Friday, 9 May 2008

.mobi and mowser... there might be something to it

Interesting news this morning with .mobi buying mowser. I tweeted my immediate reaction: a Roman Catholic reaching out to buy the local synagogue?

The religious analogy is deliberate. .mobi is an initiative to improve the quality of the available internet on mobile devices. It provides guidelines on site design and structure and proposes exclusive use of a .mobi domain to let users know that it is mobile compliant. Other forms of URL or site structure are actively discouraged (and often disparaged by a zealot-like following).

Mowser is a transcoder. A site designed to take any internet page and re-render it to a mobile device irrespective of domain URL. Transcoders are – and I hope I am forgiven for this – a quick and dirty way of viewing the internet. To the original thinking in the .mobi organisation they are either the devil or a necessary evil before true conversion to the .mobi mantra catches hold in the masses.

That .mobi would buy mowser signals a clear change in strategy. Yes, bringing on board Russell Beattie and Mike Rowehl into any organisation will help increase the drive, energy and mobile knowledge within it but to buy the software too means one of the following, both of which are profound:

- .mobi accepts that not everyone wishes to use its tools or that still after much simplication (and they are excellent) it is not simple enough for the mass market. At least – it figures – if someone uses a transcoder that it controls it can try and ensure that all output adheres to its .mobi guidelines as closely as possible. One should note here therefore that it is extremely likely that .mobi continues aggressively with the mowser publisher acquisition programme where publishers advertise a mowser specific mobile link

- The owners of .mobi – largely the operators – have exerted some influence. Perhaps wanting a little more acceleration of creating a mobile standard and seeing .mobi growing but not quickly enough, the operators are interested in accelerating things through a quickier, dirtier approach. More likely perhaps, with widespread criticism of transcoder deployment from Novarra and Openwave, the operators might figure that to bring on a transcoder into the .mobi fold will allow it to develop a solution with widespread mobile industry support and then deploy something potentially more effective and less contentious at a later stage. It will have been an inexpensive hedging strategy, particularly as it is split several ways.

There are probably other angles to be considered but these are top of mind.


James Pearce said...

Interesting article. But there's nothing sinister about this :-)

The motivation (which came from dotMobi itself) was to put good technology to work on a bigger scale, making it easier for the world to embrace the mobile web.

The key will be allowing sites to 'opt-in' to content adaptation services, rather than doing it blind, arrogantly, within the network.

If nothing else, we hope we can demonstrate how responsible, and useful, transcoding can actaully be, when applied sympathetically.

That would be success enough!

Coalface said...

Thanks for the feedback James. Yes indeed, that would be a triumph and all power to .mobi in promoting the mobile web.