Hoping to simplify the Internet surfing experience for mobile customers while increasing the speed of delivery and ease of use of mobile Internet services, a group of leading companies active in the mobile communications industry petitioned the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) this past March to create a new Top Level Domain (TLD) for exclusive use by web sites which are intended solely for display on smartphones and handhelds.
The reasoning behind the request was the hope that a new ".mobi" TLD would spur the development of enhanced mobile applications and services, while creating new business opportunities for those companies servicing the increasing base of mobile customers.
According to a spokesperson for Vodafone, one of the companies involved in making this proposal, "The aim of the initiative is to accelerate the rollout of Internet products and services specifically designed for mobile devices as well as to ensure far greater operating simplicity for mobile subscribers across the globe."
Seeking to ensure broad industry support by gaining additional members, the group which currently consists of Microsoft, Nokia, Vodafone, 3, GSM Association, HP, Orange, Samsung and Sun Microsystems, intends to create a management company to oversee the distribution of names under the proposed mobile TLD.
Despite this seemingly broad-based industry support, however, not everyone sees the "mobile only" TLD as a good thing. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, the first web server and browser, and founder and director of the World Wide Web Consortium, has a different view on the subject. According to a statement released by the W3C's Technical Advisory Group, "There are major problems with these proposals. There are costs in general to creating any new top level domain. There are specific ways in which the ".mobi" breaks the Web architecture of links, and attacks the universality of the Web."
This "attack [on] the universality of the Web" stems from the W3C's view that instead of creating different versions of a site targeted to different devices, developers should create pages which are able to operate on any type of device. The Technical Advisory Group cites the use of Cascading Style Sheets among other methods of instilling cross-platform comparability, which allow the client to tell the server what its display capabilities are, allowing the server to send the most appropriate content for viewing on the client. This level of interoperability allows users who find desirable web pages while surfing with their handheld to later access the site on a different device, such as his home computer.
The W3C's Technical Advisory Group further opposes any new TLD whose domains are exclusively available to companies, especially if limited to those companies who have initially proposed the TLD.