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August 22, 2007

To (dot) Mobi or Not to Mobi, That is the Brand Naming Question

The dot mobi dilemma is an ongoing challenge in the world of naming and branding, not to mention tagline development.

Dot-MobiThe dot Mobi blog tells us that is about to go on sale and that big brand names like and have joined the club... not to mention

They are poised to break 700,000 dot Mobi names soon and Network Solutions even conveniently has a site to help developers help people promote their product names in this new arena.

And yet, and yet.

Dot mobi domains are not registering very well in India.

That's a bad thing because although so many people in the developing world use mobile phones to access the Internet, registering a dot Mobi name costs much more than simply redirecting users to a wireless dot com.

Also, the guys at GoMo News have a real bone to pick with the dot Mobi gang, calling them "arrogant." Ouch.

Teething problems aside, dot Mobi will have its role to play in the future of the Mobile Web, a future that was brought that much nearer with the smashing success of the iPhone.

But frankly, it is really hard to say where a dot mobi domain name fits into a product-naming scheme and even in a company's technology naming strategy.

Right now, the best I can say is that having a dot mobi naming strategy should be part of a naming service strategy... sometimes.

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Posted by William Lozito at August 22, 2007 9:23 AM
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.mobi is a dilemma?

I'd like to think of it as a solution in guaranteeing mobile users that a site will work on their mobile phone.

On a branding level, I fail to see why ".mobi" presents a unique set of challenges any more than "" or ".jp" ... you're setting an expectation about the context of the material being accessed, not about the brand itself.

And unlike alternate mobile branding schemes ("" or "", etc.), sites built on the .mobi domain are regularly crawled for technical specification compliance to ensure that all .mobi sites work on all internet-enabled mobile phone. This special feature of the .mobi domain was granted to us by ICANN to ensure that end-users always have a good experience when accessing a .mobi site.

By the way, those technical specifications are simple:

1. XHTML Mobile Profile
2. No "www"
3. No frames

As for India, that particular article spoke only about one of our registrars in India. We have a half-dozen more, many of whom are doing quite well in registering .mobi domains. I wouldn't take that article as evidence of dotMobi's standing in the India marketplace.

For GoMo News, I think it's fair to say that the author misunderstood the context of a note she received from dotMobi that was designed to help her have the best mobile presence possible. I think the full chain in that entry makes that more clear, and the author also makes clear her misunderstanding on that point.

I don't think the .mobi thing will last. I'm advising clients that it's of no value.

Of course, the folks at .mobi will talk about "protecting your brand in the hottest new name space". But if a company already has a domain name, why do they need to register another one -- and pay another annual fee -- just to create a mobile-friendly version of their online presence?

Two reasons:

1. It's trivial for a website to automatically detect that the user is using a mobile device rather than a "full" computer, and can deliver an appropriate version of the content. You don't need another domain at all.

2. If, for some reason, you need the users to specify which version they want, the subdomain "m" (as in is already become a widely-used convention to signify a mobile-friendly version of content. It's already being used by YouTube and Facebook, amongst other heavyweights, so I reckon it'll win.

I think that I fall between the two of you (and I am sure Bill is gratified to see that the folks at dotMobi are reading his blog). Bill has written about dot-mobi before and I think he, like many other people in the branding industry, is kind of on the fence about it. Remember, Bill runs a naming company and he has to think bout how getting a dot-mobi domain affects a company's naming strategy. And as a consumer, I think I fall on Stilgherrian's side---why pay more for a dot-mobi if a regular website can do the same thing..and if cell phones are getting so good at web surfing that the diffs is negligible? The problem for a company is that it has to present a new name to the world in the dot mobi sphere just as they are searching for congruence across platforms. I think the good people at SND are just a little wary---can you sit in front of a client and ask that part of your brief be a dot mobi naming scheme?
dotMobi is an interesting company but I just don't know if the advantages of having a dotMobi name have reached the tipping point yet. Maybe Mr. Hedderel could take that on board, so we in the marketing industry can have more reason to ask clients to go Mobi. After all, if a dot mobi name becomes a necessity, it's another point of sale for us, yes?

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