For anyone born before the dawn of the Internet and mobile phones, the dictionary was a thick, heavy book kids lugged to school for reference. Adults kept a dictionary in a book shelf. The print was tiny, the pages were thin and the definitions were short.
Now that virtually everyone in the U.S. has a cell phone with access to WAP sites, the mobile Web and services, like Dictionary.com, 1,500 page paper dictionaries gather dust in our bookcases. Finding words is done electronically on computers, the Internet and the mobile Web.
But you needn’t remind Shravan Goli, President of Dictionary.com, about the advantages of online and mobile dictionaries. Every month over 50 million unique digital visitors go to Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com and Reference.com via the desktop Internet and mobile Web.
The free online reference software service provides reliable access to millions of word definitions, synonyms, spelling, audio pronunciations, example sentences, translations from its Web properties and iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and iPad apps.
An Internet and technology veteran, Shravan Goli manages the company’s overall business and strategy. Before joining the Oakland, California-based firm in 2009, Goli was General Manager at Slide, Inc., Operations GM for Yahoo Video and Head of Products for Yahoo Finance. Shravan also did a stint with Microsoft’s Home & Entertainment and its MSN divisions for eleven years as well as co-founding Corners, Inc., a social networking company.
Now Dictionary.com, part of the ASK Network in New York, dominates the online and mobile dictionary/thesaurus space, claiming it’s the most comprehensive, up-to-date, trusted and convenient source for words and knowledge. DC.com contains over one million words, while its Thesaurus offers 1.5 million alternative words.
When Apple released its iPad recently, Dictionary.com proudly claimed the top three reference app positions with over 100,000 downloads in the first week. What’s more interesting, though, is user adoption and engagement. The eleven million people who have downloaded the app so far (6.8 million by iPhone owners alone), spend two to three times searching for word definitions and synonyms than feature phone owners on the mobile Internet. (The company is planning an iAd campaign for the iPad.)
Dictionary.com, says Goli, has become so popular that many Twitter and Facebook followers refer to word look-ups as “Dictionary dot com’d it” similar to “Googling it.” That says a lot. When I checked a number of Twitter tweets, I found followers who wrote things like “gotta love dictionary.com; so brief. Love it.”
Before recording my podcast interview with Shravan today, I spent part of my weekend testing the apps and services on my BlackBerry Curve and HTC Hero. The claims are true. Not only are look-ups fast and comprehensive, Dictionary.com offers extensive synonyms to help users find just that “right” word. And the contemporary and literary quotes below the definitions are extremely useful to better understand word meaning.
Services such as Dictionary.com make me feel hopeful about the future of the English language. In our digital age of misspelled and incorrect words, having a quality, reliable source of word definitions and grammar should help improve literacy.
For the future, Shravan’s company is planning to port its online crossword puzzles and translation service to mobile while opening its API and databases to its partners. If the end result is only half as good as the present Dictionary.com, there’s hope for the English language.
“Dictionary.com Announces 10 Million Mobile Downloads; New App for iPad Accelerates Mobile Growth Momentum”