Mobile internet

I keep reading reports that the “mobile internet” (that is accessing the web via mobile phones or wireless PDAs) is not growing because of usability issues due to screen size – that is navigation doesn’t work or too hard to read/find information.

As an avid net user I can tell you the reason I don’t use it more is because the bandwidth charges here in Australia are simply out of the ballpark – Telstra charges almost $20 per MB.

I think if it were cheaper more people would try to use it, building demand and making it worthwhile for developers to create dedicated sites. But there’s already a solution for content sites: RSS.

As I see it, RSS would be the perfect technology for mobiles: It’s light-weight in terms of markup to content ratio; it’s easy to navigate (next item, previous item, scroll); it would allow pre-configuring the sites you want to visit and have the reader go off and get the goods without having to type in addresses using a phone keypad (which is a real usability issue).

So why don’t people use it? A lot of people probably do already, to be sure, but the reason I don’t is that it would cost a bomb to update your feeds. I once monitored my traffic using a laptop to update my feeds on a paid wifi service – around 2MB worth of download. That’d be about $40 at Telstra’s rates. Fugedaboutit…

Syncing solutions like NetNewsWire/NewsGator integration would reduce this significantly, but it’s still only really an option for business-people that can expense it to the business, or when a person has enough spare cash to burn.

That’s what I find fascinating about the “River of News website” concept that Dave Winer is promoting at the moment. Why do we need to create dedicated sites to display RSS feeds for mobile devices, when a good RSS reader would do the job? Mebbe I’m missing something…