Developers hamstrung by Vodafone software changes

Mobile developers are up in arms over changes initiated by British operator Vodafone that threaten to hamper the quality of their services and applications while also limiting premium content sales. PCWorld reports that Vodafone recently implemented software created by adaptive content delivery service provider Novarra designed to reformat website content for improved display on mobile screens--however, some firms contend that in the process, Vodafone also removed user agent applications that enable their websites to detect the model and capabilities of handsets viewing their content, in turn optimizing content for that particular phone. Without the user agent, premium content sites also cannot determine which ringtones, wallpapers and related downloads are compatible with a particular phone.

According to PCWorld, Vodafone-approved firms on the operator's so-called "white list" were notified of the changes, and the user agent is so far working correctly in relation to their services. But other developers complain it is difficult and time-consuming to gain white-list access, and that Vodafone requires companies to make certain changes to their site behaviors in order to gain the carrier's seal of approval. At present it is unknown whether Vodafone's removal of the user agent capability was deliberate--on a developers' forum hosted by the operator, one user posting as a Vodafone employee defended the move and said customer feedback is so far mostly positive. But in a blog post on the issue, mobile services developer Lucca Passani writes "The great majority of consumers won't realize that they have been deprived of a service and will not complain."

For more on the Vodafone controversy:
- read this PCWorld article