BlackBerry Browsers Explained

By Craig Johnston on 31 Dec 2008 11:22 am EST
Web Browsers Explained

Today we received an email from Mike on the CrackBerry Podcast hotline (podcast @ in New Jersey asking why there are different web browsers on his new BlackBerry Storm, and why he cannot download files larger than 5 Mb.

I thought that the answer to Mike's question would also benefit everyone else, so read on after the jump for an explanation of the BlackBerry Browser.

How Many Browsers?

Today a BlackBerry can have a number of web browsers. They all serve a purpose but can be confusing. Let's start with the different ways that your BlackBerry can be setup.

In a corporate environment, your BlackBerry is assigned to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). The BES allows the administrators to fully control your BlackBerry, including how you browse the internet. Every BES has a service called the Mobile Data System Connection Service (MDS-CS). This service allows data to flow between your BlackBerry and the BES, and eventually onto your company's network.

If you are a non-corporate BlackBerry user then your BlackBerry is assigned to a BlackBerry Internet Server (BIS) that is installed either on your carriers network or Research In Motion's (RIM) network. The BIS is a slightly different version of the BES that allows only email and web browsing.

Your Home (Unite)
If you want to have your own BES at home, or if you run a small business, you can download the free Unite software from RIM. Unite is essentially a stripped down BES that runs on a PC in your house. It supports up to five BlackBerrys.

So you are probably thinking that if your BlackBerry can be assigned to a BES, a BIS, or Unite that you would have three browsers. You would be correct, but your carrier can add another one, and if your BlackBerry has Wi-Fi, you will have another.

In total, five possible browsers. Here they are:

1. BlackBerry Browser

  1. This browser is only used in a corporate environment. All web browsing goes via the BES using the MDS-CS service. The MDS-CS service acts as a proxy for the BlackBerry Browser and also strips out web page content that is not suitable for the BlackBerry.
  2. MDS-CS also compresses the data before it is sent to minimize wireless data usage and resizes images based on the device they are going to (yes it keeps track of the screen resolution of each device registered with it and resizes images accordingly).
  3. Because the BlackBerry Browser gets all of its content via the BES's MDS-CS service, the BlackBerry user can browse internal company web sites. If the network administrator wants to block certain web sites on a desktop and BlackBerry, they simply configure the BES to use the company's internet proxy serves and/or firewall.
  4. The browsing speed is affected by how busy the BES is. The BES prioritizes email over web browsing and other tasks, so if your company's BES is too busy, your web browsing will suffer.
  5. Data path: BlackBerry <-> Carrier <-> RIM NOC <-> BES <-> Internet
2. Internet Browser
  1. This browser is on every BlackBerry unless your BlackBerry is on a BES, and the administrator has explicitly disabled it. All web browsing from this browser goes via the BIS using the MDS-CS service.
  2. Since web browsing is going via MDS-CS, all of the same features that are listed above apply.
  3. It is certainly conceivable that a busy BIS can affect web browsing.
  4. Data path: BlackBerry <-> Carrier <-> RIM NOC <-> BIS <-> Internet

3. WAP Browser

  1. WAP stands for Wireless Access Protocol and is an old wireless standard for web browsing (when mobile browsers were very, very limited). The carrier has a WAP Gateway that this browser connects to. The WAP Gateway is setup to get a very limited subset of web sites.
  2. The WAP gateway translates regular web pages to a language that the WAP browser can understand.
  3. Data path: BlackBerry <-> Carrier <-> WAP Gateway <-> Internet

4. Unite Browser

  1. This browser is available if your BlackBerry is assigned to your Unite server. Since Unite is a stripped down BES, it too has an MDS-CS service and so all of the same MDS-CS features are available as listed above
  2. Your PC running Unite must be running at all times otherwise this browser cannot function.
  3. Data path: BlackBerry <-> Carrier <-> RIM NOC <-> Unite <-> Internet

5. Wi-Fi Browser (sometimes called the HotSpot Browser)

  1. This browser is available if your BlackBerry has Wi-Fi (BlackBerry Bold, Curve 8320, etc.).
  2. This browser does not use any servers but goes directly to the internet.
  3. This is by far the fastest browsing experience since it is just you and the internet
  4. Data path: BlackBerry <-> Wi-Fi HotSpot <-> Internet

Please note that if your BlackBerry is assigned to a BES, your administrator can remove all browsers, or leave you with just the BlackBerry Browser. This is normally done for compliance and/or security reasons.

