How is the mobile internet different? Search costs and local activities

Anindya Ghose, Avi Goldfarb, Sang Pil Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

362 Scopus citations


We explore how Internet browsing behavior varies between mobile phones and personal computers. Smaller screen sizes on mobile phones increase the cost to the user of browsing for information. In addition, a wider range of offline locations for mobile Internet usage suggests that local activities are particularly important. Using data on user behavior at a (Twitter-like) microblogging service, we exploit exogenous variation in the ranking mechanism of posts to identify the ranking effects. We show that (1) ranking effects are higher on mobile phones suggesting higher search costs: links that appear at the top of the screen are especially likely to be clicked on mobile phones and (2) the benefit of browsing for geographically close matches is higher on mobile phones: stores located in close proximity to a user's home are much more likely to be clicked on mobile phones. Thus, the mobile Internet is somewhat less "Internet-like": search costs are higher and distance matters more. We speculate on how these changes may affect the future direction of Internet commerce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-631
Number of pages19
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive load
  • Hierarchical Bayesian methods
  • Local interests
  • Microblogging
  • Mobile Internet
  • Ranking effects
  • Recency effects
  • Search costs
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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