Mobilization of web sites: unlawful?

There is some talk recently (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) on some blogs about sites like the Google Wireless Transcoder, Skweezer and other similar services that take as an input a URL and they output a more mobile-friendly version of that site so it can be rendered faster and easier by a mobile browser. There are a lot of site owners who are very pissed about this because they say that these services are messing up with their copyrights and their financials because the ads are removed in the process.

IMO there is no such issue and the site owners should just shut it. If you try to download a 50 KB (Flash or not) ad on a cellphone, the rest of the page won’t load because the phone would run out of memory sooner or later. And if your ad has video in it, it will never load no matter if the user used a mobile Transcoder service or not. Besides, most carriers today ALREADY have such transcoding ability via their proxy servers (e.g. portalmmm, very popular in Germany)! So if you use one of their locked cellphones, there is a good chance that you will get a re-layout of the page you want to view, no matter the browser’s abilities.

Also, why is it fair use to use a web browser to access your site and not a Transcoder? Why is it fair use to use BeOS’ NetPositive or Linux’s Dillo to browse your site that don’t support javascript at all (and hense they won’t display any ads) and it’s not fair use to use a Transcoder? If these site owners don’t want Google to offer this service (which is a very useful one to many people), they should sit their ass down and write a mobile site themselves. And if they don’t want to, then they should hard code their site to only work with IE/Firefox/Safari and desktop Opera only and display a blank page to any other “user agent” (and sue Skweezer for using a Windows IE user agent so it can’t be detected). But they don’t do that because they DO want people to access their site. The site owners want the cake and they want to eat it too. It’s like that these site owners want to enforce DRM to their users on HOW they are supposed to view their pages. Do they have this right? IMO, no. If they want to enforce DRM, then they should make their site non-public and accessible via login/password only.

The ONLY annoyance that exists right now is that these transcoding services also transcode mobile sites, like OSNews.com and WinkSite, and so they make them look uglier than they have to be. I believe that a new law must introduced that allows transcoders to do their job by default, BUT, they must “listen” to robots.txt and if a site owner doesn’t want them to use his site, they should respect that and drive away. This means that Skweezer must also change its user agent (I am not happy at all about them posing as IE while originally they were reporting their own unique user agent). This should make happy both the services and the owners.

And these site owners who said that they want to sue Del.icio.us because it wants to add ads on their RSS feeds, should get a life too. Del.icio.us offers a service that it’s very useful to the community and personal grudges should not get in the way for the progress of the society. The whole point of the RSS feeds is that they link back to the original article. What these site owners must do is what we do at osnews (and other sites do too): Only offer via RSS the first paragraph of your news item and then link to the original article back at your site. If the reader is interested in reading more he/she will have to click through to your page and see your ads. This way, Del.icio.us offers a useful service and gets paid for it via ads, the RSS owner gets the links-though he deserves to have and also gets paid via ads on his site. Why make things more complicated than they have to be?

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Scott Rafer wrote on October 31st, 2006 at 2:53 AM PST:

Would it be Ok if Google took your entire website and redisplayed it at google.com/blogsome/eugenia in whatever way they chose? i doubt it. Why is it ok for them to do exactly that on mobile? Your transcoder law would require the repeal of copyright law, and not just that DMCA heap o’ swill. The transcoder maneuvers are even a violation of the way most people have Creative Commons set up.


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Eugenia wrote on October 31st, 2006 at 7:33 AM PST:

Scott, you are taking it too far. Would it be nice if screen readers for blind people would not exist just because some webmasters don’t want ads removed from their content? Well, too bad for you pal, but the Disability Act in US allows for this kind of thing. And Screen Readers DO reformat content and remove ads! Why aren’t you crying foul for them too? Let’s see how this is going to play nice with a judge!

Look, we are in the same boat. Your mobile site looks like shit via a transcoder, and so does mine. But that’s no reason to not allow people to enjoy this service so they can view the web via their phones. As a cellphone user, I am HAPPY that such service exists, even if I am a mobile developer myself and my site doesn’t look as nice anymore via these services.

And as I explained in the blog post above, why not allow a transcoder from the moment many browsers on other OSes don’t support Js and so ads are bypassed as well and some other text is missing too because these browsers don’t support CSS? Why don’t you cry loud about making these browsers illegal and only shout about a free service that makes the bloody web easier on small screens? You sound like a spoiled kid.

As I also explained, if there was a way to shut these services out by using robots.txt, I think that it wouldn’t be a problem anymore, would it?


Scott Rafer wrote on November 1st, 2006 at 3:40 AM PST:

I can’t tell if we’re violently agreeing or not. Your examples (in my twisted mind anyway) prove my point. When it’s the option of the user (screen readers for the blind, ad blockers in Firefox, et al). I have no problem with it. When a search engine reformats the viewing of all search results by default, that’s a copyright violation. Bogarting Winksite’s pages (I’m a shareholder there, btw) is fine for the individual consumer but not for other service providers.


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