Bonus Round from Kevin: Since this email came into the podcast hotline and in true CrackBerry Podcast fashion we tend to both chime in on responses (Craig is the Expert and I'm the Addict in case that isn't clear! LOL) I'm going to toss in a sentence here. It'll be back to Craig after the italics are done.

Just to make things more confusing, sometimes carriers toss in an extra browser for good measure... note the Rogers Mall browser below on my BlackBerry Bold:

Rogers Mall
One web browser with soo many "flavors"

Browser Content Size Restrictions

As Mike pointed out, there is a limit to the file size that can be downloaded. This is true for the BES, BIS, and probably Unite since all use the MDS-CS service. By default MDS-CS limits the size of the content that it will send a BlackBerry. On a BES, the administrator can override this limit by editing the MIME types in the MDS-CS configuration and making the Maximum KB/Connection setting higher. I am not sure if this can be done on BIS.

The Wi-Fi Browser does not have a limit since it connects to the internet directly. I am not sure about WAP, but I can only guess that its limit is very low.

I hope that helps clear things up a bit.

[ Craig Johnston is the author of Professional BlackBerry and is's Podcast co-host and resident enterprise guru and all-round BlackBerry expert. If you have an enterprise application or topic that you would like to have addressed by Craig, send him an email at crackberrycraig @ ]

Reader comments

BlackBerry Browsers Explained


I have a Blackberry Storm that was flashed to Sprint and it's working just fine for voice and text... But I would like to use the internet. Does anyone know how I can conf. the Sprint browser, or somehow install the service books?
Thanks,.... Big Moe, from Miami

If both go through MDS-CS and the same features/limitations apply, is there a difference between using the blackberry browser and the internet browser on a BES (when the administrator does not block the internet explorer)?


Good question.

The only difference you might see is that you can get to more web sites using the Internet Browser than the BlackBerry Browser, but only if your network administrators block certain web sites at your firewall.

If your BES is too busy, browsing will be faster on the Internet Browser.

Other than that, nothing.

Just tested this myself. My BES blocks various sites (YouTube, Facebook, etc). Setting "Blackberry Browser" as my default browser I cannot get to those sites. However, setting "Internet Browser" as my default browser, I can go anywhere. :-)

I don't know the answer to that one. My gut tells me that RIM would pre-configure Unite to have a higher limit (or no limit), but I cannot say for sure.

Since Unite is free, it would be worth you installing it just to try that out.

Is it possible to disable the wap browser?
My carrier (etisalat) charges for eWap which is why I want to disable it.

Yes you can.
Essentially the BlackBerry only has 1 browser that appears different and behaves differently based on the service books on your device.

So go to Options, Advanced Options, Service Book, and delete the WAP service books.

Any idea when RIM will actually make a browser we can all love? Maybe something like SkyFire? The browser on BlackBerrys is pitiful at best.

Hi, great post and it helped me learn a bit (new storm owner from curve).

I tried to download the Crackberry BB launcher and i get this http error 403: Forbidden message. I'm using the internet browser and I put all my permissions to allow, but it doesnt work. I've no idea what I can do. Any ideas?


It sounds like it is using your BES connection and your company is blocking access to that address.

Try and set it to use another connection (not MDS).

403's come from firewall's normally.

I'm on Rogers BIS. I have three options "Rogers Mall" (which is wap), "Internet Browser" and "Hotspot Browser".

I've had Internet Browser as default -- assuming it kicks over to Wifi when I'm in my own wifi zone at home.

But after reading the post above, I'm not so sure whether I should instead be using Hotspot Browser as the default.

I switched over to Hotspot as default on my Bold and found that even though I'm not in a wifi zone now I can still surf the INternet. So I'm wondering whether the Bold switches automatically between browsers to account for that.

What should I stick with?

Thanks for the explanation. I've had a BB for sevral months now & I was still unclear on the differences. Thanks for taking the time to explain the differences, especially on a holiday!!

Thanks again & Happy New Year Everyone!!


I cannot even pull up on my storm. it says REquest entity too large. Is this due to my corporate server?

my browser is pretty fast but if we get wifi will my video downloads me allowable like for tv and movies? basically what r my options


Thanks for the article, but I'd like a bit more clarification, if possible. I'm a "non-corporate" user (BIS), with a Bold 9000 on AT&T.

I have two browser icons on my menu screen, titled: 1. WAP Browser and 2. Browser.

I think I understand 1, in that it is really only useful for going to AT&T "captive" sites (like shop for ringtones and whatnot).

