After the chaos caused by Vodafone UK Live’s new Internet platforms and Services, Vodafone may be regretting choosing Novarra, the company behind their mobile optimising technology.

The new mobile Internet experience on Vodafone UK consists of a transcoding solution that automatically reformats websites so they can display properly on handheld devices.

While this technology is great for mobile users who want to access to virtually any website, as they would do from their desktop browser, it is totally ruining mobile content provider’s income, but also Vodafone’s own revenue sharing income. Basically, Vodafone shot itself in the foot.

In fact, anytime you want to access to a site from Vodafone Live’s portal, whether through Google, or through their embedded virtual browser, Novarra will download the requested site, reformats it, and display it in your browser. Novarra will do so even if the requested site is a mobile/WAP site, or a site perfectly suited to display content on mobile devices.

The problem is that when downloading the requested website, Novarra will mask the visitor’s User Agent, so mCommerce sites that rely on user agents to display their content will not have a correct transcoded page.

For example, if a Vodafone UK customer is using Google to search for ringtones, if he clicks on either the natural search or paid listing of a mobile ringtone Wap site, he will land on a transcoded page displaying a message saying “sorry, there’s no content for your phone”.

At this time, this technology is causing LOTS of mobile content providers in the UK to lose sales, and the mobile consumer experience is very disappointing.

It is possible to stop this transcoding thanks to Bango, a mCommerce platform, by registering your site to get it whitelisted. Due to the large number of whitelistings, only a few mobile sites have been whitelisted so far. But this is just a temporary workaround.

Novarra must make sure that mobile sites aren’t transcoded. Google itself is unhappy by the fact that Novarra is transcoding their mobile AdWords customers’s sites.

I’ve been informed by someone at Vodafone UK that they’re doing their best to quickly fix this major issue, let’s see what happens, hoping that this wrong strategy will serve as an example to other carriers.

I’ve also contacted Novarra directly but they didn’t get back to me yet.

37 Responses to “How Vodafone and Novarra Killed Mobile Commerce”

    […] I was quite worried when I heard about the partnership, since I didn’t want to experience the same issues than with the Vodafone UK case (which is now partly solved). I then contacted Novarra to get more details. Simon Hunt immediately got back to me and replied to the questions I had. […]

    […] Luca Passani, the man behind WURFL, came up with a long rant about Vodafone regarding their transcoding solution used in the UK(powered by Novarra), which reformats ALL sites visited by their users, and therefore masks the User-Agent. This is causing issues for mobile sites that rely on user agent to provide the right content to the device that requests it. […]

    I wonder if this topic is for the UK only. I live in Holland and I’m quite interested in it.

    in germany in Vodafone D2 Byte Mobile is used and I can tell you I would be happy to have a Vodafone UK servive from Novarra … the service from Byte Mobile is not usable at all … have you heard about this also

    we use the mobile internet service from D2 and experience since 1 year
    a same problem … our websites are not good accessable from mobile phones via Vodafone D2 some times we see HTTP errors some times the D2 service is not accessible and when I have acess the web site looks horrible and we can not work with it I was told Byte Mobile is responsible for this … how can I bypass the service or what other solutions are doable …. maybe you can help us

    Novarra did mess also in Sweden at Telia see the link below

    we all hope Telia will discontinue with Novarra … it is already the second time Novarra messes around in Europe … is there another operator using Novarra with no issues ?? … We tested in the meantime also D2 in Germany using Byte and I could not see any problms service is smoth

    WOW I just found this on an US web site sites … Novarra messes also in the US … Please see the comment from Luca Passani

    (Note: I am Luca Passani, the editor of the Manifesto for Responsible Reformatting mentioned in the article)

    I am disgusted by Verizon’s choice to deploy a transcoder that spoofs the User-Agent string.
    The only reason to change the User-Agent string is to extort web-only content from publishers who might have a carefully designed mobile experience ready for users. How can this be acceptable?

    Verizon and Novarra have chosen to disrespect the neutrality of the web and to appropriate web content they have no rights to for their own illegitimate interests. To me, this is an abuse of gigantic proportions. I firmly believe (and so do thousands of mobile developers around the planet) that nobody should have the right to interfere with the content and the applications that companies have built with great use of time and resources.

