February 14, 2009

TeliaSonera has re-launched the transcoding service SurfOpen

Written by Jon Arne Sæterås.Filed under Blog | Read the First Comment

TeliaSonera has re launched SurfOpen. SurfOpen is a transcoding service making web sites made for desktop browsers readable on older mobile phones. Last time TeliaSonera launched SurfOpen, it caused a massive riot among the Swedish publishers and media interest groups, resulting in the “SurfClosed” initiative (www.surfclosed.se). The reason for this was that SurfOpen brutally transcoded all kinds of content, both desktop web sites and also already mobile optimized web sites. This was destroying both business models and editorial control and freedom was deprived from the content owner.


This time around, however, things are looking somewhat different. Novarra is wisely replaced by Byte Mobile and the rules emerged from the international mobile community are acknowledged more or less.

The transcodingproxy is now an integral part of the infrastructure and acts as a transparent proxy. This means that urls are not changed. Wap billing, and other CPA services seem to work as usual. The proxy is identified by the http-via header with the value “1.1 Bytemobile OSN WebProxy/4.1”

Mobiletech does not have the complete list of which devices that are configured to use SurfOpen but it is mostly older, less capable phones. As far as Mobiletech knows, at least these devices are affected: SE K800i, SE K810i, SE K530i, SE T650i, SE K850i. The screens hots below are from the wap-browser on a Nokia E65 (the safari web browser is not affected).

Mobiletech, TeliaSonera and Byte Mobile have been working closely with the technical functionality of the transcoding proxy. At this point, all requirements seem to be fulfilled by all parties.

How can we say that when the below screen shot shows a transcoded www.aftobladet.se?

Note the advertising banner and the navigation bar at the top of the page. The advertising banner is currently only used for promoting internal TeliaSonera services, but will probably be used for other external ads in the future. This should be hard for content owners to accept since it’s stealing attention from other ads on the page. The navigation bar provides functionality for moving back/forward, adding site to favourites,entering a url,searching,settings and go back home to surfport. So the whole page is wrapped in a TeliaSonera look and feel. By the looks, kind of walled-garden-ish. Many of Mobiletechs customers have expressed concern about this kind of advertising. TeliaSonera control the most valuable ad space on their site wich is destroying their business model.

Mobiletech distributed a paper describing the functionalities of the transcoding proxy in early December 2008. Not all our customers, including Aftonbladet, have implemented what is needed to make the mobile experience good, so we repeat it here:

  1. Adding a line of markup
    Add this line of markup in the tag on your pages:

    This line tells the transcoder where to find the mobile optimized site.

  2. Changing your HTTP response headers
    Cache-Control: no-transform
    Vary: User-Agent

    to your response headers on your servers serving your www-site.

www.SvD.se have implemented the above, and the result is a perfect mobile portal. The user-agent is untouched and no advertising or nav-bar on top stealing attention and screen:


Sample HTTP header

Here is an example of how a http header through SurfOpen looks like (sorry for the php formatting):