I've used 2 ("Browser") for all my internet surfing needs, both on the 3G and wi-fi connections. I've seen reference to a "hot spot browser" here and in other forums, but this is what is confusing. Is this "hot spot browser" a completely separate browser, with a separate icon on the menu and completely separate home page and bookmarks? Or do you use the same "Browser" for regular wireless 3g browsing AND wi-fi browsing, and the only variable is HOW you're connected?

When I don't turn on my wi-fi , I open the browser and at the upper right bar of the browser it shows "3G." However, if I close the browser, open up "Manage Connections" and connect to a wi-fi router (at home, Starbucks, etc.), I see the black/white wi-fi icon on the home screen, which I also see in the upper right bar of the browser when I open that. I've always assumed this meant that this Browser (again, one of only 2, and NOT the WAP Browser) was connected via wi-fi.

Is that assumption correct? I don't need to be using a special, "Hotspot Browser"? (Note: this would be a 3rd icon/browser in the menu?)

If I go to the "Bookmarks" section of Browser (via Menu/Bookmarks) I see a folder for "Wi-Fi Hotspot Login". When I click on that, it tells me that I'm connected.

However, in a separate folder, there are "BlackBerry Bookmarks," and this is where all my regularly visited sites (Google, ESPN, CrackBerry, wikipedia, etc.) are listed. But it doesn't matter where these are listed, you're still connecting via "unfiltered" internet on wi-fi, if the black/white wi-fi icon is showing at the upper right of the browser, correct? And not going through multiple servers (BlackBerry <-> Carrier <-> RIM NOC <-> BIS <-> Internet ) as shown above.

Do I have it right, or am I utterly confused and missing a third "hotspot browser" that I should be using for wi-fi connections?

Thanks for the explanation. I actually only have Internet Browser on my Verizon Storm here in the States. I have noticed I have three choices for Browser Identification... BlackBerry, Firefox, Internet Explorer. If there any advantage to one of these choices over the others?

Also, I'm curious if Support JavaScript should be checked, or not. By default it's unchecked in my setup, and I noticed the same in your screen shot above. Any advantages/disadvantages here?

If you set the identification to Firefox or IE, then the BlackBerry pretends that you are using Firefox or IE, so it mis-identifies itself to web servers.

This can sometimes be an advantage depending on the sites you visit. Maybe they only look good if they think that Firefox or IE are requesting the pages.

I've heard that sometimes, depending on the carrier, the Wi-Fi browser is setup to go via a BIS MDS-CS. This may be your situation.

I am the Mike from NJ who sent in the email. I cant believe how awesome of a response i have gotten from these guys. I wasnt expecting anything as big as a blog post for sure! Just one more reason I am so glad I joined the crackberry community when i purchased my Storm (and scraped my winmo motorola q).

Thanks Kevin and Craig! Keep up the great work! (and the podcasts! I love them!)

Great article. Any idea which browser other programs that access the internet use such as Telenav, viigo, etc.? and how would you change which browser they use?

Most third party applications try and figure out which connection type to use (MDS, BIS, etc) when they are first executed. They simply cycle through the connections and try and communicate out. Once they can, they stop and simply continue to use that connection type for all communication.

You can normally manually override that choice, for example in Viigo, go to Options, Network.

Oh so that is why I could not access crackberry after i activated with BES.

If I switch it to "hotspot" browser, will it still work when I am not in wifi ?

Great write up. Can you speculate why Verizon or RIM might allow the default size restriction to occur? Are they just trying to prevent the novice user from over burdening their network? Why must I use other apps to download podcasts etc?

I am definitely still confused about how you know which browser you are using and how to switch between them. This post does a good job explaining the differences but really doesn't give the practical advice I was hoping for starting out.

After reading this, I am going to switch my default browser to HotSpot Browser, since most of my browsing is on a wi-fi network. However, when I am away from a wi-fi zone, how do I know what Browser it goes to next?

Is there a way to actively switch between the browsers without going in and choosing a different default browser?

Crackberry Craig, you are a genius! Its mike from NJ again. I found the mime settings in BES and went in and changed the MIME settings for audio to a maximum of 60MB and right now i am downloading a 35MB file using my blackberry browser!!

Amazing! And i can set the higher limit for anything! Audio, video, application data, etc.

The funny thing is that i have been asking in the forums how to get past the 5mb limit for weeks and everyone says it cant be done. until you!



You may want to actually add new MIME types that aren't in there because if the MIME type is not configured there with a limit, MDS defaults back to the overall session limit.

I think that RIM's reasoning behind setting it so low by default are partly to with carrier concerns, but also partly to do with making sure that MDS-CS doesn't get abused.

