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Commentators have been predicting the explosion of the mobile web for years now, but a couple of factors suggest that this year they may be right.

Earlier this week the Mobile Data Association (MDA) announced that in December of last year 17 million people accessed the internet on their mobile phones.

This is an extraordinary number and one that requires further investigation, especially when they say that:

"[17 million people] equates to 23% of mobile users in [the] UK."

Why? Because it suggests that there are more than 70 million mobile users in a country with a population of around 60 million.

However, even assuming that this actually refers to the number of mobiles from which the internet was accessed, it does suggest that accessing the internet from a mobile device is finally becoming the norm, rather than an activity for the digital elite.

This was reinforced when I had a meeting recently with a company called Flirtomatic. Their WAP site receives 109 million page impressions a month, putting it on a par with, if not slightly above, Google's mobile version (and not far off of the web stats of a site like Guardian.co.uk).

At the same time as these, frankly incredible, figures were released by the MDA, Umbro took out a full page ad on the back cover of yesterday's London Paper. There was nothing inherently amazing about it (other than the fact that it featured Michael Owen who didn't even end up playing for England) except for the fact that it included a QR code...

These codes are in widespread use in South East Asia, but have so far not seen massive exposure in the UK. The way in which the QR code was used in the Umbro ad was not particularly impressive, as it simply amounted to displaying a URL (which was also on the ad anyway) that pointed to a page announcing that Umbro Mobile would be arriving soon. A case of 'nothing to see here' in many ways.

Except the very fact that a brand like Umbro, which is aiming at a distinctly mass-market audience, is attempting to use QR (and to educate its consumers on what they are) is, for me at least, a bit of a tipping point; it's almost akin to when BBC.co.uk started incorporating social bookmarking chicklets on all its articles.

And finally, when you consider the fact that Google recently updated the algorithm on its mobile version, to automatically display results that would be more useful to mobile users, it really does seem like 2008 could be the year the mobile web starts to tip.

So maybe it's time to start considering the needs of mobile users, and to investigate opportunities in mobile. Think about SEO for mobile sites, rather than just the website. And perhaps look into incorporating QR codes into your next marketing campaign.

Ciaran Norris

Published 7 February, 2008 by Ciaran Norris

12 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Harriet Henniker-Major, Associate Marketing Manager at SBI Framfab

Sky One recently encorporated a QR code more thoughtfully...

See: http://www.altogetherdigital.com/20080201/lost-and-qr-codes/

over 9 years ago

Ciaran Norris

Ciaran Norris, Chief Digital Officer at Mindshare

Thanks Chris - we were pretty chuffed with that too! (I didn't want to blow our own trumpet, but I'm glad that you have)

over 9 years ago



Ciaran - They must have heard you! The Umbro mobile site is no longer 'nothing to see here' :)

If anyone is interested in the many ways in which QR codes are being used you may like to visit an online magazine I edit on the subject http://2d-code.co.uk - Roger

over 9 years ago



This is great news for the evolution of mobile codes. I have always pushed for the adoption of a mobile application that lets the consumer click on 2D codes ( QR, data matrix, Aztec, Maxi). The problem is not all phones have the same ability, and, not all countries have the same reader on every mobile device. I may have the Kaywa reader on my mobile but if there is an Aztec code on the page I cannot read the symbol. If I have Kaywa reader I may not be able to get 20% off my next purchase from the brand if the 2D code is from an indirect system. The mobile eco system needs standards. Neomedia is helping lead the way. The Neoreader reads all non proprietary 2D codes stated above and 1D type barcodes, ex.)EAN & UPC.

The next thing I think is that all objects should be able to be clicked on. Logos, keywords, slogans, RFID, trademarks, billboards, etc. to find instant information.

Why limit the consumer/web user to QR codes? What if I cannot find any codes?

What if I am walking down the street, can I just say the keyword into the mobile broswer to get information, directs, location, coupon, time of closing, etc?

FYI, Neomedia's IP covers it.

over 9 years ago



Keep an eye on the Mobile Codes Consortium (MC2)


GS1 Austria & NeoMedia Partner For ITnT

over 9 years ago


Mark Curtis

Hi - Mark from Flirto. Thanks for the reference. The thing I find exciting is the market potential rather more than the numbers on the mobile internet already. Plus the feeling that when we look back on wap designs (like our current iteration) in 3 years time, we'll laugh at how old fashioned it looks. At least I hope so :)

over 9 years ago


Mike Perry

Your questioning the numbers of mobiles in the UK

"Because it suggests that there are more than 70 million mobile users in a country with a population of around 60 million.

is reasonably feasible, in fact another organisation reckons there are close to 110 million in the UK. My household of two for example has five mobiles three of which have Internet connections. Both of my daughters have in excess of three mobile each. The stats don't show how many are used frequently though.

about 9 years ago


Ian Foster

www.qrme.co.uk launched over two months ago and as well as having news and videos based around QR codes the site also creates both a URL and SMS QR Code for you using data from your user profile. A member forum has also been set up for members to exchange ideas. There are instructions on the site on how to set up a free mobile website to link to your QR Code and the service is free.

almost 9 years ago

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