Blog Post

M Dot: Web’s Answer to Mobile

Whoever thinks the web is sliding ever-so gently onto mobile phones hasn’t spent much time mucking around in the cellular browser. The mobile Internet is kicking its way there, with a lot of confusing choices for consumers — dot mobi, WAP, But I’ve noticed a trend lately of Internet companies using, or M Dot, to go mobile.

This weekend Twitter lit up its latest mobile site with That follows the moves of Internet companies, especially search, like Yahoo’s, Google’s, and Ask’s Like its parent, YouTube also has the site, though, it’s currently blocked and won’t open up until June stateside.

M:Metrics, a research firm that complies data on mobile usage, tracks the as subdomains of websites visited on mobile devices. Interestingly enough, M:Metrics says that “ accounted for a small percentage of Microsoft and Google domains. . . but 30 percent of Users went to the domain, more than went to or” So some of these m.sites are getting decent traction with consumers.

Why are Internet companies doing this? Twitter says:

We use the m because it’s the shortest possible meaningful sub domain and typing on some phones is a pain. We didn’t launch [the main site] with auto-detection because it would have held back the launch (it’s difficult).

Basically the M Dot is a symbol of how some of the Internet companies are thinking about the mobile web — come at it from a desktop perspective, and doing the easiest thing until a more standardized way comes around.

What do you think? Do you use m.domain or an alternative? Why or why not?

30 Responses to “M Dot: Web’s Answer to Mobile”

  1. This article was published June 12, 2007 in TechNewsWorld. Like everyone else, we’re looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. Comments welcomed and appreciated.



    With more than 4 billion cell phones in use worldwide — 487 million in China alone — it’s no wonder that “mobile” is all the rage.

    A recent segment of “American Idol” received nearly 80 million text message votes. The 2008 U.S. presidential candidates are incorporating mobile communications elements into their campaigns. Social networks such as MySpace Latest News about MySpace and Twitter are starting to deploy mobile-friendly Web sites. Most mobile access is achieved via traditional methods such as wireless carrier “walled garden” decks, short codes, text messaging and often lengthy, convoluted sub-domains.

    It begs the question: Is there a simpler, perhaps more powerful mobile access and branding Email Marketing Software – Free Demo tool that has largely gone unnoticed?

    The Internet and the cell phone are colliding as the media evolve to satisfy our need to socialize and to share information. Personalized mobility will become the norm. If people are going to access Web sites via cell phones, why not make it easy by using numbers instead of letters?
    Numeric Domains 101

    On billions of cell phones worldwide, the dial pad numbers 2 through 9 can represent letters of the alphabet. The numeral 2 can represent “a,” “b” or “c.” The “7” button can represent “p,” “q,” “r” or “s,” etc.

    Therefore, any string of numbers can represent multiple alpha equivalents. The numbers 3776 can represent 144 alpha combinations (3 can represent d, e or f; 7 can represent p, q, r or s; 6 can represent m, n or o). The numbers 3776 could represent “Esso;” it could also represent “ESPN” or 142 other unique alpha combinations.

    On your cell phone WAP Latest News about WAP (wireless application protocol) browser, entering a numeric string and adding “.com” creates a numeric domain.

    Until the domain is specifically purposed, it’s just that — a string of numbers, no trademark issues and no squatting issues.

    Organizations incorporate numeric domains into their overall marketing mix depending on their respective goals and strategies:

    * The numeric domain is the brand. Some of the world's most popular Web sites use numeric-domains as their primary Web sites, including,, and
      Numeric domains can be the brand or help to strengthen the brand. The numeric feature can clearly indicate that the WAP site has been specifically formatted for optimum viewing and navigation on cell phones.
    * Simple input. It's much easier to enter 3776 (.com) -- four input clicks -- than it is to enter a lengthy sub-domain required to get to the same Web site such as mobileapp.espn.go (.com), requiring 32 input clicks.
      Numeric-domains reduce keypad input clicks, thereby reducing input error, frustration and abandonment. Numeric-domains are handheld device, wireless carrier, language and location agnostic.
    * Reduce dependency on wireless carrier "decks." Wireless carriers offer premium content (ringtones, music, etc.) to their customers via "on-deck" portals, or "walled gardens." Content providers typically pay dearly to list and sell their content on-deck, yet have little influence over location, positioning and the amount of promotion done by the carrier.
      Numeric domains allow content providers a direct link to their customers and full control of and responsibility for the user experience.
    * Exert more consumer influence. Wireless carriers play a crucial role in the wireless Internet ecosystem. However, the growing migration of content owners bypassing wireless carriers' expensive billing costs to deliver content direct to consumer is rampant.
      Numeric domains enable direct-to-consumer access and a wide variety of payment options.
    * Short code avoidance, direct-to-consumer delivery. Carrier-controlled short codes are not owned by the content providers. Codes are rented on a monthly basis, can take months to secure and typically are used only for short "campaign" durations.
      Organizations that own their numeric domain enjoy longer lead times for planning campaigns and can associate the numeric domain with, and strengthen, their brand.
    * Short codes restrictions. Short codes are geographically restricted to the reach of the carrier network. This is usually not a problem for local or regional campaigns. However, for international campaigns, companies need to schedule, manage and pay for multiple short codes.
      Numeric domains are equal in the entire global community. The code 3776 is the same in Beijing, Boston or Bali. This ensures that anyone anywhere on the planet with a WAP browser and network access can reach your Web anytime, day or night.

    Why are numeric domains only surfacing now? Perhaps for a number of reasons — fear of the unknown, early-adopter reluctance and the evolving technical expertise to deliver a “beyond expectations” mobile user experience.

    The “wireless” Internet is in its embryonic stages. Access methods such as short codes and text messaging were designed and developed by the carriers and touted by the service providers and/or aggregators. Not surprisingly, each step incorporated substantial profit centers for the emerging cabals. Want a short code? Want to send a text message? Want your content delivered to wireless subscribers? Want that application preloaded on these phones? If so, you’re forced to pay the piper.
    A Place in the Ecosystem

    Major brands that could afford the higher costs often followed the advice of ad agencies and aggregators. Wireless is new. How do we get into the game and measure results? What will it cost?

    The answers, and the solutions, were proffered and spoon-fed by the aggregators, ad agencies and the carriers. With substantial mass-media advertising, the result became the accepted way to communicate a message, engage the consumer and to sell a product or service.

    The industry is maturing and there are alternatives available that many people may not be aware of. However, if embraced and employed, these new tools could dramatically improve on current industry practices.

    Will numeric domains find a prominent place in the wireless ecosystem? It would seem so. Reported sales of numeric-domains have exploded recently. just sold for US$100,000, sold for $75,000, and dozens of others have traded for over $100,000 in private sales.

    Many companies are learning the value, ease of use and versatility numeric domains. As more and more Web and WAP sites — such as the recently launched and the heavily venture capital-backed jump into the fray, it would appear that the numbers are heating up.

    Have you got your number?

    Scott Smith is president and CEO of ArcNum and cochairs the off-portal committee for the Mobile Marketing Association.

  2. Many hundreds, even thousands of large corps have begun to use, and even market their .mobi sites…

    examples include:,,,,,,,,,,,, and hundreds more.

    Why? Because mobi is sexy!!! From a marketing point of view, which looks better? or Stop thinking like techies and think like teenagers – who will someday rule the internet.

    That’s not to say, there won’t be room for both standards – some may not be able to get the mobi version of their .com /.net /.org /.whatever, so they will have to settle for the m.subdomain, or domain/m, etc.

    The trouble with m.domain standard is there is no organized force behind it, whereas .mobi has a consortium of mobile industry leaders, such as Nokia, Samsung, Ericsson, GSM Association, Hutchison, Microsoft, Orascom Telecom, Syniverse, T-Mobile, Telefónica Móviles, TIM and Vodafone behind it, as well as investment from Google, Microsoft, and Visa.