A good plan for MDS-CS if you know that all or most of your users will be downloading large files, is to install MDS-CS on its own server on its own (the BES installer lets you do that). Then configure all BES to use that one MDS-CS. I think this is the way many people will do it in the future as multimedia like podcasting, Chalk, etc. become really accessible on BlackBerrys.

craig, what new MIME types would i want to add? could you give me an example?

do you mean more than video/* audio/* application/* ??

A newbie question:
Beside changing the default and reopening the browser how do you change browser?
In the homepage in the upper left the current browser is shown, how can you check if you are on any other page?


I knew what BES, and BIS was and what it intails.
I am having the same frustration on download limit. 5MB is pretty low. I should have been 10MB.

I am gonna give the wifi a shot to see what the download size is cause I think there is a limit to that too.

I just downloaded Opera Mini on my Storm and it allows me to download large files. Just downloaded a 35MB file using it.

Which version of Opera Mini did you download? There isn't a version specific for the Storm. Did you use either the Basic or Advanced Generic versions or did you use one for a different model of Blackberry?

I am a newbie! I just purchased the Storm and I am not sure whether I should set my browser to BlackBerry, Firefox or IE. I push all email through GMail and I do not use the BES as I am a small business. I downloaded YouTube but the image quality is very poor. Is there a fix for this? Finally, do I check support JavaScript in the browser configuration? Help!

I'd leave the emulation set to BlackBerry.
YouTube quality may be a result of bandwidth.
JavaScript is disabled by default mainly because the BlackBerry browser has a hard time processing JavaScript for some reason. Most of the time its fine to have it off, however some formatting on web sites can be affected.

I'd say turn it on and see if your browser spends a lot of time saying "processing JavaScript" and slowing you down. If so, disable it until absolutely necessary.

Does anyone know what a 503 error is? We have some BBs on a BES and recently started seeing 503 error when trying to browse. Email works ok. One user on his own changed the browser from BB to Internet browser and he's working again. What would cause the error recently? Prior to this they've been running fine for a couple years. They were on an 8830 when the problem happened. Changed them to a Storm and the problem followed, each time only resolved by changing to the other browser option.

If you click on details does it say something about not being able to contact MDS?
If so, your MDS-CS service could be down.

If not, your connection to the internet, a proxy and/or firewall may have recently been reconfigured and is now not handling requests from your BlackBerry Server correctly or not at all.

I've been using an 8830 for quite some time through our corporate BES. I'm eligible for an upgrade but not sure if the touch screen on the Storm will slow my typing. I played with the storm for a few minutes but hardly long enough to make a rational decision. My son gave me an iPod touch for Christmas and typing on it is painful. I use the BB 95% of the time for emails but bells and whistles are nice.
Any advice would be appreciated.

I saw a few posts here about download limit. I've found that using Opera mini, you can download large files. I hope this helps.

Remember that Opera uses the same connections that the BlackBerry browser uses so there is no need to install a new browser.
Just figure out what connection Opera is using and set the BlackBerry browser to use that.

I can not go on youtube with my BlackBerry Curve 8330. it says I have my javascript down and/or that I have to get the new Adobe Flash, how do I do that?

And this is why the Storm should have had WiFi so that there wouldn't be a limit on the size of the file that you could download. Some presentations are over 5 mbs.

I'm a newbie I have the storm for personal use. I'm still confused on how to increase the download size. Any chance we could see step by step instructions?

This is great information.

I have wifi and when selecting the hotspot option... finally it renders the web pages faster and better.

Thank you so much for this information.



First off this is a great article and very informative!

I'm on BES but can also use the Internet Browser which I think is BIS. Because of BES Browser issues (we have some site blocking as a corporate IT policy, but the Internet Browser by-passes this), I cannot use Vodafone's sat nav program Find & Go. I could use it OK before BES activation.

I have heard that deleting the BES Browser service book is the answer, but I don't want to risk losing web browsing and then having to request service books from our BES again. Can you tell me what the names of the respective service books are, and if deleting the BES one will mess up browsing for me?

Many thanks!

Do you know, as of yet, if there are any browsers that open new tabs in the Blackberry? I'm aching for this!
And thank you for the fantastic info.

I'm interested in getting the 8900 and would like to know if I can still use it to browse the internet using T-Mobile's grandfathered T-Zone (currently TMobileWeb) service. I believe that this goes through WAP. I read somewhere that I would need to have T-Mobile enable the BBVADDON or Blackberry Feature Enabler. On my other Windows Mobile device, I am able to browse the internet with this T-Zone plan using WAP. Can I still do this with the new Curve? Or, would I need a BIS data plan to browse the web.

