The other day I wrote about Google’s mobile transcoding services and the reasons for our issues with it in a post titled, “An Open Letter to Google: “Page adapted for mobile phone?” Please stop now, you are crippling sites, not adapting pages.”
The lack of clarity as to how the transcoding services worked and how you could opt-out was frustrating. In our case, Google’s transcoding service was doing more harm then good. Naturally we “Googled” Google and eventually found a mobile FAQ that stated:
Our system automatically translates regular pages into wap-compatible [i.e. mobile] pages. In cases where a wap-compatible site already exists, we redirect the user to the wap-compatible site instead of translating the page ourselves.
We found that not to be the case. In Scott Rafer’s words:
To use WINKsite as a specific example, Google Mobile Search ignores the mobile site that took our founders years of hard work and which is now a global mobile community used by tens of thousands of people every day. Instead, Google Mobile Search uses our standard web homepage, rips it apart, and sends it to people’s mobile phones as 15 crappy pages of unintelligible garbage.
Reading back through the FAQ later we discovered that Google did in fact provide a method for web site publishers to be excluded from Google Mobile’s re-rendering by sending a “removal request” by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Accordingly we sent this email to Google on 3/12/2006 11:16 PM:
Please remove transcoded pages for http://winksite.com (re: http://www.google.com/webmasters/remove.html#transcoded)
Founder, Wireless Ink/WINKsite
On 3/12/2006 11:16 PM we received the following response:
Thank you for your note. This is just an automated reply to let you know that we received your email. We’re currently putting most of our energy into improving Google Mobile, so we can’t promise a personal reply to every question. Please be assured that your feedback will be used to improve Google Mobile. For a quick answer, you may want to visit our FAQ at http://www.google.com/mobile/faq.html
The Google Team
Followed the next morning (3/13/2006 11:46 AM) with:
Thank you for your note. As requested, your page will no longer be transcoded to a mobile-ready format.
We’re constantly working to improve the way pages are displayed on mobile web browsers. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.
The Google Team
Well nothing changed, our audience was still blocked from our mobile site, and a debate which originally started at MobHappy continued here, here, here, and here.
Finally on the morning of 3/17/2006 I awoke to discover that after 5 days of jumping up and down on blogs all over the blogosphere — WINKsite had been set free. “Being Free” is good.
…but what about others in the same fix.
The process and exclusion list doesn’t seem like a good permanent solution (and it’s not just Google that’s handling mobile wrong.) What’s needed is a way to respect the rights of mobile publishers and their audience without making them jump through hoops. The conversation has started. Hopefully the dialogue leads towards a better understanding of the mobile web.
Count us in.
Update: Received 3/17/2006 8:19 PM
We just wanted to let you know that your site is no longer being transcoded. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
If we can assist you further, please let us know.
The Google Team