Is the mobile web dead? Maybe not. A conversation with Mowser co-founder Mike Rowehl

When the mobile web browsing company Mowser shut down in April, a lot of people were surprised by co-founder Russell Beattie’s comments suggesting the mobile web simply wasn’t worth the effort. A debate took off in the blogosphere as to whether or not the mobile web was dying. Today, however, comes Mowser’s resurrection thanks to the Ireland-based consortium dotMobi (the group behind the .mobi Internet domain names) which purchased Mowser’s assets for an undisclosed amount.

We had a chance to chat briefly with Mowser’s other co-founder Mike Rowehl on the news today via email. He is over in Ireland working with the dotMobi team to integrate Mowser into their strategy. Here’s what he had to say:

VentureBeat: There seems to be a debate brewing over whether or not this was a firesale, with the purchase does Mowser’s vision of the mobile web go right back to where it was at the start?

Mike Rowehl: dotMobi is most likely going to be running the service in a different form – meaning not keeping it as the publicly available mowser.com site providing the web services it does now. Instead they’ll apply a different business model, and integrate the technology behind Mowser into other products as well as roll out some new offerings. Those offerings in general probably will not be the advertising supported services that Russ and I were running, dotMobi has a different channel and is able to use a different model.

VB: What is your and Russ’ role going to be now?

Rowehl: We’re both going to be doing some contracting with dotMobi until they have plans made and all the technology understood. After that it’s still up in the air.

VB: What is Mowser’s place in a mobile world shifting to devices like the iPhone that puts the “real Internet” in your pocket?

Rowehl: There was plenty of stuff that Mowser could have done to not just strip pages down and allow them to be viewed in minimal form on old phones. With just Russ and I working on the code none of them were realistic. However dotMobi has a lot more resources to throw at the problem, and they’re interested in not just making the pages minimally work but also in customizing them with information and services appropriate to folks on the go. Even in a world with lots of advanced devices, the web as a whole could use some services to make services more suitable for mobile users. If the dotMobi folks can nail a few of those the role of Mowser can evolve with those devices.

VB: With dotMobi being based in Ireland, is its vision and now the vision for Mowser more of a global one rather than a U.S. based one?

Rowehl: The Mowser vision was never really restricted to the US, and a large chunk of our traffic came from places like India and South Africa. That said, the dotMobi vision is definitely global, where ever there are people with handsets there should be appropriate services to get them the info they need when they need it.

Rowehl also noted that while he didn’t want to speak for Beattie as to whether or not his pessimistic thoughts on the mobile web had changed thanks to this purchase, he did feel Beattie simply spoke more out of frustration than anything else. Rowehl also said that his stance was never inline with Beattie’s (something which he laid out on his own blog).

We previously wrote about an extension of this debate, whether mobile application were dying or thriving.


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