WinPho nuts, I was watching the logs and came across something curious. Two thirds of your phones go through a Microsoft “mobilizer” proxy server when hitting our site. Nothing revolutionary, Google made one of those (natural progression of things is a few years later Microsoft does too), but two thirds of you in April out of nowhere?

Google’s is opt-in, you have to go out of your way to use it and anything involving opt-in, you’d have to be giving away free rub and tugs from a real nice looking broad to attract two thirds like that in two weeks. Opt out on things like this (or not even bringing up the subject) is not in fashion anymore, can’t get away with that shit.

So I parsed out and zoomed in on those hits. First one showed up March 31st, a guy in Huntington Park or LA on wifi, probably AT&T given that his ISP is AT&T, the US and that it was a Focus. Then a few more hits like that here (the next few were non-AT&T) and there and then in the last few days the prevalence has escalated, currently at 76% for the day.

Couple questions since there isn’t much on the web about this activity that I could find: Did your phones recently ask you if it could speed up and improve your web experience somehow, wanting you to hit an Okay button? Did you possible sign off affirmatively on any EULA either on your phone or on your Zune thing on the computer?

Based on the timing and also on Gil’s recent post I’d say this is a byproduct of NoDo both official and Chevron. If I’m right, even though this is a WP7-heavy site where you’d expect to find this, that’s a pretty large chunk of you who’ve fired up the update finally (impressive adoption — though I’m not sure that’s the reason).

What’s not impressive is what you may be seeing when you visit our site. I pasted in the link your phones are reporting having used to convert our site’s format and, unless I needed to spoof my user agent to get something more dazzling, … is this what our site now looks like? Here it is on my phone with the same URL you guys used:

CAP2011041419571

When you visit our site on an Android or an iPhone it looks real nice, the theme dished out to smart phones. I’d try to get your user agent working with the system so that IEMobile or whatever is treated as a smart phone but it won’t matter because you’re all using this proxy server. Which is too bad because that’s an ugly screenshot, hope that’s not how you all are seeing the web.

Anyway, my point is that there’s no way three quarters (and climbing) of you opted into something with informed consent so FYI, all you Windows Phone surfers, Microsoft is now or will soon be acting as an intermediary between your phone and the web servers with which you interact. It’s not quite like Opera Mini in that Microsoft is grabbing the images and compressing them to hand off to you, rather it is instructing your phone to do the heavy lifting as it normally would; but it is grabbing all the text on our end and whatever you put in on your end.

Which is too bad because if they did do all of that like the Opera and Skyfire people, then I wouldn’t be able to rip on you for living in Rock Hill SC or wherever when I have nothing else to say in some argument were we to square off. Now both Microsoft and I know. And once the word gets out on their campus that I blew the lid off this, they’ll know that I know and we’ll all know that every combination of all the players in the picture knows, you know?

And if you use another proxy server in front of theirs, Microsoft will still know and if it’s encrypted they’ll at least know that you’re the type of guy who uses encrypted proxy servers on your damn phone which would scratch you off my prospective babysitter list.

So privacy freaks be advised, not just Google you gotta watch out for. Industry observers, looks like Microsoft is now speeding up their datamining operations. As for a fix or further information on what’s going on here, well that’s not my department (this is an Ask the Readers bit). Maybe there’s a setting you can manipulate. Probably not given everything else you cannot change but who knows. If not, if you are now only able to surf using their proxy servers or if this went down without giving you any form of a heads up, we should talk about it. But why the hell are you guys using a mobilizer anyway? The site renders fine with and without our own mobile theme engaged at least on my phone.

But high five to Microsoft for not simply syphoning data out of Google’s mobilizer operations, way to be fellas.

Doug Simmons

23 COMMENTS

  1. Oh, Simmons, you love digging for dirt, don’t you? :)

    I noticed the same thing a few days ago. It’s for a WP7 application called Weave, in which we are a featured reporting site in the application. It renders articles through a different engine built into the application. Hence, “http://weave-mobilizer……”

    :)

  2. So three out of four of our WP audience just installed the same application that makes our site look like shit and telling Microsoft what they visit and type along the way?

  3. Man these weave hits are all over my screen flying everywhere. And you’re telling me these are on top of what is an uninterrupted baseline of normal WP hits that just went from 100% to 24%. And it’s a paid app too? If I were crazy right now I’d swear one of you were playing a trick on me and were sent either by Satan or the CIA.

  4. I read articles from your site through the WP7 News App, and it defaults to a mobilized version unless I decide I want the non-mobilized version with a little slider.

  5. Same here. I think you may find that your overall hits have increased during the same timeframe that you saw the increased mobilized usage. I am using the WP7 News app, and read this article using the mobilizer (defaults to on, and causes pages to load quicker within the app, and in an easier to read column format, but uglier as you pointed out). I turned off the mobilizer and am replying within the app now.

