Mobile Internet in 2012: Destruction and Rebirth

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Internet has reached its bottleneck in the past year as user numbers, penetration and traffic growth all plateaued. For example, by the second quarter, the global PC shipment saw very first negative growth over the past ten years. Another sign is the substantial decline in customers of Chinese Internet café.

Due to increased competition, many M&As occurred in pre-mature industries like video or e-commerce. The Youku-Tudou and Suning-RedBaby tie-up came as a shock to many in the first pace, but actually were inevitable.

Chinese Internet has developed from the Spring and Autumn era to Warring State era as different giants occupied respective fields in the market, just like how different countries in the famous Warring State era guarded their own territory and fought with each other.

There is no big chance for a start-up company to become the next Baidu or Tencent. Meanwhile, domestic internet giants have no capacity to swallow each other, therefore the status quo is quite stable at this moment and will last for quite a while.

In the past, we only see “strategic investment” or “acquisition” happening in Silicon Valley. Domestics giants in China would rather copy great ideas on their own to corner small startups. But now it’s changing. Local giants like Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba and so on got started acquiring nice startups from last year on.

Not long ago, Facebook users exceeded 1 billion, which made it the first billion users level internet company. It is noteworthy that mobile users account for over 60% of Facebook’s user pool. In fact, it is getting clearer that mobile phones are replacing PC as the main device to access internet.

The popularity of smart phones has greatly accelerated the development of the mobile internet. The transition from PC to mobile phones are obvious. Meanwhile, the mobile internet is now the first choice of platform for entrepreneurs and developers and a clear and viable mobile internet strategy has become the key factor to measure against the future of the traditional internet companies.

Internet Queen Mary Meeker predicts that Android phones will replace PC to become the widest used type of internet devices by the second quarter of 2013. In China, more and more people only use mobile phone to access internet. According to China’s CNNIC’s data, the proportion of only using mobile phone to access internet has increased from 7% in December, 2010 to 15.3% in June, 2012.

There’re two approaches to mobile internet development, the first one, is to transform traditional internet business to the new platform; the second one, is to create something new from scratch for mobile internet. Both requires a mindset that transcend the traditional thinking model.

With big user base and seasoned experience, once PC-based internet companies decide to enter into the mobile market, there are not many chances for the start-ups. However, the more successful they are on PC end, the harder for them to translate their success to mobile territory. Only those 100% mobile-focused startups are able to come up with really awesome mobile product design.

One example will be the mobile QQ and Wechat. Mobile QQ is a typical traditional internet product landing on the mobile internet platform. Wechat team used to be in charge of the Tencent email product, with neither heritage nor burdens, and they created Weixin from scratch for mobile only. The result is out of expectation that mobile QQ is revolutionized by Wechat.

The future of internet lies in the mobile internet. People should realize that they somehow have to put aside the burden from long-time Internet operation and transcend that to achieve great success in the field of mobile internet.

And Asia enjoys more opportunity in mobile compared to other regions in the world. For example, Americans’ hands are more stuck to the steering wheel. However, in China, people travel mainly by public transport, which leave their hands free to use mobile device to access internet. We can find more mobile internet opportunities in Asia.

The piece was originally written in Chinese by Yu Yongfu, founder and CEO of UCWeb.