Mobile browser URL error September 11, 2008 8:32 AM   Subscribe

My mobile browser (LG Voyager) shows a URL Errors whenever I try to select a "more inside", "x comments", or "x answers" link. So there's no way to read anything that's not visible on the main pages.

Whenever I select a link to go to an individual post, it shows "URL ERROR: Invalid address."
The browser is pretty capable with most sites, and it has javascript support; I didn't expect this problem. I don't think there's a way for me to actually see what address the browser is trying to access.

I tried manually entering a URL ( and it worked fine.

This problem has not always happened; it worked fine maybe three or four months ago, but more recently this problem has been totally consistent.
Any suggestions?
posted by kidbritish to Bugs at 8:32 AM (13 comments total)

hmm, we're not doing anything tricky with those links on this end. There's no JavaScript executing when you click a link and all of the URLs should be valid. Some browsers don't like the pound (#) notation at the end of URLs, but those would only exist on "x new comments" links.

I don't know anything about the LG Voyager. Does the browser modify pages from the web to reformat them for a small screen? If so, it could be choking on HTML in larger threads? (That's a complete guess.) I Googled around for "LG Voyager URL ERROR", but didn't come up with anything.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2008

You might try bringing up the completely unsupported and possibly broken text-only version of the site to see if that works for you. The links there don't include the stub (/Googles-speedy-little-red-browser in your example) and those might be too long for LG Voyager. That's also a complete guess.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2008

Google Reader on Blackberry (when I click on "read original") navigates to a stripped, down, text-only version of MetaFilter, and this s not the text-only version pb linked to above. Anyone have an explanation for *that*?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:14 AM on September 11, 2008

KokoRyu, when using the mobile version of Google Reader, Google reformats linked pages for you. Not sure if that's what's happening to you or not.
posted by kidbritish at 9:17 AM on September 11, 2008

You might try the mobile version of Mefi.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:23 AM on September 11, 2008

Speaking of, is there any progress on adding features to that version? (i.e. signing in to see read/unread counts, to allow favorites, and posting)
posted by birdherder at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2008

Nope, nothing new in the works for the mobile site that I know of. We threw together the iPhone interface as a proof-of-concept and we haven't been discussing it much since then. Matt and I both have iPhones and we both read the standard site exclusively afaik.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:25 AM on September 11, 2008

Dammit. I love me some mobile mefi.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:57 AM on September 11, 2008

You might try the mobile version of Mefi.

Mm - that mobile version doesn't actually work on my mobile (Nokia N73). I realise it was formatted for iPhones, but not everyone has one, and I really like some Metafilter on my phone (at the moment I'm using Mowser to provide a mobilized version). So I guess I'm kind of asking for a new mobile pony... Please?
posted by awfurby at 9:26 PM on September 11, 2008

I spent 18 months of my life working on mobile web UIs. While it was gratifying for many reasons, I recommend against trying to provide a mobile UI unless you're willing to dedicate a few months' worth of solid effort to it. There are thousands of phones out there, each with its own quirks. It's not clear to me which ones are most used by MeFi users, but a scan of the user agents in your web logs--you do keep web logs, right?--could give you an idea. Then, for testing purposes, it's just a matter of figuring out which users use which phones and/or getting contracts for the most common 3 or 5 or 12 or whatever and testing them out against every type of page you have on your site. If you want a phone that is guaranteed to crash on something, I recommend pretty much anything with the name Sony Ericsson on it. When I was still working on mobile stuff, I made sure to recommend that my company get one of those for testing--their browsers are the most brittle things you can imagine and they really helped us to improve our mobile UI.

Judging by the comments upthread and personal experience, if you do go down this path you'd probably want to support:

- Nokia high-end phones. I think the N73 is one, but I never really paid attention to this company's models. Regardless, I respect them for their technical ability, in producing both good hardware and software.
- Blackberries. I bet there are a few MeFites who get these through work. (KokoRyu--I also suspect you're getting pages fed through Google Reader via its transcoder.)
- Windows Mobile (groan). Yes, I bet there are also a few MeFites who get these through work.
- Not sure about the LG iPhone knockoffs. Maybe.
(I'm omitting the iPhone because people are clearly aware of it already.)

