Wednesday, February 25, 2009

metaTXT: Aiming for one web and gaining discoverability!

One particularly interesting new contact I made at MWC last week was Sinead Quealy of visibility mobile - the mobile SEO company founded by Bena Roberts. As well as telling me about their work on mobile SEO she mentioned they were involved with pushing the "metaTXT" spec through W3C in order to improve discoverability of mobile sites.

Now I have got back and the dust has settled I have had a look at the metaTXT white paper and it seems to be promising stuff. Fundamentally it is an attempt to solve the problem of supporting multiple versions of a site for different classes of device in a way that is transparent to the user - creating a practical step towards the one web ideal I have blogged about before.

What is interesting is it does this by adding a small file (meta.txt) alongside the existing robots.txt at the top of the site providing metainformation about the site. The primary use of this is to provide different paths for the root page for various different device classes - which is all well and good though one webbers may quibble about not driving them via the same markup.

Perhaps more interesting is the ability to provide further meta information about the site within meta.txt - in a standard form independent of any device and/or markup specifics. This can include the usual title and keywords, and intriguingly things like the location the site is related to which opens interesting possibilities for the return of context specific results for the mobile user.

The primary challange they will face with all this is obviously the usual chicken and egg one of convincing sites to publish meta.txt files, and convincing search engines to look for and use them. That said they have already got a couple of mobile search providers deeply involved in the associated working group which is a good sign.

Discovery is one of the key problems that needs to be solved in mobile and this may be one part of the solution to that problem.

1 comment:

Sinead said...

Hi Geoff!

It was great to meet you too in Barcelona and thank you so much for the very detailed blog about metaTXT - much appreciated.

Your analysis is pretty spot on and the chicken and the egg description is very apt. As you mention, we have a number of search engines involved, taptu, JumpTap, abphone, Medio, MCN. We also have dotMobi and other mobile Internet stakeholders involved.

If anyone is interested in more information, please just contact us!

Many thanks again Geoff,