Home Is the Mobile Web Dead? Some Mobile Entrepreneurs Say Yes

Is the Mobile Web Dead? Some Mobile Entrepreneurs Say Yes

Former Yahoo! Mobile evangelist turned startup entrepreneur Russell Beattie announced today that he’s calling it quits for his company Mowser because the market for mobile browsing is taking a fast turn for the worse. “The mobile traffic just isn’t there,” Beattie says, “It’s not there now, and it won’t be.”

Beattie’s announcement comes just two months after mobile blogger and consultant Michael Mace wrote a much discussed post titled Mobile Applications, RIP. “The business of making native apps for mobile devices is dying, crushed by a fragmented market and restrictive business practices,” Mace wrote.

Update: Several commenters below have disagreed strongly with my reading of this discussion and Jason Grigsby’s comment in particular makes a strong case that I’ve framed the whole thing incorrectly. Such is life, thanks Jason!

While Mace concludes that apps are being killed by the mobile web, Beattie says even mobile web traffic is a non-starter. His site Mowser specialized in rendering the rest of the web mobile friendly. Except for smartphones with good native browsers, Opera Mini and iPhone users, though – Beattie says the billions of people mobile advocates expected to come online aren’t.

“I don’t actually believe in the ‘Mobile Web’ anymore, and therefore am less inclined to spend time and effort in a market I think is limited at best, and dying at worst. I’m talking specifically about sites that are geared 100% towards mobile phones and have little to no PC web presence. Two years ago I was convinced that the mobile web would continue to evolve in the West to mimic what was happening in countries like Japan and Korea, but it hasn’t happened, and now I’m sure it isn’t going to.

In other words, I think anyone currently developing sites using XHTML-MP markup, no Javascript, geared towards cellular connections and two inch screens are simply wasting their time, and I’m tired of wasting my time.”

Beattie says traffic at Mowser was poor and 80% of it was made up of porn seekers.

Personally, I like mobile friendly web pages and use them often. I love Netvibes Mobile, I check Techmeme Mini throughout the day and always smile when clicking through a ZDNet post that I can read via Alex King’s WordPress Mobile plug-in. I am sad when I realize that CenterNetworks is barely readable in IE on my Windows Mobile phone and this blog here is not readable at all that way. RWW looks great on Mowser, by the way.

Apparently I’m unusual in those feelings, though. Or at least unusual enough to make up an insignificant market.

Mobile Apps

Mace’s argument is longer, more detailed and focuses on apps you download for your phone. Despite our interest in such apps here at RWW, we rarely review them and those reviews get very few comments. Yahoo! Mobile’s newest developments got rave reviews at CTIA (the big mobile conference) this year but perhaps the mobile users really aren’t there.

Sometimes a great idea, or a collection of them, just doesn’t work out. Do you think it’s time to declare the mobile web, except for the iPhone, dead? Not everyone does, but when two respected voices in the industry say it’s time to call it quits and move on to something else – that seems like a good time to ask some hard questions.

For another perspective on Mowser’s demise, see our network blog Last100 – where Dan Langendorf argues that the mobile web is just beginning.

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