2020 mobile and the 1989 desktop

I see an analogy between the desktop machines of 1989 and today’s mobile phones. Say what?! The 89 desktops ran programs (equivalent to the 2020 mobile apps) that were mostly standalone. Often they did not connect to a server via dialup. And those that did rarely connected to other programs, on the same PC or on another PC or Mac. But surely this is completely different on 2020 phones? Well today’s apps connect to their servers. But apps rarely link to other apps, on the same phone or other phones.

It is as though a typical app is like its own silo, like the 89 programs.

Something else. When you look at a webpage, you expect to see links to other webpages. An axiomatic feature of the Web. But when you look at a mobile app, how often do you see a link to another app?

Another item. On mobile globally, 80% of the time is in apps, 20% in a browser. Mobile use is dominated by apps. It also means that the value we see in a well chosen domain name is largely irrelevant on mobile. Domains go in browsers, which are only used 20% of the time on phones.

So what, you think? Maybe this is all some hypothetical gedanken. Can we run with it? Yes. 1989 was the birth of the Web. And the web grew up on the desktops of the 90s. Those years were a turning point. The Web led us to programs called webpages or websites; we don’t usually call them programs, but that’s what they are. What the 89 programs did not have was the Web.

The 2020 apps lack an equivalent Web at the visible UX level. Remember, the real Web is all about visible links (URLs). Speaking of which, in an URL, the most important part is the domain. That is the brand. That’s what users who use a browser focus on. All the other stuff to the right of the domain can be gibberish. (Often is to the average user.)

Follow this thought. Whatever this new type of link for mobile apps, the most important part is a way to express a brand. The brand is what wetware (your brain) remembers. How about something like [Tutor Jill] for a girl called Jill. Or [Jim Wong MBA] for someone who has an MBA. Or suppose we have a coder called Rahul who lives in India. He might have [Coder ਰਾਹੁਲ]. That’s his name in Punjabi. His brand is in 2 languages. Or we have Ivana Petrova, who wants just her name as her brand in Russian, [Ивана Петрова].

These overcome a persistent and nagging problem with domain naming. Those were a product of their time, (1960–70s). A domain cannot have whitespace. It is written in Roman, a-z, (plus some other symbols) and is case insensitive. With mobile brands, we can overcome those. The enclosing brackets mean we can have whitespace. Because domains have no explicit right delimiter, they cannot have whitespace. Unicode lets a mobile brand be in any language.

If we accept the analogy, then we can look at what happened in the 90s to guide us. One crucial element of the 90s infrastructure was the domain Registrars, like GoDaddy. 1993 stands out in this regard. It was the first time that anyone could buy a dot com domain. Previously only established tech companies had such domains, like IBM or HP. This private ownership of domains was essential for the buildout of the Web in the 90s.

Related was that ICANN, the domain regulator, let domains be owned without the owner having to put a website on it. and the owner could sell the domain to another person. Speculation was tolerated. This spurred demand for domains in the first place, and it made for liquidity in a secondary market, for buying and selling domains.

Also of note is that today there are some 330 million domains, with dot com being the largest TLD, having 120 million domains. Often it is quite hard for you to find a suitable domain for your firm. In contrast, the mobile brand namespace is effectively empty.


There can be mobile brands to link between apps. With Registrars selling these. And owners of the brands can resell them.

Inventor. 20 US patents on cellphones. Founded linket.info for mobile brands for users. Linket competes against Twitch and YouTube. PhD physics.