Checking in with .mobi

ready.jpg While I’m still not a fan of .mobi, it’s nice to see that they have delivered a nice set of developer support tools at dev.mobi, so full credit to them for that. I noticed this week that they’ve launched a new version of ready.mobi, their tool for testing the mobile-readiness of web sites. It uses the W3C’s best practices, but also gives info on whether sites live up to .mobi’s own content rules.

These rules are described by the CEO of mTLD, the company behind .mobi, as “brain-dead simple”. The three basic rules are that sites must use XHTML-MP, they can’t use frames, and there must be a landing page at myname.mobi. I’m not wholly comfortable with a TLD requiring domain owners to follow specific content guidelines, but I won’t disagree that these three rules are a useful starting point for any mobile site.

In any case, the .mobi Domain Compliance Policy states these rules must be followed, and if they’re not, “non-conformant domains will be suspended, if necessary”. Like it or not, them’s the rules.

Supposedly.

flowers-sept.jpgSo let’s test out the new ready.mobi tool. We’ll use, hmm, how about flowers.mobi, the site that the .mobi folks sold last year for $200,000 to the self-appointed “Domain King”, Rick Schwartz. You might remember that mTLD said these auctions were a great success, and that it auctioned them off to keep them out of the hands of “parties who would only sell them on the aftermarket.” The claim was that the auctions would ensure they’d go to people who’d use the domains to build actual meaningful sites with them; I’m sure the fact that auctions mean mTLD pockets the inflated sums, rather than a middleman, was just a coincidence.

An employee from mTLD said in a comment that Schwartz told her he wanted to develop “a mobile site for flowers”. I noted last December that flowers.mobi was nothing more than a parked site like any other held by a domainer, and it wasn’t even compliant with the .mobi rules to boot. Schwartz suggested I “take a doggie downer” and promised a compliant site within days.

So let’s get back to that new and improved ready.mobi. It displays a boatload of useful information for web developers, and when they fail a test, it offers help me fix it links that do just that. If you’re building a mobile site, you could do a lot worse than run your work through this tool.

fail.jpgYou can see this in action when you run flowers.mobi through, as the site doesn’t use XHTML-MP. That means it violates one of the three “brain-dead simple” rules mTLD laid down. Yet the site, held up as such a success of the domain auction process months ago, still remains up after being not in compliance for several months. It’s still just a parked site, too, with no actual content apart from ads. Is that the “relevant content for the mobile Internet” that mTLD claims to be serious about developing? Or, if you pay them enough for a domain, do you simply not have to follow the rules?

It’s a relevant question, given that mTLD says it will soon release another 500 of the premium names it’s sitting on. Again, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that these let mTLD receive the inflated revenues rather than a middleman, since the CEO again assures us that we “can count on the fact that these valuable names will be sold and usable content will be created for the mobile consumer in the coming months.”

Just like flowers.mobi? It’s not clear what’s going on with that site, but it certainly appears that mTLD isn’t enforcing its own rules — either just for the high-dollar domains, or for any .mobi domains. These rules were a cornerstone of its claims that it wasn’t just a money-grab and that it truly was intended to move the mobile internet forward. But if mTLD doesn’t bother to enforce those rules while continuing to rake in the cash from its high-priced domains and its premium domain sales, its credibility is likely to be undermined.

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