W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-bpwg@w3.org > March 2009

Re: FYI - "Mobile Web 2009 = Desktop Web 1998"

From: Luca Passani <passani@eunet.no>
Date: Mon, 09 Mar 2009 08:54:41 +0100
Message-ID: <49B4CB41.1010009@eunet.no>
To: public-bpwg@w3.org
Charles McCathieNevile wrote:
> [....same discussion about HTTPS again omitte...]
> So if you won't discuss this again I will refer in future to the rest 
> of the group. 

when something new emerges, I'll discuss. I just don't want to use my 
time saying the same thing again, also because the facts are clear and 
it's just their interpretation that differs.
HTTPS is assumed to mean end2end security by the majority of users. 
Transcoding breaks HTTPS into 2 separate HTTPS connections.
Your point: this is totally fine as long as users trust the transcoder.
My point: this is not fine because it introduces a dangerous precedent 
that fiddling with HTTPS is OK. This in itself is harmful for the industry.

>> not what I said. I said that users are taking the responsibility for 
>> their actions. Not very differently from when one exceeds the speed 
>> limit because they feel safe and they think that no police is there 
>> to check. I wouldn't say it's fine (oops...a pun). I would say that 
>> if they do it, chances are that they get away with it.
> OK, so now I have a clearer picture of what you are saying is bad. 
> Being able to clarify it helps.
> So you are arguing that a user should not be changing in any way the 
> presentation, but may indeed get away with it. What about a user who 
> has very poor vision, and decides to use a screen reader to interact 
> with the content? How do you account for the UK government's decision 
> to make this a legal requirement, and the Australia court decisions to 
> validate that in case law? Are they wrong? Should people who could not 
> use the service visually have been denied access?

I am very impressed by your move to invoke the help of people with 
disabilities to defend transcoding. I think that what you are saying 
though does not help your point. On the contrary, it validates mine. 
Regulators and judges rightly err on the side of protecting the least 
lucky members of our society. For this reason, they will demand that an 
extra effort is made to have them take part in all the activities other 
citizens normally can perform. But this is what it is: an exception. And 
the exception implicitly confirms the rule.  A court may force an 
airport to open an extra fast-track for people with disabilities at the 
security check-point. They most probably won't force the airport to have 
as many tracks as the potential number of passengers at any given time 
to avoid that anyone has to wait in line for more than 30 seconds. This 
would be an unbearable intrusion in the way an airport is managed.

Back to content reformatting, I think your case applies nicely. People 
with disabilities may be allowed to "transcode" legitimately. This is by 
no means a legitimation for everyone else to do the same. The opposite 
is in fact true.

>>> If an ordinary user chooses a service to look at it in a way that 
>>> apparently suits that user, that is not fine.
>> Correct. This would be like a service that says: we will disable all 
>> speed checking equipment until you get home. I don't think the police 
>> would be very happy about this.
> In your analogy that relates changing presentation to speeding.
> So if it were determined that it is reasonable for a user to transcode 
> content, would you be happy about people providing services? 

to people with disabilities? yes. To everyone? no.

> I.e. is the core of the issue that content presentation should not be 
> tampered with (but for pragmatic reasons it isn't worth worrying about 
> individuals) or is there some reason that providing a service to do so 
> is intrinsically wrong even if it were reasonable for users to do this 
> themselves?

if the activity is illegitimate in the first place (which, I argue, is 
the case here), a company cannot hope to build a business model on top 
of it and get away with it. I think this is not very dissimilar from 
Kazaa, Napsters and others trying to argue that what they did was 
legitimate, just to be forced to shut down (or totally reinvent 
themselves) by a series of consistent court regulations.

> To take another example, there are companies that make content 
> accessible (in the WAI sense) by providing on-the-fly adaptation. 
> Obvious examples are screen readers, but there are also products that 
> are distributed through the network. Is their work also illegitimate? 
> Or does it fundamentally depend on the reaon why the adaptation is 
> made, or on how the adaptation is done, or only apply to certain 
> adaptations?

Again: WAI is the exception that confirms the rule.

> Let me leave aside the point about User Agent spoofing for a moment. 
> If the service provides an identifier for the rendering engine, and an 
> identifier for the device, then is this qualitatively different to the 
> fact that IE and Firefox don't apply the same rendering rules, but do 
> announce what they are and what OS (if not device) they are running on?

to be clear. As far as UA spoofing is concerned, I don't think that 
Opera Mini in itself is a problem, because it uses its own UA string 
which says OperaMini. This means that content owner have a fair chance 
to serve customised content to OperaMini if they so wish*no matter what 
network they are running on*.

What made things worse was when you guys licensed the OperaMini engine 
to ByteMobile and they started spoofing UAs by using the OperaMini UA 
string to disguise the real device UA.

> Opera Mini is still opt-in for users. Who seem to be opting for it in 
> numbers that I suppose do impact mobile applications. (And desktop 
> applications).

yes, but at least until the advent of ByteMobile, content owners had the 
possibility to decide if and how to deal with it. They did not need to 
recur to all kind of hacks to figure out if this thing had to be treated 
specially because it may hide 90% of all mobile traffic.

> To be clear. I do not think that all transcoding is intrinsically 
> good, but nor do I understand any argument that it is intrinsically 
> evil. I think there are some kinds that make very good sense and are 
> beneficial, some kinds that should be used with care as they have 
> potenital benefits and potential drawbacks. There may be some kinds 
> that I think are just bad.

well, the Manifesto established a very reasonable compromise for every 
part involved in the discussion. Operators which respect the Manifesto 
will have a fair chance to transcode a good chunk of web-only content 
and get away with it, while content owners won't feel deprived of their 
rights (particularly those who also offer a mobile application). If 
Opera intends to sign the Manifesto, I am very open to the idea.

> (Note that this is not a mobile-specific discussion, and that I have 
> some serious reservations about how you are defining "transcoding", 
> but for the sake of getting further clarity into the discussion I 
> would prefer to leave those issues aside for now).

if you change the mark-up and the headers, you are effectively transcoding.

1) client side: arguably not legitimate, but damage for content owners 
is small enough that they probably won't go after end-users.
2) server-side (i.e. content owner had set up the transcoding): OK
3) proxy-based/portal-based:  illegitimate (unless the content owner has 
explicitly agreed to it)

> How do caching proxies (which have been in the network almost forever, 
> in many cases unannounced and almost undiscoverable) fit into this 
> picture?

Caching proxies have also been the cause of some contentious in the 
past. Anyway, there are two important differences with transcoders:

1) caching proxies won't monetize third-party content illegitimately.
2) caching practices have settled down and content owners now know how 
to prevent caching if they really want to.

> Yeah, I mean that there are likely some points to be extracted from 
> your assertions that I agree are valid items for CT to talk about, 
> although I disagree with your assertion that transcoding is inherently 
> wrong.

just to be clear. I *personally* think that transcoding is inherently 
wrong (it brings endless confusion at the HTTP level and this might 
seriously backfire on the whole industry), yet this is not the position 
in the Manifesto.
The Manifesto is a compromise between all parties involved. The 
Manifesto says: if you really want to implement transcoding, these rules 
will make sure that operators and content owners do not step too much on 
one another's toes.


Received on Monday, 9 March 2009 07:55:21 UTC

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