Mobile Web: Long Tail Versus Short Tail Debate

Last year, every consumer brand seemed to be building an iPhone application. Towards the end of 2009, they began to say, 'We have an iPhone application. Now what?" For many, the answer seems to be "mobile Web." The open question is "how." I'll be publishing an in-depth study on how with my colleague Brian Walker, going into more depth on the implications of commerce for mobile Web builds. One of the strategic questions that must be answered first is, "do I build a mobile Web site for all devices (= long tail)?" or "do I have a more tiered approach with custom development for the handful of devices (short tail) which drive most of my traffic and a more automated approach for all the other devices (long tail)?" Good questions.

There are some good sources of information online. AdMob and Millennial Media publish monthly reports based on ad requests they see. Netbiscuits just published a white paper with a lot of good data.

First, how long is the long tail? According to the Netbiscuits white paper, it was 2,496 devices in February 2010. How short is the short tail (= 50% of the traffic)? In February 2010, only 12 devices. What is the number one device in each report? Yes, the iPhone -- or now iOS 4 platform. In terms of global traffic, Netbiscuits put Apple first with 36% of traffic while AdMob's numbers for Apple were a bit lower at 33%.

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