Domain administrator dotMobi is launching a free database of mobile devices, that will allow web developers to deliver services to any device.
The database will ensure that visitors to a website are given information tailored to their device's screen and input methods, and will be available free for mobile developers, as an alternative to the large databases that have been built up before now, by large companies.
“People like Google and AOL and Microsoft have gone out and built large device databases, so services can be more dynamic,” said dotMobi’s vice president of advanced services and applications, Paul Nerger. “But other companies, even ones as big as Disney, can't keep up with all the devices.”
dotMobi is giving away access to the database because its revenue comes from sales of .mobi domains (around 850,000 have been sold). These domains should give mobile users access to content tailored to mobile devices, unlike the .com domains; the database will improve that by handling the wide differences between those devices, said Nerger.
“We're trying to get people to get out of dotcom mode, and to think about the mobile web, and how to really exploit mobile devices.” People will be able to pay for an extra service that gives them updates of changes to specific APIs, for a “minimal” charge of $99 per year, said Nerger. This would ensure, for instance that new Nokia devices would be supported, right away automatically by sites,
Sources for the database include handset manufacturers, operator handset testing teams, and two public domain sources – UAProf and WURFL. Dotmobi has hired one of the founders of WURFL, Andrea Trasatti.
Ironically, the idea behind the dotmobi database might contradict the need for .mobi domains eventually, as .com domains could equally well identify devices and tailor their content, so today's web could go mobile. “I believe strongly that we need a mobile web, and a separate web for mobile devices” said Nerger. “There is rudimentary device detection, but the problem comes with devices like the iPhone or the Nokia N95.” Users should be able to choose a mobile-specific version of their sites, and the .mobi domain will always be intuitive and easy to key in, he said: “It's one web, but you need to communicate your context, and say 'give me mobile or give me classic'.”