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The Early Days of the Mobile Web

If you listen to mine and Benedict Evans podcast then you will know we talk a bit about the mobile web. Specifically, we call out the importance of the mobile web and how it is an experience that contrasts that of the desktop web. Everything is different because our context is different. Most of the time when we are browsing the desktop web we are sitting in a fixed location. Most of the time when we are using the mobile web or our mobile device in general, we are not fixed but mobile. Our mobile context is very different from our fixed context.

With that in mind, I still wonder if we are in the early days of the mobile web. The pew research tweeted out this photo that got me thinking:


The tweet containing this image had the following caption: In 1996, this is what a cell phone with Internet capabilities looked like. Traveling down this rabbit hole, I went searching for screen shots of the early days of the desktop web. I came across this link with a chronology of time periods and the evolution web pages went through.

Here is Apple’s web page from 1997 for example.


All of this got me thinking. What stage of the mobile web are we in today? It seems as though we are out of the very early stages but are we even at the middle stages yet? What if we translate web pages into Apps? Are we still in the early days of apps?

We are in the process of connecting the unconnected. For the next billion people, the web will be fresh. Apps, browsing, media, it will all be brand new. We are moving into an area of explosive growth driven by consumers who never owned a personal computer, or even any electrical gadget of any kind before.

Ten years from now will we see similar links to the one on webpages I posted showing the evolution of apps from early stages to modern times? Absolutely we will. Device capabilities will evolve. Consumer needs will evolve. It will all change. What is intriguing to me is how fast it will all change. We can look at the time period of the evolution of the desktop web as being 25 years. The mobile web won’t take half that long to change twice as much. Playing in the mobile arena will be playing in the fast lane. It will all change and quickly.