  6. Weave mobilizer is a mobilizer created by seles games for its news reader app called weave. its designed to help news page load faster. there are a few free version of the weave client such as the windows phone news which has a link to your site. therefore the link. Microsoft has nothing to do with it so you better retract your article. speechless you are writing about WP without knowing anything.

  7. A number of RSS readers on WP7 make use of the mobilizer. Any Android/iphone users can tell us if this is the case on their platform?

  8. Hi, that’s us doing that, not Microsoft! We make a number of news/rss apps, including Weave and Windows Phone News. The apps include a mobilizer feature, which optimizes the way the article is presented on your Windows Phones (as well as drastically speeding up the page rendering). The optimized view ties into your OS theme’s accent color, as well as the correct Metro font (which is not present on an iPhone, which is one reason that screenshot looks bad).

  9. Wow. At first I was like.. Okay, honest mistake. But then with 2 seconds of looking at your proxy URL and searching the app list i found it’s obviously not Microsoft. If you’re looking for dirt to fling, iys obvious that 80% of us DON’T have nodo

  10. A responsible journalist would issue a retraction immediately. 10 bucks says this quack is still trying to fish this story to real gadget sites.

    P.s. Cloudapp.net is a generic domain for Windows Azure services (the cloud, if you can’t be bothered to research that either). Yes, it is hosted by Microsoft, but the data is maintained by Weave.

  11. hmm, something’s off about this post.. normal WP7 FUD and general, all-around bashing by Simmons (that I’m starting to appreciate, more on that at the end), but this is missing something…I can’t figure it out… I suppose it will come to me.

    Far be it for me to actually defend Simmons for his WP7 bashing and his undying love for Google…actually, I’m not going to. Say what you will about Simmons (normally, that’s where four-letter words come out in droves), he’s an entertaining antagonist to Microsoft. At least in my eyes, he is.

    There are people out there who claim to be more informed, basing their opinions on snippets from websites that they trust (normally pro-apple) or recycling old FUD that was used for other unpopular ecosystems (I’m looking at you, Pogue). Hell, there are people who would like to make you to believe that they are supporters of the ecosystem but look to over-exaggerate flaws (or creates the appearance of such) to produce hits for the websites he writes for or the podcast he hosts (yes, I’m talking about you, Thurrott. You f*****g queef waffle…), but at least Simmons’ rants aren’t completely baseless (they’re just not the product of a completely fledged out thought).

    There’s something to be said about writing something that may be completely incorrect with confidence, citing your sources and doing your own research all the while knowing that you’re going to get a ridiculous amount of negative feedback/responses…and then signing your name to it. I may thoroughly hate the subject matter, but the method is something I do actually appreciate.

    …I just figured it out, this post needs more pictures of cats.

  12. The Fight: Though at this point I am somehow able to take anything as a compliment with just the right sprinkle of delusion, I’ll take that strongly as a compliment and keep doing my thing. Sorry about the cats but this story was just so big (I thought I might have been blowing lids off things — at the time at least) I couldn’t wait to lay down either cat pictures or “cat” pictures. I’ll make up for it.

    lame: “A responsible journalist would issue a retraction immediately.” Okay let me field this one seriously. Look back at the stupid thing, it’s me saying Woah I’m seeing some strange shit which at the least means things you do are going through Microsoft’s servers, possibly because of this or that based on the timing but I wasn’t sure and that it wasn’t my department. After that, after I hit the button on this, within no time explanations were offered, this Weave thing. And then you come in and not only do you read my article, you post in it, adding to the counterbalancing of my FUD and lies after having read, like other people who read this, the comments which because of how I write read with a greater air of authority and truth than comments anywhere else. Scrolling up I see some good shit right here. The last thing I’ve purported to be is a responsible journalist however I spent a good chunk of time going through empirical data to put together the parts of this that were not speculation and between that and the comments, you know what that makes this? Good OC and I stand by it.

    Your exception is noted, but summarily to be written off, to me, as having been produced by a bigger putz than myself. That said, keep it coming and I’ll do the same.

    Starting with, now that I know what to look for, a thorough crunch of the numbers to confirm that this Weave program isn’t, for example, leaving the Microsoft browser stuck in this mobilizer mode. Because it’s been mobilized, that means there’s no javascript in the code which means these hits don’t get caught by Google Analytics. Now most journalists at this point would have a lack of data to offer you anything further having been offered things by the reader. But not me, I’m a borderline computer genius and in addition to Google Analytics I’ve set this place to sort of ping my own server, if you will, every time a human, not a bot, draws out either a regular web page from our server, a single article I wrote from the RSS feeds or both. Because I have that data in this case I can now figure out more answers including isolating all WP traffic and then all Weave traffic within that WP traffic and see if there’s an additive or a displacement effect on the Weave traffic against the non-Weave WP traffic and then report back. I’ll just shut up and go do that right now.