    With this kind of consortium, we may even see such things as .mobi hotkeys or mobile defaults – which would not just make typing .mobi a non-issue, it would catapault .mobi leaps and bounds ahead of any other extension.

    Mobi has hit the emerging North American mobile market with perfect timing. With an expected million .mobi registrations within the coming year, all this new mobile content will be getting marketed by late 2007, and .mobi will explode into the public consciousness all at once.

    Wise firms are readying their .mobi sites even as we chat.

  3. The “extra effort” to get content negotiation working is just on the part of the server maintainers (who are supposed to be up on such techie stuff anyway)… it’s no effort at all on the part of the end users, who just have to enter the address of the site, the same in both mobile and non-mobile devices, to get to it.

  4. I think is great idea than

    why I have to have another extension while I have already so for us will go with either or Auto-detection

  5. With regard to using a dot in front of the domain – for ANY purpose, I get the sense that an “area code” has been added. This is not as simple as using an ending (mTld such as .mobi) which tells me exactly what I am getting.

  6. is a good strategy compared to .mobi domain names for few reasons:
    1) The Current domain owners of .com don’t have to register a new .mobi or buy the domain in the secondary market.
    (Especially true for owners of generic .com owners).
    2) The subdomains could be used by prefixing m. example one could use
    3) ,, or any other can be redirected to

    The only person gaining from promoting .mobi initiative is the dotMobi promoters and the speculators who are able to flip the generic .mobi for quick gains.

  7. “but b) still be allowed to go to the full PC site should their patience (and browser’s abilities) permit it. With auto-detection, that’s a very rare choice.”

    So why not just brand your existing .com with forced mobile redirect? Because of this unsolved problem:

    A .COM developer doesn’t know whether to keep the full site preserved for advanced PDA access (with scrollbars) or do a mobile device detect and mobile site version redirect on the .com for the lower end phones.. it seems like there is a split here.. an abyss like division..

    Conceptually, the user typing in “” can solve this; but, a user typing in “” with a forced mobile redirect does not solve this matter.

    With the notion, what will become PoPuLaR in the mainstream seems to become more and more where the race is..

    What will be the global trend?

    Now and Later?

    The mobile/pc solutions must recognize, greater, the demand issue for preservation of .com/.cn/etc. full PC information for PDA access “on the go”.. of the current existing .com/.cn/etc. eco-system..

    Kind Regards,

  8. James Pearce – you should have chosen a three letter domain extension. Why ask mobile users to hit more keys than the desktop .com users?

    Web developers don’t use separate URLs to avoid browser rendering engine inconsistencies, they make their .com site work for IE/Opera/FF/Safari etc. This’ll end up being the same for mobile devices too.

    It shouldn’t matter whether I’m mobile or desktop based, just as it shouldn’t matter which browser I’m using. Just give me the same service across all devices without confusing your brand image with different URLs.

  9. I think is a good strategy compared to .mobi domain names for few reasons:
    [1]Easy to type in the cellphones.(less characters)
    [2]Easy to remember for the user.
    [3]It may also give confidence to the users, as it is the same domain name ending with .com, which they used to type in the PC.

  10. Yes, I’ve seen m.sites pop up, but I’m not sure I’m a big fan (but then perhaps you expect me to say that :-) )

    Someone has said that it’s less key presses than .mobi. Well, yes. But not if you remember that you’re removing the .com when you use .mobi… is 2+thingy+7+pause+1 is thingy+2+pause+8

    i.e. .mobi has the same URL usability (sans T9, and slightly quicker with)

    So I would say it’s not about key presses: it’s about consistency, trustworthiness and consumer recognition:

    1) Users can’t be expected to guess whether a given site’s mobile interface is,, or (even!) Outside of .mobi, there’s as little sign of convention as there is with the diversity of different devices :-)

    2) .mobi, as the top-level-domain designed for mobile, provides a lelev of trustworthiness to the user (although they may not explicitly know it). We have a set of best practices, developed with the W3C, that we expect our registrants to build their sites to. And theoretically the right to disable sites if they flaunt basic principles of mobile suitability.

