Mozilla CTO talks about mobile browsing (updated)
(See important update below)
In a panel yesterday entitled “Browser Wars Retrospective: Past, Present and Future Battlefields” at the SXSW conference, Mozilla’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Brendan Eich said he doesn’t believe people are going to browse the web on mobile phones. He added by saying “I don’t believe people want to use Wikipedia from their phone.”
I was very surprised to hear this from a top Mozilla official. Is he in denial on the fact that millions upon millions are already browsing the web using their mobile phones?
We at Opera have got the numbers to back it up. The tiny Opera Mini browser has become a star of its own with more than 12 million accumulative users in a little over 13 months.
Granted that here in the United States (US) mobile browsing is not widespread as is the case in Europe and other places in the world, but we’re definitely in an upward trend. Mobile browsing is especially popular in some developing countries, where it’s a cheaper method of getting online than with PCs.
Though mobile browsing has not replaced my regular PC browsing, I do find myself browsing on my phone using Opera Mini more and more often. It does come in very handy when I’m away from my computer.
I sincerely hope Brendan will clarify Mozilla’s position on the mobile web. Mozilla has done a lot of good to advance the web; they’re an important partner of ours in helping bring forward web standards.
Daniel Appelquist, from Vodaphone (whom I met at the Mobile Monday New York event a couple months ago) was surprised too about these comments. He wrote in his blog:
“This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about with regard to mobile, which is a bit sad because he’s obviously a smart guy in other respects. It’s typical of the willful denial that’s all too prevalent in the “Web” community about mobile, and it stems from a misapprehension about the nature of the platform.
Yes, the mobile is not suited to the kind of Web browsing that people are used to on the PC. It is suited to a different kind of Web usage and interaction model, a model that the WICD spec was built to service.”
Paul Walsh, one of the founding members of the W3C’s Mobile Web Initiative, had this to say about Mozilla on his blog:
“I’m absolutely amazed by Brendan’s view and I sincerely hope it’s his personal view and not Mozilla’s. Otherwise this $300m business faces the prospect of ending up in the bin alongside its parent, Netscape.
For a guy who’s incredibly smart working for an organization that has gained a market share of 10% to 12% of desktop browsers within 2 years, his comments are a little surprising to say the least. Brendan’s comments in my opinion, lack vision. Hell, they lack logic.”
(Thanks to Keith Waters, France Telecom, for the picture above)
Important update: Less than an hour after I published this post Brendan Eich, the Mozilla CTO, was kind enough to explain what he meant and what he didn’t say. He says of course he never said “I do not think people will browse the web on phones”, but rather that “phones do not fit the same tasks and interaction design as desktop machines; that people use the web on phones in more focused, task-specific ways. I generalized.”
I’m relieved to hear that you were misquoted; it frankly didn’t make too much sense to me. I apologize to Brendan for misquoting him; I was merely relying on Daniel Appelquist’s account of what went on at the panel. (I’ve updated the post title).