Verizon Wireless Tries To Grow The Mobile Web By Breaking It
from the frustration,-on-a-small-screen dept
One way around this is for web developers to create mobile-specific versions of their site, so they have more control over what's presented to mobile users, and many use auto-detection so that both mobile and PC users can access the relevant content at the same URL. So enter Verizon Wireless, with its long history of really grasping the mobile web, which has now deployed a transcoder. The problem is that the transcoder breaks much of the auto-detection used by mobile web developers, resulting in their work to create mobile sites being rendered useless for Verizon users, who are then served a transcoded version of their PC site. Verizon and its vendor, Novarra, say the transcoder partially follows guidelines being worked on by the W3C to cover transcoders -- the process for which started after another Novarra install, at Verizon parent Vodafone, caused similar problems. It's worth pointing out that Novarra has a representative on the W3C committee working on the guidelines, so they should be familiar with them. It's also worth mentioning that Sprint rolled out a similar transcoder earlier this year, however, they responded to feedback from the mobile web community and changed it to avoid breaking auto-detection and other problems.
On one hand, it's hard to get frustrated with Verizon for finally taking some positive steps to make the entire web available to its mobile users, even if transcoders don't always deliver the best results. On the other, it's particularly annoying to see them think that the way to do this is to undo much of the work done by web developers and content providers to make their content better for mobile users -- not to mention it's disingenuous for Verizon and Novarra to suggest they're following the W3C guidelines, as not only are they a work in progress, but forging user-agents and breaking auto-detection contravenes them. In any case, for Verizon, it's hard to see how providing users with a lackluster mobile web experience will help grow its data business. Frustrating users with poorly transcoded versions of sites, rather than versions that have been thought through by developers for mobile users, seems a poor choice. And if they really want to unleash the "desktop" web on their users, why not offer them something that does a good job of transforming it for mobile, like better browsers such as Opera Mini?