Bubble 2.0 watch: Mowser withers away, founder seeks 'real job'

The site's founder wrote that his small start-up, which "translated" Web sites for mobile phone browsers, simply couldn't stay afloat and will likely close soon.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read
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It's not like Pets.com closing its doors or anything, but here's another small sign that we could be nearing the beginning of the end of Bubble 2.0: Mowser.com, a start-up that "translates" Web sites into mobile-friendly versions, is dying a quiet death.

Granted, it wasn't a particularly hyped dot-com. But I'm guessing that more than a few start-ups will be commiserating soon.

"We haven't been able to raise funding, and as a site, growth has been flat or falling for the past couple months because of various search-engine tweaks I've done," founder and former Yahoo mobile strategist Russell Beattie related in a blog post. "We'll keep the site running for the time being, but we're going to encourage others to not rely on the service as it could disappear in the future."

Trouble raising venture capital? Search-engine optimization strategy not working out? Sounds like what the irrational-exuberance crowd has been talking about.

The real problem is that Mowser fit right into a niche that is likely disappearing. Here's the thing: the last year has seen a trend toward narrowing the gap between the desktop Web and the mobile Web. A bizarre hardware company called Apple released this cute little device called the "iPhone" that a couple of people bought, and one of the cool features on it is that you can browse Web sites more or less just as they appear on a regular computer. There are still plenty of people out there with far less advanced mobile phones, but many of them still aren't browsing the mobile Web in the first place.

Beattie seemed to get the point. "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," he wrote. The presence of a separate "mobile Web," he said, is "limited at best, and dying at worst." He probably has the right idea. Other start-ups focusing on mobile Web sites might want to take note.

Beattie also acknowledged the inevitable: "Yes, this means I have to find a real job again."