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Re: [CTG]: Novarra going for mobile sites too

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2009 13:17:46 +0100
To: "Luca Passani" <passani@eunet.no>, public-bpwg@w3.org
Message-ID: <op.uo8m3wnpwxe0ny@widsith.local>

On Wed, 11 Feb 2009 16:59:42 +0100, Luca Passani <passani@eunet.no> wrote:

> very abusive features being launched by Novarra:
>
> http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/11/novarra_laptops/
>
> they are going to transcode mobile-optimised content with the excuse  
> that they can make it go faster. MobileOK content is not immune to this.
>
> are W3C and other BPWG partecipants OK with this?

Luca, which features exactly do you consider the abusive ones? Inserting  
advertising, collecting some user data, compressing code? Is there  
something wrong with their privacy policy, or is it the fact that they  
provide a service that reduces image resolution?

As the article you reference says, the interesting question is whether  
they can avoid pissing off users. The rest of what they do is simply a  
service they make available, and people can take it up or not. As I  
understand it nobody is being forced to use this service under some  
unreasonable arrangement.

I have not seen any convincing rationale to explain a moral difference  
(i.e. whether or not it something is "abusive", or "a hack") between me  
zooming to and reflowing a paragraph or choosing to use "mobile view" with  
Opera mini, choosing to set a minimum font size in my browser, using it to  
apply a client-side user style sheet or userJS/Greasemonkey script to a  
specific site, opting to use someone else's configuration that does the  
same thing, paying for a service that does the transformation for me,  
using a service that selectively chooses what content and presentation to  
send to me on the server side, and simply accepting the default rendering  
provided by my choice of browser for a single version of content authored  
and served to all comers.

Each of these scenarios has been a part of the web since there was more  
than one browser, one server, and zero proxies, a time when few people  
were even aware of the Web. It is true that such an environment presents  
challenges to people who think that they should control exactly what the  
user sees, but such people also seem not to have noticed that some people  
wear glasses in order to change the way the world looks, and other people  
don't see it at all and therefore interact with it through hearing, touch,  
smell etc. The web merely expands the range of capabilities for both  
provider and consumer to adapt the communication in an attempt to better  
meet their desires.

The "One Web" vision, which you seem to have misunderstood as some attack  
on the right to free expression, merely suggests that it is sensible for  
both users and authors to treat the Web as a single communication system,  
in which all of these adaptation possibilities are present. Following this  
approach, attempts to somehow divide the Web into several "sub-Webs" which  
are assumed to be fundamentally incompatible and *requiring* completely  
seperate treatment is to misunderstand both the capacity of the Web and  
the apparent patterns of use, which demonstrate both clear variation in  
people's preferences and a demonstrated desire on the part of many users  
to treat "Web sites" as a single consistent service accessible in  
different ways.

In this context, transcoding per se is morally neutral, providing one part  
of this adaptability. It is also done for a variety of reasons, including  
a desire to transform the presentation of something to a form that a user  
finds more convenient (for example applying mobile mode on Opera mini),  
making a perceived "default desktop-style presentation" available on  
different devices (as with Opera mini in its current default mode),  
providing operator branding for an access service (as done by Vodafone),  
and so on. Whether these various uses of the technology succeed or fail in  
the market is for their intended users to determine, by choosing them or  
not. The fact that *I* don't like to receive my content with added  
advertising is *one* factor in what makes me choose one method of  
accessing content through the Web over another. It isn't reasonable for me  
to insist that nobody provide advertising as a way of mentising a service  
I want to use - that is a restriction of a legitimate business model, and  
ultimately of service providers' right of expression. It is reasonable for  
me to choose a service that doesn't do that, if I want.

In the same way, various possibilities (such as the good work of you and  
others on WURFL) exist to allow content providers to offer various adapted  
versions of their service to provide them with a perceived advantage in  
delivering what they think will be most helpful to their intended users,  
and various possibilities exist in most browsers for the user to adapt  
content received (beyond the various default renderings, which are known  
not to be consistent across different browsers) which are intended to make  
the browser more useful to its intended users.

cheers

Chaals

PS: In the unlikely event that this fails to convince you that code  
transformation as a service is a legitimate part of the web, you may like  
to tilt at a new windmill: http://www.opera.com/press/releases/2009/02/12/  
(incorporating Opera Mini functionality into the Desktop brower) which  
includes the quote

[[[
...Opera Turbo supports Opera's belief in "One Web", providing equal  
access to the Internet regardless of the device or network quality. ... To  
Opera, One Web means being able to take the one true Web and make it  
available to people on their own terms.
]]]

("one true Web"! Gotta love press releases :) )

Or an antecedent:  
http://my.opera.com/chaals/blog/2009/01/22/opera-mini-on-mac-os (about  
people using Opera mini on desktop computers).

-- 
Charles McCathieNevile  Opera Software, Standards Group
     je parle français -- hablo español -- jeg lærer norsk
http://my.opera.com/chaals       Try Opera: http://www.opera.com
Received on Thursday, 12 February 2009 12:18:33 UTC

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