Germany's Netbiscuits seems to be one of the more prolific and successful mobile web development shops. This year they built and are hosting three Yahoo Sports sites, March Madness, Beijing Olympics and the new Fantasy Football site launched last week. In addition to Yahoo, Netbiscuits is used by eBay, AOL, Nokia, Land Rover, Germany's BILD newspaper and Spiegel magazine, European TV conglomerate RTL, Japan's toy and game company Konami and Sixt (a big European car rental company), 80% of the major off-deck mobile sites in Germany and other large publishers.
I sat down with Netbiscuits CEO Michael Neidhöfer at CTIA and asked him about Netbiscuits and its platform and services. Michael told me that the privately held company was founded in 2000, has about 75 employees and has been profitable since 2005. He also pointed out that Netbiscuits is far more than a development shop. The company has created a suite of advanced mobile web development tools integrated with a distributed hosting and content delivery system for mobile web applications. The Netbiscuits architecture delivers optimized content to over 5000 different mobile devices with page and image resizing and support for xhtml-mp, cHtml and wml. Currently Netbiscuits delivers over a billion mobile optimized page impressions per month for its customers.
Netbiscuits offers an online SiteBuilder which allows you to quickly create static mobile pages using templates and a library of control elements, called "Biscuits", such as page headers and footers, menu bars, ad banners, lists and forms. You can also add your own resources like images, videos and downloadable content to the pages. Sites built with the Sitebuilder are completely hosted on Netbiscuits' server farm, which is distributed around the world for maximum performance and availability. The top image shows the Netbiscuits Sitebuilder architecture.
For even more control Netbiscuits offers a custom application development environment (image below). Using an editor or plugins for Visual Studio and Eclipse, you create custom mobile web applications using the XML based BiscuitsML markup language and your preferred server side scripting platform such as PHP, JSP, C# or VB.NET. The mobile device sends requests to Netbiscuits which forwards them to your custom application. You retrieve data from your CMS or database and use it to build and return pages in BiscuitsML. Netbiscuits interprets the BiscuitsML to create mobile formatted pages optimized for the requesting device.
The NetBiscuits solution is aimed at medium to large commercial publishers and is normally priced at $645/month and up depending on traffic and level of support.
At CTIA, Netbiscuits announced a new free Developer Edition which provides access to the Netbiscuits tools and hosting. The Developer Edition is limited to 1000 page views per month.
To further encourage developers to learn and use its tools, Netbiscuits also announced a Mobile Web Developer Challenge. All sites built with the Developer Edition before October 15, 2008 will automatically be entered in the challenge. The top 6 sites will share prizes worth $40,000.
The Developer Edition and Challenge offer students, free lance designers and developers the opportunity to work with a suite of enterprise grade development tools for free - plus the chance win a substantial prize.
The Netbiscuits website doesn't make this very clear, but Michael assured me that the developer edition can be used indefinitely with traffic capped at 1000 PVs/month. This is also confirmed by a posting on the Netbiscuits Developer Forum. Which means you could even use it to build and host low volume personal mobile sites - interesting.