The Challenges of Multiple "Internets": Desktop, Mobile, and Apps | TechWell

The Challenges of Multiple "Internets": Desktop, Mobile, and Apps

When George Bush referenced “the Internets” during the 2004 presidential campaign, those in the opposing party used the term as a point of mockery. No one had ever pluralized the term because there really was only one Internet. Jump nine years ahead to present day and what do you know—we do have more than one Internet, and most people aren’t too happy about it.

I’m referring to the web used while at a desktop computer, mobile versions of websites viewed on a smartphone, and finally, what’s viewed through mobile apps. Each provides a completely different user experience, but some are calling for a single, unified experience where surfers aren’t missing out by using one portal into the web over another.

Smashing Magazine boldly declares that there is not a “mobile internet,” developers should stop attempting to create one, and that they take a “device-agnostic approach to communicating with connected consumers.”

Marek Wolski explains that the difference between mobile and desktop websites isn’t the fault of developers but rather the limitations of early devices:

A couple of years ago, mobile devices couldn’t even handle many of the Web’s fundamental standards (JavaScript, for example). But as devices became as powerful as last year’s MacBook, the technology drove a behavioral shift. It wasn’t just early adopters who were using the mobile Web. It was every person and their dog with a smartphone and a 3G connection.

Marek goes on to point out that we now have so many millions of people using very powerful mobile devices and that the time has come to enable them to do anything you can do from your desktop computer. Marek refers to a study that shows that worldwide a majority of smartphone web browsing is done at home where users have access to their desktops but choose not to use them.

This gets tricky in a very obvious way: No matter how powerful our mobile devices are, they’re incredibly much smaller than our increasingly larger desktop monitors. Even if your device can handle the full content of your favorite website, how is it supposed to display it all, aesthetically, on a four-inch screen?

This, of course, opens the door for mobile apps and starts an entirely new debate about whether developers and business analysts should spend their time and money creating beautiful mobile versions of websites or creating engaging mobile apps. And if they forget to include everything from the full, desktop version of the website, consumers may be unhappy.

The call for “One Web,” which Smashing Magazine makes, is certainly understood—and perhaps even needed—but how to achieve this is still very much up in the air.

What do you expect from the mobile versions of websites and their apps? Is it okay for them to be more limited and scaled down from larger, full versions? Should we be able to do anything from a phone that we can do from a desktop? Share your opinion in the Comments below!

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