May 13, 2008

Mobiletech on transcoding

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Transcoding is a hot topic these days. Especially mobile operators believes that it is a good idea to impelement transcoding proxies in their network. Transcoding in it self is a good idea. The main idea is to make desktop web sites readable on a mobile phone. In theory everyone is happy: The end user gets to read the page, the content owner gets a new reader, the mobile operator increases data traffic. But still, there are just as many scandals as implementations out there. Not a single operator has managed to implement a transcoding proxy in their network without making a fuzz among content owners, distributors and technical providers.

The main reason for this fuzz is that the transcoders are way too aggressive. Meaning that everything that comes in the transcoders way, gets transcoded. Transcoded means that content, images, colors, presentation (basically everything) is altered before it is shown to the end user. A more extreme example is the TeliaSonera implementation where they also implemented advertising on the transcoded site. (Read more)

The main issue is that transcoders is by default configured to believe that there is no such thing as a web page made for mobile devices. This means that all effort, put down from all who have recognized the mobile Internet as a separate channel with it’s own unique characteristics , to create a personal and optimized user experience are worthless. Mobiletech is one of the parties laying down a huge effort to enable our customers to tailor the mobile communication in all mobile dimensions for our our customers. We believe that editorial control and freedom is equally important in the mobile world as anywhere else. The same with intellectual property. No third pary should have the right to alter the way our customers communicate with their customers without permission from the content owner. It is the content owner who knows his users, his content and the best way to present it to the end user in order to provide a positive user experience. Here is an article describing how Novarra alters the user experience on Wall Street Journal.

Hence, we support the current movement in the business for setting some rules for the transcoders to obey. First off was the WURFL community with a clear and easy to understand policy. Now, w3c is following in the footsteps.

What these rules specify is basically ways to tell the transcoder that “the content you are trying to access is already optimized for mobiles, so don’t touch it.”

When transcoders implement these rules we are getting closer to a perfect world. Mobiletechs Dextella products have already implemented handling of transcoders as suggested in the emerging standards. The only thing Dextella can’t fix is the use case where a transcoder enters the desktop web site, transcodes it and returns it to the end user without knowing that there is a mobile optimized version of the site somewhere else. A suggested way to inform the transcoder about this is to put the following line of markup on the web page:

We recommend all our customers to implement this line in their current desktop web portals. There are a handfull other clever ways of doing the check as well. If you would like more information regarding transcoding and ways to ensure a positive mobile user experience, please contact us!

More backgroud information:

There are many transcoders out there. Here are the most important ones:

In addition we have

Others:

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