It’s less than twenty years since most people’s awareness of the Internet came from CDs taped to pieces of cardboard with the AOL logo attached. We welcomed it into our home, but in the past decade our relationship with it has utterly changed; now almost all of us carry the internet in their pocket.
What began the change was a sudden and significant improvement in bandwidth, allowing even a mobile phone’s internal aerial to process not just voice transmission but videos and even streaming two-way video conversation without notable loss.
Along the way, web designers realised that it was possible for people to view websites through their phones, which naturally triggered a desire to provide alternative versions of sites better suited to a telephone’s screen and touch control.
With Google making it easier to search on phones, more and more people noticed that this was possible, and that provided more momentum; Facebook and other social media sites followed – mobile access is perfectly suited to social media, allowing people to update on the go and keep in touch with their friends constantly. Who among us now doesn’t know anyone who starts checking their friends lists before they even get out of bed, or who reports their dreams and nighttime conversations with a partner?
Yet this is only possible because of specialised apps designed for our smartphones – Facebook is even divided into two now, one providing the main interface while the other optimises Facebook Messenger for the smartphone.
There’s a plausible argument to be made that the popularity of the tablet is only possible due to our pre-existing relationships with our smartphones, wanting to take what’s been so successful and return to incorporating a larger screen, giving more precise control and presenting more detail at a time.
In any case, mobile browsing has gone from an unusual choice to something everyone does inside a decade. More and more websites now come in regular and mobile forms, and there are even some developed which are intended purely for browsing from your phone – or which have been redesigned to favour the smartphone and tablet over the laptop and the computer.
When your favourite site changes, ask yourself whether the new format looks designed for a vertical screen – there’s a good chance that they’ve moved further toward the mobile paradigm.