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What’s going on with Mobilism?

Yesterday Peter-Paul Koch published a post in which he suggested that this years Mobilism conference might very well be the last one. Ticket sales are so low, the organisers are in risk of losing money. The conference will be held, and it will be awesome. The line-up looks absolutely fantastic. You’d expect a conference like this to sell out quickly. But apparently it’s not. I’ve been wondering why sales are down, so I asked on Twitter and on

Of course there is the issue of price. Mobilism is a commercial conference. They pay all speakers and the people who organise it want to make some money off of it. This means that it’s more expensive than many other high quality conferences in Europe that have a different business model, where break even is good enough. For many people, the price is just too high. But the price has always been high, and in previous years the ticket sales were fine, as far as I know. So this can’t be the (only) reason.

It could very well be the focus on mobile. In an era where the focus is very much on responsive web design, Mobilism still focuses on mobile. A few years ago this focus was necessary since we had no experience with small devices at all, but right now, the browsers on these devices are actually pretty good. Or as Martin Sutherland put it: developing for mobile web is much easier than it was 2 years ago. Safari 6 vs Safari 4; Android 4 & Chrome vs Android 2.2. You don’t need as much specialist knowledge to deliver a decent experience. I actually came to this same conclusion. A focus on mobile contradicts the idea that there is no mobile web. It contradicts my device agnostic approach to the web.

But if you look at the programme, Mobilism isn’t solely focused on mobile. The talks are actually very diverse. There are talks about content, about images, about touch, about performance, about workflow. There’s a talk about console browsers. There’s a talk about a responsive web site. These are not mobile only subjects. This is a web conference. And a very good one too. So, either people haven’t been paying attention to the line-up and the programme, or something else is the problem with the conference. Could it be, like Martin Sutherland said: Having BlackBerry and Nokia as your major sponsors really isn’t very sexy. He’s right, but this can’t be the reason, really!

It could be much simpler. Maybe the post that PPK wrote was just a little bit overdramatic. Maybe sales are not as high as he’d hoped, but OK still. I definitely hope so. I think that there is room and need for this high quality web conference in The Netherlands. Maybe they should just change the name next year.


  1. Working on mobile web apps, I wouldn’t say it doesn’t require specialist knowledge. Things that were figured out on desktop are still not in mobile context. Debugging is a pain, automated testing of performance etc. is a pain. 3G (and mobile internet in general) is a very different beast than fixed line at someone’s home. While the focus might not be as strong, the reason for that is hype in my opinion and not that we “really know” how to build mobile web apps properly.

    • Vasilis
    • #

    Thank you for your comment, Misha. I agree with you that small screens and mobile devices definitely need special attention. But the quote by Martin was actually: “You don’t need *as much* specialist knowledge”, and he meant it in relation to two years ago.
    I think web development in general is a highly specialised field. But I do consider ‘mobile’ to be part of it, not a separate profession.