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Why we have walled gardens still

March 29, 2006
Whilst there is a lot of bemoaning about the existence of walled gardens still to this day, the announcement by 3UK is a good example of why these archaic artifacts are still around. Whilst there are many who want to see the gates of mobile Internet opened to all, the level of maturity we now experience of the Internet is not there yet in the Mobile Internet.
As more people come to use the richer features of mobile broadband services, the main barrier to using them are complicated charging regimes. This, of course, has a lot to do with the fact that mobile telecommunications is a different economic environment to the Internet we use today, in that mobile carriers delight in charging their users for everything they do on the mobile device. Walled gardens are therefore able to enhance the users experience by drastically reducing or removing outright, the cost of data transfers within the walled garden environment.
The Catch 22 with this system is that, although this entails a more positive customer experience, they are force fed restricted carrier content.
Classically, the argument against walled gardens that have been developed by both ISPs of the young Internet from the late 90s (Compuserve, Geni, AOL etc) and now the data telecommunications networks we have today, was (and is, in some cases still today) that they locked out access to the Internet or made it too difficult to access. This meant that users had a restricted view to what was or could be made available to them.
The fact remains that, before the mass viewership can launch into these new uncharted waters that is currently the mobile internet early adopters are swimming in today, they must be first be guided gently into the shallow end before exploring the deeper depths that don’t fully exist yet for them to explore.
The Mobile Internet is heading in the same direction that the Internet took when it started to become mainstream. Walled gardens are pretty much extinct on the Internet as the user experience is virtually seamless across its vast reach now. Slowly as more companies extend their online presences to allow mobile devices to access their content and the browsers on these devices get richer in functionality we will see telecommunication walled gardens fade to grey.
So, before throwing the baby out with the bath water, we need to understand that walled gardens have their place in the ecology. The good news is that things are progressing a lot quicker in Mobile Internet than Internet 1.0 did and therefore we will soon live in that wonderful hybrid environment that is the open garden…. but then that’s another story. (
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