Two important developments in the first month of the year are enabling the web to move a few steps closer to ubiquity. Most mobile phones do not have a web browser — or if they do have one it likely does not work very well. Generally, the mobile browsing speed has been slow and the displays hard to read because the pages were designed for a PC browser. Those shortcomings have changed dramatically with the introduction of Opera Mini.
The Oslo, Norway based Opera Software has announced the worldwide release of Opera Mini, a full Web browser that runs on almost every mobile phone, including low-end handsets — in other words you don’t need a $500 "Personal Digital Assistant" to get a great browser. This is quite a breakthrough. Trials of Opera Mini in the Nordics and in Germany during the fall of 2005 resulted in a user base of more than one million people. You can get more information and download instructions at the Opera Mini site. For most users, it is as simple as downloading a new ringtone. Opera Mini was designed with mobile users in mind. "Mini" compresses Web pages by up to 80% and reformats them using an Opera developed technology called Small-Screen Rendering. SSR makes web pages fast loading and easy to read. It can also save money if you are paying your carrier for data "by the byte". On the Mini homepage you will see the familiar Google search box. Mini also has a customizable bookmark list to make it easy to save and surf your favorite sites. If your mobile phone supports EV-DO or WiFi you will find that surfing the web on a handheld device is a very nice experience. Opera Mini is available in English, German, Spanish, French, Russian, Polish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Finnish. Get the full story at opera.com. Speaking of WiFi, wireless access points — known as hotspots — are continuing to flourish — as predicted here for a number of years. The number of worldwide hotspots listed in JiWire‘s online directory has now surpassed 100,000. The growth since a year ago was 87 percent — from 53,779 hotspots in 93 countries, to 100,335 locations in 115 countries. In spite of the early start, America has only about a third of the hotspots. The top cities are Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Paris. The good news is the growing availability. In spite of lobbying by telecommunications companies to prevent cities from offering free WiFi, and despite predictions that WiFi could not "scale", the growth continues. With the introduction of the new Opera Mini browser, continued price-performance of mobile phones, and the spread of WiFi, we are getting close to the vision of a fast, always-on, everywhere, natural, easy, intelligent, and trusted Internet.