M-Links

Accessing non-mobile content on mobile phones

A basic objective of ubiquitous computing research is ubiquitous information: the ability to utilize any content or service, using devices that are always at hand, over networks that don’t tie us down.  M-Links was an attempt to create a real world ubiquitous information system using mobile phones to access “non-mobile” content and services on the World Wide Web.

While the traditional Web browsing model works well for desktop and laptop computers, it is less well suited to “phonetops”. Thus, we developed M-Links, a middleware proxy system, to help mobile phone users access and actually do things with a wider range of Web content than previously possible. When phonetop users open a Web page through the M-Links proxy, they see a list of links from that page and can dig through the list in the same way they might dig through folders on their desktop to locate files. When users find a link, they may invoke a service, analogous to right clicking on a document and using the context menu on a desktop interface. While cell phones are not ideally suited to handle content types such as PDF documents, MP3s, or MPEGs, M-Links users can always do something with any content they find. For instance, a user can navigate to a PDF document and e-mail the PDF (or URL) to himself for later use at the desktop by selecting the link and applying the e-mail service.

M-Links is both simple to use and powerful. Its simplicity comes from the navigation interface: Separating links from page content makes navigation a matter of selecting a link from a list. Its power comes from the action interface: Because users can apply various Web-based services to any link, they can do more with content than simply read it on their phones.

Technical Contact

Related Publications

2003
Publication Details
  • HCI International 2003
  • Jun 22, 2003

Abstract

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A basic objective of ubiquitous computing research is ubiquitous information: the ability to utilize any content or service, using devices that are always at hand, over networks that don't tie us down. Although much progress has been made, the ideal remains elusive. This paper reflects on the interrelations among three dimensions of ubiquitous information: content, devices, and networks. We use our understanding of these dimensions to motivate our own attempt to create a ubiquitous information system by combining unlimited World Wide Web content with mobile phones and mobile phone networks. We briefly describe a middleware proxy system we developed to increase the usefulness of very small devices as Internet terminals. We conclude with a post-mortem analysis highlighting lessons learned for others interested in information systems for very small devices.
2002

Web Interaction Using Very Small Internet Devices

Publication Details
  • IEEE Computer Magazine, Cover Feature, Vol. 35, No. 10.
  • Oct 15, 2002

Abstract

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Squeezing desktop Web content into smart phones and text pagers is more practical with separate interfaces for navigation and content manipulation. m-Links, a middleware proxy system, supports this dual-mode browsing, offering phonetop users an extendable set of actions.

The Elusive Ubiquitous Information System and m-Links

Publication Details
  • Fuji Xerox Technical Report, No. 14, 2002
  • Jun 25, 2002

Abstract

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A basic objective of Weiser's Ubiquitous Computing vision is ubiquitous information access: being able to utilize any content or service (e.g., all the rich media content and services on the WWW), using devices that are always "at hand" (embedded in environments or portable), over a network with universal coverage and adequate bandwidth. Although much progress has been made, the ideal remains elusive. This paper examines the inter-relations among three dimensions of ubiquitous information systems: (1) ubiquitous content; (2) ubiquitous devices; and (3) ubiquitous networking. We use the space defined by these dimensions to reflect on the tradeoffs designers make and to chart some past and current information systems. Given this background, we present m-Links (mobile links), a new system that takes aim at the elusive ideal of ubiquitous information. Our approach builds on wireless web phone technologies because of their trend towards ubiquitous devices and networking (the second and third dimensions). Yet such very small devices sacrifice usability as rich media Internet terminals (the first dimension). To offset this limitation, we propose a new information access model for very small devices that supports a much wider range of content and services than previously possible. We have built this system with an emphasis on open systems extensibility and describe its design and implementation.
2001

m-Links: An Infrastructure for Very Small Internet Devices

Publication Details
  • The 7th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MOBICOM 2001), Rome, Italy, July 16-21 2001, ACM Press, 2001, pp. 122-131.
  • Jul 16, 2001

Abstract

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In this paper we describe the Mobile Link (m-Links) infrastructure for utilizing existing World Wide Web content and services on wireless phones and other very small Internet terminals. Very small devices, typically with 3-20 lines of text, provide portability and other functionality while sacrificing usability as Internet terminals. In order to provide access on such limited hardware we propose a small device web navigation model that is more appropriate than the desktop computers web browsing model. We introduce a middleware proxy, the Navigation Engine, to facilitate the navigation model by concisely displaying the Webs link (i.e., URL) structure. Because not all Web information is appropriately "linked," the Navigation Engine incorporates data-detectors to extract bits of useful information such as phone numbers and addresses. In order to maximize program-data composibility, multiple network-based services (similar to browser plug-ins) are keyed to a links attributes such as its MIME type. We have built this system with an emphasis on user extensibility and we describe the design and implementation as well as a basic set of middleware services that we have found to be particularly important.
1997

Digestor: Device-Independent Access to the World Wide Web.

Publication Details
  • In Proceedings for the Sixth International World Wide Web Conference, 1997, pp. 655-663.
  • Apr 7, 1997

Abstract

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Digestor is a software system which automatically re-authors arbitrary documents from the world-wide web to display appropriately on small screen devices such as PDAs and cellular phones, providing device-independent access to the web. Digestor is implemented as an HTTP proxy which dynamically re-authors requested web pages using a heuristic planning algorithm and a set of structural page transformations to achieve the best looking document for a given display size.