back to article New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone

A project that's just landed on github aims to let users in the developing world access Web pages over text messages alone. It's not as absurd an idea as it might first seem, to those of us whose first-world-problems include “how do I delete the U2 album from my iTunes library?” While the number of mobile phones in the world …

  1. Christian Berger

    Well yes...

    HTTP via SMS is actually old, back in the short period in the 1990s when SMS was free in Germany, there were projects to do that. The big problem of course is that SMS is horribly expensive in most countries.

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: Well yes...

      Yup. Being generous, it looks like 50 bucks per megabyte.

  2. Zack Mollusc

    Great Scott!

    If this kind of technology exists - presenting as a normal web browser to the server, then filtering out all the javascript, pictures and audio - then the first person to release an App based on it will make a fortune!

    Yes, you will still rack up the data charges, but the signal/noise will be INCREDIBLE!

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Great Scott!

      nothing like using AltaVista search engine in a console window on windows 3.11. Used primarily to search for MUDs of course.

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Great Scott!

      Totally agree.

      Typical Reg article, 3 megabytes of ads and promotional meterial, to deliver about 5 kilobytes of text. Typical MSM(*) piece, 8 megabytes for 5KB.

      (*)No names, no libel threats.

  3. Stephen Stagg


    At 8 bytes per character, what type of character encoding is that?!

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Bytes?

      GZIPped 7-bit ASCII if the article is accurate. Deflation works very well on simple HTML.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bytes?

        @Charles 9, you've missed the point.

        "TXT messages can carry 140 characters, at eight bytes a character, which is 1,120 bytes per message."

        Most sensible character encoding uses eight BITS per character (=one byte).

        But then most SMS systems support 160 characters per message. (presumably the other 20 are used as headers in this system? This could be clarified)

        1. David Gosnell

          Re: Bytes?

          Re message length, alternatively the article author has been brainwashed by Twitter, or the service is dodgily using a free SMS gateway that appends adverts that will never be seen...

    2. sawatts

      Re: Bytes?


    3. grawity

      Re: Bytes?

      It should have been bits.

      Though, the only two encodings I know in use by SMS messages are UCS-2 (16 bits * 70 characters) and GSM 03.38 (7 bits * 160 characters)...

      While apparently there /is/ a mode for 8-bit bytes, it's meant for raw data and generally not used for regular text messages.

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Bytes?

        Next time why not use the "tips and corrections" link bottom right of the article?

        1. Vic

          Re: Bytes?

          Next time why not use the "tips and corrections" link bottom right of the article?

          Does the frequency of this particular (rhetorical) question not indicate the unpopularity of a correction system by email?

          You might like to consider a form...


          1. tony72

            Re: Bytes?

            Worried about server load, I guess.

          2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            Re: Bytes?

            I hate web-mail forms in websites. They are even more fire and forget than email. They are just about acceptable if, and only if, there is an option to send a copy to me. If I make a complaint, query etc I would like a record of what I sent in my email client, not some eminently forgettable random txt file that I have saved somewhere on one of my disks.

  4. Uncle Slacky

    Like the old Agora servers...

    I used to do something like this, except via email rather than SMS.

    Anyone know if any of the servers listed here still exist?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember way back in the days of the Nokia 7650, writers on PocketPCThoughts wrote that Symbian phones browsed the web via SMS, sending and receiving thousands of text messages to show a web page. I knew that wasn't the case but did wonder if it could possibly work.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      The old Nokias had an option in the connection settings to choose if you wanted to connect via dial-up, GPRS, or SMS, so it must have been workable in at least one country.

    2. Cian Duffy

      There was a protocol to allow WAP over SMS which I believe was never actively implemented anywhere, although some phones (Ericsson I think) could support it.

      1. Shonko Kid

        WAP Push

        Every phone that does MMS does exactly that.

        At the time, with texts costing ~10p a go, WAP over SMS offered very little in the way of advantage over WAP over dialup, except for small data transfers where connectivity might be intermittant, such fire-and-forget packets used in Push messaging

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When did THAT creep into existence????

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: "Minifies"

      I believe that Dr Evil might have been the precursor of that particulaire process.

    2. JimmyPage

      Re: "Minifies"

      Well now it's been used, we need to invent a grammar ...

      Minify - the verb

      Minfied - the adjective

      MiniFi - the noun ..

      I wonder where that idea was burglarized from ?

    3. John Delaney

      Re: "Minifies"

      It's a programming term, mainly encountered in JavaScript. The concept has been around for a long time.

    4. H.Winter

      Re: when did that creep into existence?

      About 7 years ago.

  7. Tromos

    Shortly to be followed by...

    ...file sharing using bitdrip.

  8. Crisp

    Why spend all that time and effort

    To make an inferior copy of the old WAP network?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why spend all that time and effort

      Just what I thought. In fact my uni dissertation back in 2002 was all about doing a similar implementation, parsing an html site, stripping out multimedia and encoding it in wml. WAP was incredibly bad, given it choked on any 'normal' website.

  9. MyffyW Silver badge

    And for their next trick...

    ...they'll render pages to a Lynx browser using avian carriers.

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