My 5 cents on Google Mobile’s Content Transformation

The Blogsphere has been in turmoil lately discussing Google’s approach to transform web pages to make them better suited for viewing on small screens of mobile devices. The main problem most people (content providers) see is that adds get dropped which thus has a negative impact on their business model. So here’s what I think about this from my (the consumers) point of view.

For easy reference, here’s a link to Russell Buckley’s blog entry on the topic which has attracted a lot of attention. And here’s a link to a blog entry at WAP Review on how Google Mobile works.

From the consumers point of view, probably 99% of the web content today is not mobile optimized (including this blog, shame on me, shame on Typepad) when requested from a mobile device. Most of this content can not be displayed correctly on a small device today. Recently, some mobile browsers have appeared on the market that render a complete page correctly and show you a small portion on it. I have my doubts that this makes it really usable. Also, mobile phone rendering capabilities are very limited and I simply don’t have the time to wait for the download of a full page and don’t have the deep pockets required for the amount of data transferred.

I often read blogs on my mobile phone with a great program called Resco News. Often enough an interesting blog entry is not contained completely in the RSS feed or has some interesting links to follow. In this case I am stuck on my mobile phone without Google Mobile’s help. With Google Mobile, however, I can get the complete blog entry and can also follow the link no matter if the page is mobile optimized or not (and most are not).

Sure, if the web page is already delivered in a mobile optimized format then Google should just pass it through without modifications. Thus, graphics in general and adds in particular that behave in a mobile friendly way stay in. I guess this is not so difficult for Goggle to do. They could fetch the page from the original web server pretending to be a mobile phone. In case the server returns a gigantic page with heavy graphics, java script, etc. then kind of a "self justice" has to kick in and the page needs to be stripped down to something usable on a mobile device. Sorry if some content is lost on the way but it is still much better than not to get the page on the mobile at all.

So here’s the essence of my opinion in other words: If the content provider does not adapt content for mobile viewing, then somebody else has to do it to make it usable on small devices. If on the other hand the content provider is willing to include mobile devices in his design then the page should be handed down to the small device unaltered.

P.S.: Some people argue that it is "evil" to modify content without permission. Well, then I guess most desktop web browsers with popup blockers and mobile browsers without Java script and full HTML capabilities are just as "evil" as Google Mobile as they alter the page as well.