Is Off-Deck Browsing Really Growing?

by Raj Singh

So I've been browsing the mobile web from when I was working on it in 1999. Early on, I'd primarily use it for casual browsing such as playing a WAP game or perusing through the news. In the last few yrs, I've been using it for local searches, email, weather etc. One of the issues with mobile browsing has always been trying to navigate to websites that are not optimized for the phone. The pages would either not render or crash the browser in many instances.

To solve this a number of companies emerged and are still emerging offering clever solutions that would essentially "mobilize" your site known as transcoding. New browsers also emerged which could render a whole website on a phone as popularly demo'ed by Steve Jobs with the iPhone. These intelligent browsers and transcoders proved very useful when you want to browse to a random website that would take you off the main WAP portal.

Over time, as more mobile browsing behavior data was collected, it became evident that when browsing on the go, you are either browsing for a specific piece of information such as a football score or you are casually browsing such as reading the news. This is versus the web where you have another level in casual browsing, what I'll call "discovery" browsing where you discover new websites through search results or ads. Services like StumbleUpon thrive on linking users to interesting websites based on their interests. Would StumbleUpon be interesting in mobile browsing?

The mobile search engines recognized these browsing behaviors and have over the past few years improved their search alogorithms to provide more "relevant" results. As an example, a search for "Orlando" through Yahoo's WAP site yields results describing Orlando's restraunts, bars, maps, weather and local news verus providing a list of links like an equivalent web search would render; Yahoo calls this OneSearch.