For those of you with cell phones who want to browse Metafilter, I recommend you download an Opera Mini client and use that. It'll probably work well enough, and it would at least give pb and crew something to standardize on if it doesn't already display the pages well (although some web sites will think you're visiting from Norway, which is where their proxy servers are). But kidbritish, the fact that you have an LG Voyager makes me think that you're using Verizon, who are pretty much the most close-minded company in the tech world, and I don't remember if they allow downloads from outside their walled garden yet. If you really care about visiting Metafilter from your phone, choose another carrier. Pretty much any other one will do.

You should probably also reconsider your choice of phone. I suspect you will lose in the experience whatever money you saved in getting a Voyager instead of an iPhone if you really expected you'd be browsing the web a lot on it. The iPhone was a carefully crafted device. The Voyager was a hastily produced knockoff, from everything I've seen (although I haven't personally used it, so you should take my words with a grain of salt).

I think the main problem with cell phones is that they're designed to have a lifespan of about 2 years. My crappy old Samsung started having battery problems nearly 2 years to the day after I signed my Sprint contract. I defy you to create a stable software development process in that context. Most cell phone browsers are buggy because the phones they live on will live as long as butterflies, with lives that are just as random and arbitrary.
posted by A dead Quaker at 11:19 PM on September 11, 2008

Hi all... web developer for mobile devices here! *waves*

Building the site so it works on mobile phones is an annoying exercise because, as Quaker says, they're all different. If you thought trying to write markup for IE and FF was a hassle, you ain't seen nothing.

I've got to say, the iPhone is simultaneously the greatest and worst thing that could happen to us.

On one hand, the iPhone has made the world in general realise that the web on your phone is actually a realistic experience. It's gone from a very geeky thing that everyone expects costs a fortune to a relatively mainstream activity. The repeated claims of "now with the internet!!!" that phone providers trotted out ruined their credibility in a way that only Apple could rectify.

On the other hand, every mobile browsing experience is assumed to be an iPhone one. As an example (but there are many, many others) MeFi has a 'mobile' interface which is clearly an 'iPhone' interface. The entire design is based around the iPhone, even to the extent that it forces my OperaMini to display content in a viewport bigger than the screen.

If you want to know all the abilities of phone, you need to download the Wurfl XML. It's something like 9Meg of xml recording 50,000 different devices. The gotchas are many, which means that, right now, if you want to server content to all different phones then you either need to put in a huge amount of work, or you need to turn to a company like the one I work for.

Sadly, this means that everyone is writing for iPhone in the same way that everyone wrote for Netscape in the mid 90s and IE in the early 2000s.

Unless you want to restrict yourself to professionally built websites, or the ones on .mobi extensions, I think you're best off downloading OperaMini. It obeys viewport commands (which means it will break if you stumble on a site coded for iPhone) but the rest of the time it will happily download standard websites and let you pan and scroll and zoom in the way iPhone users think they invented... :)
posted by twine42 at 2:38 AM on September 12, 2008

Oh, and in reply to Quaker's list...

- Most Nokia phones have half decent browsers. The olders/lower spec ones have lots of weird gotchas like weird support on background colours, but they work well enough.
- Blackberries. I hate these things. Shipped with every feature you'd want in a browser turned off, they do odd things with fonts, with images, with backgrounds, with... yeah. Hate.
- Windows Mobile. Well, it wasn't a bad browser 5 years ago.
posted by twine42 at 2:48 AM on September 12, 2008

kidbritish: Did the lofi or mobile versions act any differently?

I think the standard interface works fine with my ipod Touch; I prefer it to the mobile version. Reading the mobile developers, it seems that developing another version would be an endless nightmare.

Above, awfurby mentioned Mowser as a filter / proxy that made Mefi available for his phone; Mowser's creator has stopped believing in the "Mobile Web" as a separate thing, & discourages viewing it differently.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:52 AM on September 12, 2008

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