April 19, 2016

Mobile
Mobile internet is changing the web

1 in 5 American households now rely on purely mobile internet connections, study says. That’s twice as much as in 2013, which of course is one hell of an incline.

I think two things drive this:

  1. Mobile devices are so much better these days, thanks in part to the faster mobile networks. Why even bother having a connection that isn’t always available on your primary device(s)? That is, on your smartphone and tablet, which have no ties to your home other than if you happen to be there. Non-traditional primary devices aren’t tied to traditional internet access solutions.
  2. Users are already paying premium for internet access on their primary devices, and if they need secondary devices (aka computers) to have internet access for some reason or other, they can just share the connection. Why pay for internet access again? Better to just rely, and crank up, the primary subscription, right?

There’s probably a great deal of money issues involved here too. If you’re priviliged enough to afford both proper mobile internet as well as a fiber connection, then you obviously will have both, should there be a use case. But if you’re more strapped for cash, looking for someplace to save money, then cutting the fiber might be the way to go. Just look at the decline of the landline, and you’ll see where this is going.

That’s not all good though. Mobile networks are strained in a lot of parts of the world, and developing them is costly. Meanwhile, carriers are obviously looking to maximize profits, and would like to delay upgrading the networks as long as possible. Mobile networks are fast when there’s bandwidth, but when they’re overloaded the user experience changes dramatically. The web, apps, and whatever services live there within, needs to be designed with that scenario in mind. This is already happening, but perhaps not to the extent that is necessary, should people continue to eschew the fiber connections in favor of mobile equivalents. There is no way that the mobile networks, in most cases, will be able to handle that. That means that developers need to make better use of the bandwidth there is, because if you don’t, users will get a poor experience, and possibly take their business elsewhere.

You know what? That doesn’t sound so bad. The web in particular is ridiculously bloated, with nasty tracking scripts and unnecessary crap. A leaner internet would probably be a good thing.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.