    We Fully support this view ==>>

    nobody should have the right to interfere with the content and the applications that companies have built with great use of time and resources

    read the full article:

    * we are not alone please see the long list of persons and companies affected by the Novarra transcoding :

    Vodafone Italy decided against Novarra because Novarra is not MSP compliant

    very funny and intersting:

    wait, am i getting this right ?? novarra takes out content (compresses) then injects branding (adds content) and adds targeted advertising, presumably using flash crap and javascript and pages load quicker on mobile, beeeeeeeeeeeeejeeeeeeeeeezus its a furkin miracle O_O

    Novarra transcoding madness a never ending story :

    I’ll say it again: Verizon are in the wrong here. We all agree on that……………………………………………….. c here


    the novarra stuff is really incredible. Did you know that, if they see an rss feed, they transform it to html? So, you can’t use any rss reader apps on vodafone.

    Then, if a web site uses http authentication, they turn this to 200 ok and show html form. This breaks a lot of things too as the browser would normally pop up a dialog.

    I don’t think there are many phones that need transcoding at all. Why is vodafone paying to get their traffic damaged?

    We had a discussion with the sales manager Ian McWilliams from Novarra the most arrogant person I have ever met
    and no business sense !!!






    whatch the video :

    six months later – STILL NO SERVICE AT TIM in ITALY –

    what a great company

    see the original PRESS NEWS from Novarra here :

    I was in Italy for vacation and tested TiM mobile internet services no Novarra mmmhhhh WHY ??? no comment

    John Dellaney, a top mobile analyst reported that Vodafone UK is in the process to replace Novarra soon

    Wireless carriers seem to have little faith in Novarra anymore, maybe Novarra had seen its best times already. The investment of over 100 Million US dollars in Novarra seems to be a negative write off project for the financial community. A Novarra investor Qualcomm Ventures did not comment how they plan to continue with Novarra

    Ian McWilliams a sales manager fom Novarra told me Novarra is not expandng anymore in Europe because all operators in Europe are not interessted in transcoding solutions ?

    I am considering switching my phone service and after some extensive research, I became very interested in Novarra and learning more about its services it offers to users. I want to share this article below which had been posted just after this blog was written:

    It describes its services and outlines Vodafone’s enthusiasm for partnering with Novarra. While I think that Novarra has received a bad rep by some, I think that its services are paramount above the rest and I have decided that a service that uses Novarra server and browser is the best option for me considering the high level of mobile internet I will be using.

    Dear Jenny, nice to see that at least one user – and I hope you not a Novarra employe – is happy with the Novarra solution … BUT there are thousands out in this world who dislike Novarra for many reasons … they can not be wrong … have a look what Opera is doing … maybe this helps to better understand what REAL mobile internet means

    feel free to comment
    Yours Frank

    one more link

    I agree Novarra is not usefull enough …

    Hello, I follow this site since several months — very interesting informations — in the beginning I think I was astonised what the people say abot Novarra but I muts admit that after 1 year working or talkting to Novarra I must agree that they have nothing great to offer. Over 1 year it is the same product and the same story we have to listen to — especially when we want a customization Novarra tells us that this is already in the product but we can not find it — always Novarra tells us another story so taht at the end we are not shure what we have what the want to sell to us a– Our team drives mobile internet for LatinAmerica and Europe decided not to continue with Novarra

    have a look in OPERA MOBILE 10

    see this NEXUS VIDEO I like it a real mobile internet phone

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    the new browser from BOLT is available now.

    Have a look here:

    a new product from novarra maybe they show it in barcelona?

    spoke to them at 3GSM
    amazing they are still alive
    +++ no new product
    +++ same stuff but different color

    Don’t know if you’re interested, but Novarra has had a few changes lately. Jayanthi Rangarajan, a long time CEO and a subject of a few debates in TMR back in 2002, has stepped down and was replaced by COO Bruce Simpson. The company has laid off 35 people, about 20% of the staff…

    […] Interestingly, Novarra is the company that has been criticized in 2007 for providing its browsing solution to Vodafone UK and “totally ruining mobile content provider’s income, but also Vodafone’s own revenue sharing income”. You can read more on that here. […]