Google Eases the Third Screen Blues

Recently Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) changed its search page for mobile devices so that if you click on one of the search results, Google automatically formats the subsequent page for better viewing and faster loading on a mobile screen.

This addresses the problem of large and complex Web pages that take a long time to render on a phone or PDA, and that are difficult to read despite the valiant efforts of today’s mobile browsers. I’ve used this Google capability for a while and have found the results to be quite helpful. Unfortunately, there is no way to make this rendering process perfect, because there is no algorithmic process that can extract the essential elements of a complicated Web page for a small screen.

However, because 99 percent or more of Web content was designed for large screens, the fact that Google is trying to make more of the Web accessible to mobile devices is a good thing, in my opinion. This is especially the case as network speeds are improving, phones are becoming more capable, and we’re all trying to figure out how to do more with our smartphones than just email and organizer functions.

There are some concerns about what Google is doing, such as the issue of copyright. Does Google have the right to alter the content? It’s fine with me, but then I’m not an attorney.

Another concern is what if the content has already been optimized for a small screen? (Unlikely by and large.) Actually, Google provides another search option, which is to select Mobile Web, in which case it will only report hits for pages that are formatted for mobile devices. This restricts search results to a much smaller universe, but the resulting pages should be more readable.

Overall, I think Google is onto something, and many users out there with browser-equipped phones -- especially larger ones such as BlackBerries, Treos, and Windows Mobile devices -- are likely to benefit from Google’s approach.

— Peter Rysavy is President of Rysavy Research . Special to Unstrung

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