Are the Walled Gardens Really Coming Down?

Every time I think that the walled gardens the carriers provide to their customers are coming down (I can almost hear President Regan in my head saying passionately “Tear down this wall!”) I am proven wrong. And maybe it’s a good thing … for now.

This week Sprint announced their new Sprint Web – a next-generation mobile Web browsing experience available on popular Sprint phones. Sprint Web offers an adaptive home page that delivers content based on the customer’s previous usage, along with direct access to Google for searching.

The beauty of Sprint Web is that it will eventually serve up personalized home page results to users. The first time a user visits the Sprint Web on their phone, they get the basic home page – topic related links that go to mobile content that Sprint has pulled together into their own portal. This portaling process is known as the walled garden because only the content that the carrier chooses to put in there is shown to the user.

The carriers do this so that their users get the very best of the mobile web. They see sites that actually render perfectly on their phone; ones that don’t choke them with huge graphics and large unreadable blocks of text. The walled garden is beautiful, prime and proper.

What’s different about this Sprint Web walled garden is that the Google search option gives users an easy access gate out of the pristine garden. Users are free to roam around the wild mobile web where they are just as likely to find a desktop size site trying to jam itself into their mobile browser. Or sites that are supposed to be mobile-friendly, but just aren’t for some unknown technological reason. They will be free to get search results that are not what they expect.

Maybe just until the wild mobile web is tamed back a bit, the idea of a walled garden isn’t so bad. It offers mobile users the chance to experience being online on their phone in a way that actually works and is a pleasant experience. For the new folks coming online via mobile it is a friendly welcome.