[DOCUMENT_ROOT] => /home/mpulpmo/public_html
[HTTP_ACCEPT] => text/javascript, text/ecmascript, application/x-javascript, application/java-archive, application/java, application/x-java-archive, text/vnd.sun.j2me.app-descriptor, text/x-co-desc, text/vnd.nokia.rs-tgd, text/html, application/vnd.wap.xhtml+xml, application/xhtml+xml, text/css, text/vnd.wap.wml, application/vnd.wap.wmlc, application/vnd.wap.wmlscriptc, application/vnd.oma.drm.message, application/vnd.wap.mms-message, application/vnd.wap.sic, application/vnd.oma.dd+xml, */*, text/vnd.wap.si, text/vnd.wap.wmlscript, image/*;q=0.9, application/javascript, application/vbscript, application/xml;q=0.9, image/png, image/jpeg, image/jpg, image/gif, image/x-xbitmap
[HTTP_ACCEPT_CHARSET] => iso-8859-1, utf-8, utf-16, *;q=0.1
[HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING] => deflate, gzip, x-gzip, identity, *;q=0
[HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE] => no;q=1.0, en;q=0.5, fi;q=0.5, sv;q=0.5, is;q=0.5, da;q=0.5
[HTTP_CACHE_CONTROL] => max-age=259200
[HTTP_CONNECTION] => keep-alive
[HTTP_COOKIE] => PHPSESSID=75f65899476ea46ff8b2b614714be581
[HTTP_COOKIE2] => $Version=1
[HTTP_HOST] => mpulp.mobi
[HTTP_USER_AGENT] => NokiaE65-1/3.0 (1.0633.18.01) SymbianOS/9.1 Series60/3.0 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1
[HTTP_VIA] => 1.1 Bytemobile OSN WebProxy/4.1
[HTTP_X_OPERAMINI_PHONE_UA] => NokiaE65-1/3.0 (1.0633.18.01) SymbianOS/9.1 Series60/3.0 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1
[HTTP_X_WAP_PROFILE] => ‘http://nds1.nds.nokia.com/uaprof/NE65-1r100.xml’, ’1-v4m6VXcj3NCzk1xrFxVd9A==’, ’2-XnrTOLDzBJdZHN2vSasoNA==’, ’3-ng5EuV6ttJfSLEU/i1fAbQ==’

Note the operamini-phone-ua. This is because the Byte Mobile proxy is actually the same software as Opera Mini use for transcoding.

Below are some screen shots from different sites.

Surfport startpage. Top banner promotes SurfOpen.
  When you hit the www icon you can enter the url you want to go to. The result is the same as when you enter the url directly in your browser.
 The transcroded web site of www.dn.se look like. Dn.se has not implemented according to recommandations. Advertising banner on top of the page. Currently promoting TeliaSonera services.
  More from www.dn.se
  Aftonbladets web site www.aftonbladet.se, through the transcoders eyes. Aftonbladet has not implemented the required actions to control the transcoding.
  More from www.aftonbladet.se
  More from www.aftonbladet.se. Not very good user experience ….
  More from www.aftonbladet.se.
 A sample from the Norwegian newspaper www.dn.no, which have a “mobile swithcer” in front to redirect mobile phones to the mobile portal. Works well!
 www.svd.se have implemented the recommended actions to prevent transcoding, resulting in a untouched mobile portal when entering www.svd.se.
  Enter url to go to. From SurfPort.

From the settings page, you can activate or deactivate the service.

Tried to deactivate, seems to work as expected.

  Bookmarks page in SurfOpen
  More from the bookmarks and history of SurfOpen
  Settings for image quality
 Settings for text size and whether to do stuff with secure connections

Transcoding in general is scary stuff. Especially when it comes to placing advertisements, thereby monetizing, on other peoples intelectual property. It deprives editorial freedom and control, ruins business models, breaching secure connections and poor user experience. However, for TeliaSonera this is a step in the right direction, which probably will result in more traffic on the mobile web for those content owners with a mobile strategy and a good mobile optimized portal. So, it is highly recommended to implement the changes as described above on your www. site to tell the transcoding proxy that there is a better way of showing the site to a mobile user. If you experience any trouble or have any questions, Mobiletech is happy to help!

Feel free to use the screen shots on this page, but please refer to Mobiletech. 


About the Author Jon Arne Sæterås

Product Director

Other posts written by Jon Arne Sæterås (40 posts)


  • felipe said,

    Hello! I know this is quite a late comment on this post but here in chile we are seeing the launch of this kind of transconding. We work closely with one of major operators and they bought a solution which I beleive has some problems, for exampe in navigation bar deployment, because they add some nested <div> tags to the whole site and to the navigation bar.
    So, is there any chance you can send me the source code of any of the sites you have in your example that include the navigation bar? preferably one that is not adapted (transcoded) so I can compare the original code and the modified? thanks in advance for any help!

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