Vodafone UK has launched a mobile optimising technology which reformats web pages to fit onto a mobile phone screen.
Unfortunately, it also prevents anyone else doing the same thing, and breaks several mCommerce technologies.
Dubbed Mobile Internet, the service includes a shiny new portal, which users can personalise with their own links, and an email aggregation service which notifies over SMS and only charges when the message is downloaded (at 12p a message, or £5 a month for all messages, without incurring data usage).
But it's the optimisation of web pages that is causing problems. When you now request a website over Vodafone Live your request is intercepted by Vodafone's server, which downloads the content for you and converts it to suit your model of phone before sending it on. In most cases that's fine, but where the receiving server is expecting a direct connection to the phone (such as many mCommerce sites, or sites that like to do their own handset optimisation), everything stops working.
According to the support pages at Bango, a leading mCommerce platform provider: "These changes have crippled mobile web browsing by masking the User Agent of the mobile device, making the device appear to be a PC browser to the remote web server...Vodafone alerted Bango to the changes earlier this morning and we're working with Vodafone to resolve the issues."
The technology also adds a Vodafone header and footer to pages, providing additional functionality or the option to insert advertisements, depending on your point of view.
Vodafone says the technology is a way of enabling an internet experience within the 120MB a month cap it's put on its data tariff, but others might see it as an imposition on their freedom to view what content they like without their network operator imposing improvements on the experience. ®
Bango tells us that Vodafone is now letting sites registered with Bango.com through unmodified, so if your site is getting mangled then call up Vodafone and ask for the same treatment, or register with Bango, to get your site delivered unimproved, at least for the moment.