The Mobile Internet is closed

Ever since i-mode hit it big in Japan, the mobile sector has been banking on some form of mobile Internet as a way to generate new revenues at some point in the Near Future. But is there really any money in it‾ Joi Ito - entrepreneur, venture capitalist, CEO of Creative Commons, chairman of Six Apart Japan and all-around digital guru of sorts - thinks not.


In a smashing blog post last Friday, Ito states the problem eloquently: the problem with mobile Internet is that it's not the Internet - and therefore lacks the qualities that made the Internet thrive:


"&brkbar; [M]ost mobile networks that actually work are built on infrastructure that is operated by a small number of mobile operators who use a lot of regulated and closed technology.


The reason that we have vibrant startup driven innovation is because the Internet is open by nature. Anyone can participate without asking permission and anyone can compete with anyone else at every layer of the stack. This DNA of open and free competition (except for the occasional semi-monopoly) is what allows startups like Google to come in and displace incumbents. If it weren't for the Internet, I'm positive that the telcos would have determined that it was the most efficient that THEY design and operate the 'online directories'.


He's got a point. I barely use my 3G account as it is because the free hosted content is limited and my provider puts the meter on for proper Internet access. Mobile is still an add-on experience in the Internet age - great for SMS and email, not so much for the rest. Sticking a YouTube logo on the deck doesn't make it an Internet device.


Anyway, read the whole thing. Especially if you work at a cellco.