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Browsing proxy services
Posted on 31-Jul-2003 19:31 by M Freitas. | Tags Filed under: Reviews.

One of the hardest things for wireless users is to find a website that is actually handheld friendly. The small form factor and reduced screen real estate puts lots of constrains on how a website is to be presented to the user. Some proxy services can help translating the big sites into the small world.

There are a few services around, some commercial with enhanced features, others free but still in beta. All these services provide a certain level of results, and users will see that paying can make a difference. But, the free ones are still very good!

One side effect of using this approach for mobile browsing the internet is savings. In most cases users will download a reduced version of a full web page, even compressed or reduced images. This will certainly reduce traffic and when a user is paying a GPRS connection by chunks of 10KBytes the final result can make a huge difference in terms of dollars and time.

In this article I'm listing three of these products. Read on for a look into Skweezer, MobileLeap and WebXcope.

Skweezer, by Greenlight Wireless, is a paid service. The fee is not an absurd, only US$ 9.99 a year for the service. It offers the ability to fit content to a handheld-friendly format, serve "skweezed" pages with compressed content, multiple view modes, a web based e-mail client for pop3 accounts, cookies and JavaScript.

Access is through a 128-bit SSL server. Users can create their own bookmarks and change a variety of options, including the level of "compression" wanted for the pages being retrieved. It's also possible to have image sizes reduced by turning on the option to receive grayscale versions of the images.

The web based pop3 client is very handy, and the user can define multiple providers, retrieving only subjects and reading the e-mails that really are important - or seem to be!

Skweezer can be used from any browser, and it'll work just fine with desktops, laptops (great while using GPRS), Pocket PCs, Palm or even Symbian devices.

The following are some screen shoots of this product:

MobileLeap is offering a free beta functionality. Although not feature-rich like Skweezer, it offers a very good rendering of pages - sometimes better than Skweezer. It does not support forms and JavaScript, but if you want some basic browsing, it's a nice product, for free (but I don't know for how long).

MobileLeap can also be used with any browser, like Skweezer.

WebXcope is also offering a free beta functionality. It's not feature-rich like Skweezer, but still it offers a good rendering of pages. Interesting is that large pages are broken into smaller pieces, with a simple navigation structure at the bottom of each page, as you can see in the images below.

The only thing I didn't like in it was the frames. I can't understand the frame in a handheld friendly browser service. Also, the other two services can be used from any browser - even from the desktop. This is not possible with WebXcope. But, being free, is still a great bargain!

Update: I've received an e-mail from the company offering WebXcope, and the frames are due to be removed in a next version. They're also working on improving the translation/rendering and welcome feedback from users. Thanks for the update, folks!

In conclusion, there are some good products out there, at very good price. But for a little extra Skweezer will give the user total control of the browsing experience. Both WebXcope and MobileLeap are very strong contenders, though, and free.

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