Can you tell me how to get a website icon to appear on my BB 8830 home screen with all the other icons? For example, the New York Times site. thanks!


Can you tell me how to get a website icon to appear on my BB 8830 home screen with all the other icons? For example, the New York Times site. thanks!


hi Guys

from reading above it appears that it would be better to use the BBrowser when you can to minimise data transfer.

our bes server sits behind a microsoft ISA server, now how does the MDS server proxy web requests to the internet? will i have to make pinholes in ISA other than 3101?

my phone has 3 browsers: vodafone live (works 100%) BBrowser and Internet Browser.

at present i use the vodafone one, but have high data bills so would like to try the bbrowser as we have not restrictive policies to get to sites (internal or external)

i can browse from the BES Server to the internet through the proxy using microsoft internet explorer.

thanks in advance.

ok, so i get the new storm and i love it with the exception of "viewing videos" ie: espn, youtube, etc... everytime i get there it tells me either i need to enable javascript (how) or i need to update to adobe flash player to view (how). can someone please help me? thanxs..........

Quoted from above Blackberry Browser:

"This browser is only used in a corporate environment. All web browsing goes via the BES using the MDS-CS service. The MDS-CS service acts as a proxy for the BlackBerry Browser and also strips out web page content that is not suitable for the BlackBerry."

Does the above means that no matter if you are browsing over Wifi or edge your data flows through BES, your data plan get charged. Does anyone experienced this.

Hi, hope my question is not silly, checked all comments and seems to be original! Very noob question, being a new BB 8900 owner, what is the made difference between Ewap browser and a Hotspot Browser. I understand Hotspot Browser is through Wi-Fi, and in essence free. I have an unlimited Global data plan with my provider (Etisalat) here in the UAE. Would I get charged something extra with using Ewap or would it be covered under the plan. Also, where is this Internet Browser that is mentioned here under Possible Browsers #2, I am not on a Blackberry Enterprise Server. Many thanks and my apologies if this is posted in the wrong thread.

Hi I am a newbie in BB, My brother bought me a BB9700 frm Vodafone UK last month.I Cant access internet through local network (in Bangladesh).Cant sleep a week before I got it now frustrated. In browser option it shows "Hotspot browser" and no other option is available. My carrier provide me the APN. I set it. doesn't work. besides I cant install third party software.Craig pls help me

I have a blackberry storm that was flashed to Cincinnati bell from verizon wireless and i would like to access my internet,MMS and the rest of my apps. Can anyone help?

I Purchased my own Blackberry many years ago for the enterprise and ability to access business e-mails. I now have the storm 2 have been using BES, but just checked to see if I could recieve my business e-mails using BIS and it worked; do I still need enterprize?

i only had 1 browser when i bought my 8520. I cant use BIS or BES as thats not possible with my carrier in sweden. So i only could use my wifi at home and the one browser that came with. Someone from crackberry gave me the idea of downloading bolt and opera mini to see if they helped me access internet with my gprs while outside my house. And that worked! Not bolt but my opera browser.
I have no idea how but it did. I also dont have 3g so i guess it uses the grps with my tele2 comviq carrier then.
Im still confused but glad its working hehe:P

I have a problem with my blackberry curve 8900 browser.
Whenever I activate its wifi, I easily get connected, but when I want to open a link it always fails. A message appears on the screen "Unable to find the requested server."

What seems to be the problem?

First of all Craig and Kevin, u guys are awesome! I've really benefited alot from ur site.

I have a curve 8520 unlocked from vodafone that wont browse. The the only option that appears in the the options--advanced options--browser config menu is "browser hotspot", nothing more. (unlike ur screen shot above that shows all three options). Pretty strange. Which means I cant browse over either blackberry or my service provider (MTN) networks. I am currently on a BIS package with my service provider and my blackberry messenger works perfectly well.

Is there something wrong with my phone or my service provider?
I will be super grateful if u guys could help out.

*I went tru the entire comments and I discovered another member has exactly the same problem as mine. The member's name is: sujan1912 posted on fri 01/22/2010.

Thank you for taking the time to post this. I was so confused as to which one does what and i especially didn't know about Unite. Once again, thank you for posting this wealth of information.


hi . my browser is not responding, whenever im trying to use it, it always "unable to connect to the WAP Gateway at the following address". what shall i do? please answer. thank you :)