AsiaPundit is pleased to report that government-blocked websites such as the BBC’s news portal and HRI China can be accessed on mobile devices in China with the installation of the Opera Mini browser.
While phones with WAP capabilities have built-in browsers, these have to go through the same firewalls that plague China’s conventional internet. The Opera Mini, however, “uses a remote server to pre-process Web pages before sending them to your phone.”
From the Opera Mini Wikipedia entry:
Unlike normal web browsers, Opera Mini fetches all content through a proxy that runs the layout engine of the Opera desktop browser. The engine on the proxy server reformats webpages into a width that is suitable for small screens using Opera’s Small Screen Rendering. The content is compressed, then delivered to the phone in a markup language called OBML (Opera Binary Markup Language). When the content reaches the phone it has been reduced in size by typically 70-90%.
This was designed to improve loading speed and rendering of content for the small screen. However, the end effect is the same as what can be achieved using proxy servers or web-based services such as Anonymouse and Virtual-Browser. Unlike the Anonymouse service, which is disabled by the Great Firewall’s keyword filtering, the Opera Mini was able to load one particular banned website without any time-out errors.
Viewing web pages through a WAP connection is a slow and expensive process, so this will not bring freedom of information to the masses. The government could also mandate a block on Opera’s server should use of the service become widespread enough to be considered a problem.
Still, AsiaPundit expects that in a few short years more Chinese will be accessing the internet through mobile devices than through PCs (the organic evolution of mobile technologies is a more important revolution than the $100 PC). With that, the discovery of a small chink in the armor should be welcome.
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