top three shopping and services areas are: business such as Yellowbook.com, general shopping such as Ebay.com, and real estate such as KLRealty.net.
There’s no question that mobile e-commerce and mobile websites offering shopping and services are on the rise. Mobclix, an operator of a mobile ad exchange network, predicts mobile e-commerce will hit $100 billion over the next decade. Market researcher Gartner predicts mobile app revenue will hit $6.7 billion this year, up from $4.2 billion last year, and will grow to almost $30 billion in 2013.
The number of entertainment mobile touch sites are also popular and growing, according to Taptu. Leading this category: movies websites like universalpictures.mobi. “Last year has really awoken big brands to deliver an iPhone app,” says Krishna Subramanian, founder of Mobclix. “We’re starting to see a lot more movie studies starting to advertise in the iPhone space.”
Other big areas of mobile web activity: cities, medicine, religion, men’s health (which ranks slightly higher than women’s health) and sports. Some 100 million apps and mobile websites will flood the Internet by 2020, Mobclix says.
Yet this growth trend could run smack into the stop sign that is the newly announced iPad. Its 10-inch touchscreen is made for traditional websites, not mobile ones.
When editors from CIO.com sister website Macworld got some time with an iPad, they fired up Safari and went to macworld.com-and the iPad opened up the standard home page, not the version for the iPhone.
“We’re not sure if the iPad’s browser was posing as a Mac, or if our filters just didn’t catch it and re-route it,” wrote the Macworld editors. “But after seeing how good our full-fledged site looked on the iPad, it’s unlikely that we’d force iPad users to view the iPhone version of our site.”