    3) It’s not blindingly obvious to a non-technical user that means mobile. Put it on a billboard ad and people are going to scratch their heads. I would have hoped that a URL ending .mobi has a fairly obvious intention – even to my grandmother.

    I think autodetection does have an impact of course – being able to spot a mobile device and route accordingly. But .mobi is also about more than markup suitability – it’s also about providing services suitable for the mobile context. And I believe users should a) be given mobile-relevant services by default, but b) still be allowed to go to the full PC site should their patience (and browser’s abilities) permit it. With auto-detection, that’s a very rare choice.

    CTO, dotMobi

    Our development community:

    • hi
      the url which i have given u is one of the mobile i just need to configure autodetect when the user open the main website through mobile it has to detect to mobile site instead of website.this should happen when the user wants to open throgh mobile,if user want to open throgh his pc normally the original website should open.can u please help me out in this issue.once you get my mail please respond to [email protected]


  11. From a consumers point of view, .mobi makes more sense because it gives users a consistent and optimized experience. Otherwise, it becomes a guessing game: was it ‘’, ‘’, ‘’, ‘’, etc. Furthermore, the backers of .mobi, including Google, Microsoft, and Nokia, alone have the power and influence to make .mobi the default mobile internet extension and if they choose to exercise that power, the game will be over. At the end of the day, however, it will come down to development. If there are more .mobi sites developed, it will become the defacto standard. If there are more ‘’ mobile sites developed (or sites with auto-detection), then it will become the defacto standard. At the current rate of development, however, .mobi is poised to win that race. If general-use auto-detection arrives too late and after another alternative has already become the defacto standard in consumers minds, then it won’t have much effect, even though it’s the best solution. That’s because consumers don’t easily change habits.

  12. I’ve got and available, but doesn’t make much difference because my site is all mobile. I’ve always said that m. was a better choice then mobi because to me it just makes more sense. I’m also sure that eventually dectection will win out, but i wonder if things like bitty browser will be no longer doable. Then on the reverse what happens to all the new mobile browsers like iphone or deepfish that are supposed to show a full size site and let you zoom in to an area. I also wonder if detection is going to bring about a bit of user agent masqueading by search engines and other automated agents. I understand that for usability to the masses means it should just work, but as an advanced user i’d also like to choose.

  13. It demonstrates a total lack of understanding how to deliver services and content on the mobile space. Oh wait, no its called clueless laziness!!!

  14. We launched at the same time we launched well over a year ago. Dot mobi has been particularly frustrating since M and O are on the same phone key – you’d think someone would’ve thought of that…

  15. Auto-detection will eventually win out. The detection isn’t hard. It’s having the libraries that give one the specs on hundreds or thousands of devices. We can help with that if anyone wants it.

  16. We use .mobi for Newsvine but with the same line of thinking you mention above:

    “come at it from a desktop perspective, and doing the easiest thing until a more standardized way comes around.”

    Whether you think m. or .mobi is the best route is really just a matter of taste. .mobi is easier because you domain and subdomain levels stay exactly the same, but m. is easier because it’s less keys. Either way, we use detection as well so a hit to the regular site should pop you over to the mobile site anyway.

    It’s a mess out there right now, so whatever you choose to do in the interim, just be prepared to change it when it makes sense to.

  17. Chris

    Dumb choices. What in God’s name could’ve convinced these companies that is more attractive/brand strenthening than Their brands are “name” not! is much better sounding, and isn’t hard to type at all. Hope they come to their senses soon.

  18. I think its the best option for companies going mobile. More sensible than going the .mobi route. Also auto detection can be a pain. I think we will continue to see this trend.

  19. the ‘m’ is also nice and easy to enter when using multitap on a numeric phone keypad. for example, in my mobile app, tiny twitter, the download is located at each letter is the first tap on the number pad:

    ‘m’=6, ‘t’=8, ‘w’=9, ‘a’=2

    makes it a peice of cake to enter on a phone.

    so, ‘m’ for mobile and ‘m’ is easy to enter :)