INSIDE MOBILE: Why Direct Web Access No Longer Matters

By J. Gerry Purdy  |  Posted 2010-09-01

INSIDE MOBILE: Why Direct Web Access No Longer Matters

I'm sure this week's column title caught your attention. You might have even asked yourself, "Is this guy losing it or what?" While my family figured that out a long time ago, there's a very important message in the title, but it needs some explanation.

The fact that the Web no longer matters seems counterintuitive. The World Wide Web, which gives us the "www" front portion of Website names, has become the center of the digital universe. Every organization and many individuals have built Websites and that's certainly going to continue for many years.

Why the Web no longer matters, though, is that more and more of us (and millions of machines that communicate as well) won't ever directly access the Web any longer. Instead, we'll access something else that provides us with the information we want-and that intermediary will access the old, traditional Web.

Others are coming to the same conclusion. One analogy to this situation might be nuclear power generation: no one really touches the power generator's core. Instead, we touch the heat and power that is generated. The core is still built but we really don't witness or see it.

Worldwide Mobility Trends

Worldwide mobility trends

Let me show you why directly accessing the Web will, very soon, no longer matter at all. This is primarily due to mobility; mobile phones never touch the Web directly. All mobile phones with Web access go through a mobile server that, in turn, actually interacts with the Web. Web pages are realigned, mobile ads are inserted, video is encoded differently and lots of processing is done to make the mobile Web experience acceptable.

Let's try to put this into perspective. In many areas of the world (outside the United States), the mobile phone is the only way to access information. People in these areas don't have broadband access at home. Thus, their mobile phone becomes their "lifeline" to getting information.

There are around six billion people in the world, and 60 percent (3.6 billion) currently own a mobile phone. Less than a third of these people have broadband. In addition, smartphone applications are becoming the primary information interface to mobile users. The applications may access the Internet or the mobile Web server, but the user doesn't access the Web directly.

And as tablets become more common for everyone, people are going to use more publishing applications to read content from newspapers and magazines (as well as to listen to music that comes from servers such as Pandora). Thus, direct Web access will take a much smaller percentage of everyone's time.

Alternatives to Direct Web Access

Alternatives to direct Web access

Other reasons that direct Web access no longer matters pertain to the interfaces, interpreters and mashups. Interfaces provide a local application on a PC or Mac and the user experiences something beneficial. The application may communicate with the Web but the user doesn't. One example is DropBox, which enables file sharing among groups of people. You put your file in the folder locally and it's stored on the Web.

Multiperson games run in a similar manner. You play the game using a local application that gives you a rich graphical experience, and the application connects the other users over the Web that you don't see. Mashups take content from many different places and present a unified set of information.

And finally, another major reason that direct Web access doesn't matter is that people are spending less time "on the Web." There are more choices available to people and, thus, they spend less and less of their time inside the Web browser. More time is spent on e-mail, posting to Facebook with the phone, playing games and reading material in digital publishing applications.

Sure, direct Web access is still important today. However, it is becoming less important all the time. There's a movement to put more applications "in the cloud" but people are not always online and it's my belief that local access (PC, tablet and smartphone) provides the best user experience. The local application can access more resources on the Web (cloud) to make my local experience better.

I think from this analysis you can see that my column's title this week is appropriate. The time spent directly accessing the Web no longer matters. What does matter is getting the job done, enjoying the game, or efficiently (and locally) reading the material that's important to you.

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. is Principal Analyst of Mobile & Wireless at MobileTrax LLC. As a nationally recognized industry authority, Dr. Purdy focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Dr. Purdy is an "edge of network" analyst looking at devices, applications and services, as well as wireless connectivity to those devices. Dr. Purdy provides critical insights regarding mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of the column Inside Mobile & Wireless that provides industry insights and is read by over 100,000 people a month.

Dr. Purdy continues to be affiliated with the venture capital industry as well. He currently is Managing Director at Yosemite Ventures. And he spent five years as a Venture Advisor for Diamondhead Ventures in Menlo Park where he identified, attracted and recommended investments in emerging companies in mobile and wireless. He has had a prior affiliation with East Peak Advisors and, subsequently, following their acquisition, with FBR Capital Markets. For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people's mind-sets, as well as developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, Dr. Purdy's ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile and wireless industry. He is author of three books as well.

Dr. Purdy currently is a member of the Program Advisory Board of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which produces CES, one of the largest trade shows in the world. He is a frequent moderator at CTIA conferences and GSM Mobile World Congress. He also is a member of the Board of the Atlanta Wireless Technology Forum. Dr. Purdy has a B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from University of Tennessee, a M.S. degree in Computer Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Exercise Physiology from Stanford University. He can be reached at

Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column. If that situation happens, then I'll disclose it at that time.

Rocket Fuel