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Are you happy for somebody to wrap advertising round your mobile site – and sell it?

If you operate a web site, are you happy for ISP’s around the world to edit the content of your sites and add banner advertising to your pages – without telling you or getting your agreement? 

Several mobile operators have started to place “transcoders” or “filters” that intercept and replace web (HTTP) traffic going to their phones. 

The effects are sometimes relatively benign – for example reducing the sizes of images for faster download.  http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/06/06/vodafone_mobile_internet/comments/

Sometimes it is a more damaging – some carriers masking the handset type from mobile websites – preventing website owners providing a good experience to users.   http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/vodafonerant/

Telia in Sweden recently went to the next level, and has provoked a firestorm among web site owners site developers in Sweden.  They are using thei rweb transcoder to wrap advertising sites that are visited through their network.

   http://mobtech.se/index.php/blog/6-blog/739-transcoding-novarra   

Imagine the uproar if Verizon started filtering out ads on their fixed broadband network and adding banner ads to web pages!  In the mobile world, where things are not so easy to see and mobile carriers are generally not called to account, this can happen by stealth. 

I expect that there is enough resistance to this idea, and sufficient competitive pressure between operators to stifle these misguided initiatives, but with 18 or 24 month contracts the norm for mobile data services, the users generally have to put up with what they are given in the mobile world.

Anybody seen this outside Sweden yet? 

The name “Bango”

There was an article in industry newsletter Unstrung.com poking fun at the name “Bango” – along with our friends Twango and Thumbplay.

Just to set the record straight, here is the derivation of the name Bango:

“Bango” means “number” in Japanese. At the heart of the “Bango system” which was invented in 1999 is the idea that any piece of content is given a unique “Bango Number”. It is then used as a key to collect money (Premium content), spread it virally (via WAP.com), provide quick and easy access (Direct entry) or to track traffic.

Also, the symbol for a “Bango Number” is ! number so !729 or !987654321 and ! is called “bang” in the USA.

So, there you have it. Bango was initially called Bango.net because the “bango.com” was owned by Treesa Bangs, the lead singer in Christian Rock band “Bango”. Bango.net Limited bought the domain name from her in 2003 and changed its name to Bango.
So, there you have it – totally logical…..

So, although it sounds rather like “Bang and Go”, the name is logical…

.MOBI has no clothes

I wrote a letter to the editor of New Media Age today just to make clear my views on the .mobi "top level domain". Here it is:

.MOBI HAS NO CLOTHES

The "approval" of the .MOBI top level domain by ICANN is interesting but pointless. .MOBI is a red herring that will be consigned to the dustbin of irrelevant initiatives – like PL/1, Ada, Algol 68 and OSF/1. Here’s why:

Content Providers want to promote ONE "address" in written, electronic or verbal forms and want it to work through any medium – mobile, fixed or word of mouth. The technology exists to support this today. For example http://www.vodafone.com/ works well a PC or from a mobile phone.

The WWW Consortium advised ICANN to reject .MOBI early in 2004. Browser protocols provide an HTTP_ACCEPT header to a single URL to be used across all device types – hiding complexity from users. World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee warned that a new .MOBI domain could be harmful, potentially breaking the web’s device independence and putting mobile users in a walled garden.

The sponsors of the Irish company behind the "scheme" claim to want to provide a good user experience. It’s therefore amazing that after several years, most of their own web sites give an error message to hundreds of millions of mobile users. gsmworld.com, microsoft.com, sun.com, and even nokia.com all give an error message to most users because they only work on PC browsers.

If the .MOBI initiative gained any traction, it could complicate and confuse the Internet experience for mobile subscribers, and slow down the delivery of mobile services. Fortunately, enough people in the Mobile Content industry have pointed out the obvious flaws in the proposal, so few people will be embarrassed by praising the clothes of a naked emperor.

However, just in case its not absolutely clear, let me be like the little boy who spoke the truth: ".MOBI has no clothes! " If any of the sponsors need help in developing their web sites to enable them to better support mobile devices, as Vodafone has already done, we are certainly more than willing to help provide them with the appropriate information.

.MOBI top level rejection notice

After some days studying the proposal to ICANN for a ".mobi" top level domain, I decided that the idea was not only ill thought out, but (like Tim Berners Lee) could actually harm the progress starting to be made on the Mobile Internet.

I therefore filed my objections to ICANN here:
http://forum.icann.org/lists/stld-rfp-mobi/msg00017.html

It turns out I’m in good company – almost everybody who has commented seems to realise the problems with this crazy idea.

However, given past experience with ICANN, plus the propensity for large organizations like the sponsors of .MOBI to not really have a big enough view of what is going on to really understand what they are backing, I expect that in a year or so the .MOBI idea will be approved and we will see some PR effors and stuff in 2005 to try and get it going.

I doubt it will really get anywhere – but who knows! 🙂