Vodafone UK, Doing A Lovely Job Of Supporting The Mobile Web By Breaking It

I’d written earlier about Vodafone UK’s new data tariffs, which appear to be a marginal improvement over their previous efforts, though they are a small step in the right direction. The new charges went into effect this week, as well as some other “improvements” to the mobile web experience for Vodafone users.

Those improvements entail breaking sites that use mobile browsers’ user agents to serve the proper pages by using a transcoder that appears like a PC browser to sites, and also apparently adding a Vodafone header and footer to each page, giving them some real estate to serve advertising.

The solution thus far appears to be whitelisting of certain sites — which isn’t just resource-intensive for Vodafone, but ridiculous from the perspective of web site owners, who now essentially need to register their work with Vodafone (or Bango) for it to work properly. While this event is probably best explained by some level of incompetence, rather than malice, it’s hard to swallow given the efforts Vodafone, or at least some people within it, make to be seen as supporters of the mobile web. This episode makes it look as if Vodafone’s support of the mobile web extends to supporting it only on its own terms, and removing control over the mobile web experience from users and content providers. Meanwhile, we’ll assume that sites within Vodafone’s live! portal still work just fine — making it even harder to view this as some sort of soft walled garden.

On a related note, according to The Guardian, Vodafone’s transcoder “tends to strip out adverts”, though an exec insists this is just part of the attempt to “present content from the internet as quickly as possible”. Haven’t we been through this before?

Also, it’s worth mentioning this isn’t the first time Vodafone’s had a problem with their interference in the mobile web, as their overzealous porn filtering blocked plenty of innocent sites a few years ago.

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