How to choose a mobile domain name

Choosing a mobile domain name

One of the hardest parts of building a mobile site is choosing what you’re going to call it. Not only do you have to choose a cool name for your URL, you also need to choose how you’re going to signify that it’s a mobile site.

The options are.

  • m.
  • .mobi
  • .wap
  • .mobile
  • .wireless

We think m. is the defacto choice for most mobile sites, and it’s also the name we recommend to clients looking to build a mobile site; it’s short, so you don’t need to type in too many characters, it’s well used, and our gut feeling is that there are more sites using it than any of the other choices. The bad side is that it goes against the www convention that’s been drilled into users over the last 15 plus years, however it’s not unusual to see sites use subdomains/subordinal URL address eg like Googlemail and we think that it’s something that web users are comfortable with.

If you look at the other choices m. is pretty much a no-brainer.

Domain .wap is really just for sites that use the .wap cut-down version of the html protocol, and for Wap phones, and as far as the web is concerned it’s a dying convention. Although there are still Wap phones out there, but their number is reducing by the day.

Suffix’s .mobi and .mobile are both initiatives from domain name authorities who are quite frankly interested in selling as many as of their domain names as they can. .Mobi is the best of the two and the most well used, it’s also quite short when it comes to typing in an address.

The suffix .wireless is again a domain name authority initiative, but as nobody uses wireless outside of the US and .wireless is eight characters we can dismiss it out of hand.

Mobile measurement firm Ground Truth recently did some ground work on mobile name choices, and they have some hard facts:

In the week ending July 4, 2010, Ground Truth measured 5.01 billion page views that included requests to 1,555,630 unique domains. The data shows that 18,934 (1.2 percent) of those measured domains and sub-domains were mobile-centric, such as “m.”, “wap.” and “.mobi”, but 17.3 percent of total page views were served from those domains. The remaining pages were served from domains without a mobile-specific domain, such as “www.” sites. Some of these sites, however, are mobile-aware, such as,, etc.

Mobile Web Domains by Naming Convention Week Ending July 4, 2010
Prefix/Suffix Example* Sub-domains Page views
All Domains 1,555,630 5,101,022,611
www. 670,116 474,538,972
m. 7,186 523,680,997
.mobi 6,430 25,445,571
mobile. 2,812 4,825,525
wap. 2,469 330,454,120
wireless. 37 127,110
Source: Ground Truth. Census of 3.06 million U.S. mobile subscribers for the week ending July 4, 2010. Copyright 2010. *Sub-domains and page views are not measures of the example domains provided.

Of the mobile-centric domains, the prefix “m.” and the “.mobi” suffix appear about equally, but sites using the “m.” prefix serve 21 times more pages than do “.mobi” domains, Ground Truth reports. Following in popularity (by number of sub-domains) are the “mobile.” prefix and legacy “wap.” prefix.

According to Ground Truth, the least popular mobile-centric prefix by a large margin is “wireless.”, showing up in only 37 domains, and serving just 127,110 pages.

Ground Truth believe there is no consensus among mobile Web publishers for a mobile-centric naming convention and advocate setting up all three most-used sub domains: ‘m.’, ‘mobile.’ and ‘wap.’.

In our view the most important thing is brand and brand awareness. If you have spent time and money encouraging users to go to your website, then the last thing you want to do is confuse them with another domain. Additionally the chances are your domain etc are already gone, and if they aren’t it’s an additional cost and an additional thing to maintain. Where as you already own and it fits perfectly within your brand.

We think that choosing all three is a cop out, it’s also confusing to the user, and there may well be complications with the search engines and how they view your site. Google frowns on multiple versions of the same content and effectively by using three separate domains etc you will be doing just that.

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