    PS: You use postscripts in a comment? What is this, a Civil War soldier’s letter to his wife That’s worse than my signing my drivel. And I did research that. Even included it in the article if I recall (it’s tl;dr, not going to reread it, a vague recollection suffices). And here’s where you also wrong about what I did or did not research, the dumbshit conclusion you drew, if you don’t mind my correcting you with more FUD drivel: If it’s hosted by Microsoft, this data is in Microsoft’s hands. Whether or not they’re aware of it (actually at least a handful of them are having read this from microsoft.com hosts (meaning from the campus) since I posted it, two of whom were using Google Reader I should add, the data is relaxing on their servers and will be there forever, free for them to use in whatever way they want. When they cooked up this cloud engine thing that the Weave man used with his software, do you actually think datamining was not on the list of reasons on their blackboard to go forward with this along with plans of how to parse it up to work to their favor? If you think of that, you think less of Microsoft than I do.

    In addition to sites like this, I monitor the hell out of my own sites I serve myself (this is hosted by Doug Smith’s ISP) including my own sites and those of my friends and clients. In fact I made my first phone website, blownfuze.org, chiefly because I wanted to create such logs to analyze. I made a site, put a lot of hours into it, just to amass logs to dig apart. That’s how valuable logs are to me and other people and in my case, other than indirect knowledge from learning some nerd social psych to apply later, since I chose not to attempt to monetize that site (or batteryboss.org) I had no financial incentive.

    You can bet your cute little ass that Microsoft is interested in such data, and they should be. That’s Google’s bread and butter right there, this data and how it’s helped them learn how to target, for example, ads they broker. Did you know that for Facebook to attract a visitor’s click on an ad they have to show it to ten times as many people as Google does? Pretty weak right? Well, this is one of the things a company, which by the way is vested in Facebook I believe, gets better at that. So you can run and retract that homeboy.

    The Fight: Thanks again, that made me feel good, waking up to that. I have a fragile self esteem you know, so every little quasi compliment goes a long way and may even save me shrink money.

  13. @pastco: Give Simmons credit, he’s at least an idiot savant. Unfortunately he tends to drift away from inventorying batteries to wrote something stupid.

  14. Still can’t believe it. No retraction. Microsoft has no right to the data other companies put on their cloud services anymore than Amazon does to what people put in their EC3. Not only that, but its encrypted by the company that puts it there. So is Microsoft datamining their own cloud services data? Only useful if P=NP. I understand your somewhat passionate defense of your own article… You’re too prideful to issue a retraction and its your day job to villainize Microsoft. Fine, you’re not a responsible journalist, just some quack by a computer. Your first reaction to “whoa what is this random traffic in my logs” was “im going to write an article that’s basically libel towards microsoft” without spending a minute of research. As a fellow tech blogger (yeah im hiding behind the anonynymity of the internets, sue me). You need to remember its just not your own ass but the site you’re posting on’s reputation as well. i actually came here thinking I had real news to post about (wrong site for that it seems). If i had reposted this article on my site I’d get fired straight to hell.

  15. @Doug Simmons: Woof. The things I write at 4 something in the morning.

    Clarification: As much as I may come off to be a MS fanboy at times, I still care about and use products in the Google ecosystem (I even forced people to use Wave with me). I was very close to buying a Droid Pro instead of my Venue Pro (it came down to me making a spreadsheet of what I could deal with and it finally came down to having NetFlix), I’m still thinking about buying the Galaxy Player and a Nook color (because overclocking CM7 on the NC to 1100 MHz is effin ridiculous and probably makes it better than any other android tablet not running Honeycomb). I say all of that to say this, just because we generally disagree, that doesn’t mean that I don’t always see where you’re coming from or, dare I say agree with you occasionally. I didn’t mean to offer a backhanded compliment to you, I’m actually being genuine when I said that I appreciated you method (I think you got that much, I just wanted to reiterate it).

    Not so nice stuff: In commenting about an observation, doing researching and essentially posting your finding seems like, in theory is what we wish most tech blogs do. Ars Technica seems to do the best job of this; BGR s**ts the bed. The only issue that I had with this was, well, I expected more out of you. No greater evidence is needed aside from reading your response to lame. I know that you will bring it now but you set a high expectation for those of us who actually read the whole articles here (and don’t actually post on this site…yet *hint-ti-ti-hint-hint*)

    Down right ugly stuff: You’re lack of cats in this post is dragging us all down. There I said it.

  16. Fair enough. Though I did proceed and drop some more evidence a moment ago.

    What I want to know now is who dropped this article to the bottom of the index of the site. Third time this has happened, who’s messing with my publishing timestamps.

    I’m sure Microsoft had nothing to do with it. That would be ridiculous.

  17. “I’m seeing some strange shit which at the least means things you do are going through Microsoft’s servers”

    LOL! This is hilarious and ironic coming from a fanboy whose favorite company is the king of mining personal data.

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