The age of the mobile web is here

This is it. If there was any doubt the future of handheld devices was the mobile web, it should be laid to rest now. As a strategy for allowing 3rd party developers to write applications for the iPhone, Apple has embraced the mobile web. And they plan to support all the ‘Web 2.0’ standards – which is just another way of saying that the mobile browser’s DOM will be predictable, and that Javascript will work as expected. Why won’t it, after all, the ‘mobile’ browser is a full-fledged desktop version!

If any of you have ever tried to develop mobile web-apps that used AJAX (esp. through the use of the popular AJAX libraries for the purpose – Prototype/Scriptaculous or Dojo), you know what I’m talking about. None of the mobile browsers really work well at all. They are all broken in some way or the other – and to add to the fun, they’re broken in different ways.

So – how is Apple going to fix the issue? By side-stepping the mobile browser entirely. Just take a desktop browser and make it available on the mobile. Perfect! And this is Apple’s official strategy for externally developed applications! So the critical mass is ready to happen…

And this will also see the beginning of the end of the walled-gardens of the carriers. If they don’t own the access to mobile applications, then they can’t control it. The reason they do control it, is that for the most part, no one wants to download and install things on their phone. Either they’re not technical enough, or things break after you install the wrong or badly developed application. So most people just use whatever is ‘on-deck’. And those applications are completely controlled by the carriers. No more! If the mobile web becomes popular, that’s the end of that!

Yet another way the iPhone will change the world.

9 thoughts on “The age of the mobile web is here

  1. “the iPhone will change the world”. Really?

    Daring Fireball says it better than I could. “It isn’t asking for much to expect that when a phone is based on a variant of a desktops OS, “desktop browsers” will run on it. Desktop Browsers” have been running on WinCE phones forever. How exactly is this new?

  2. Ravi –

    This is new because WinCE (and other versions of Windows Mobile) does *not* run the desktop version of IE. It runs what is called IE Mobile.

    And I’ve developed applications that needed to support IE Mobile, and Opera Mobile, and Minimo, and other mobile browsers… and boy, was it a pain?!

  3. huh? what do you mean by “desktop version”? Are you saying that the exact same codebase of Safari is just compiled for the iPhone *without* any changes ? Any references?

    I would expect that the Safari on an OSX laptop would be *roughly* the same as the one on an iphone, but there would be tweaks to make it fit the device profile.
    At least that’s what I think would happen. Since I don’t own an iphone, WIwould expect that safari (iphone) : Safari (osx) as IE(mobile) : IE. The same codebase, tweaked and compiled to a different platform.

    This would be the same for any other desktop browser. At least that’s what I think. I could be wrong. Any references which would clarify the exact meaning of “desktop browser” as it relates to Mobile Phones?

    And how do you know that creating an app for a Safari on the ipHone would be any less painful than creating one for the cellPhone IE (IE mobile/whatever)?

  4. Right. IE Mobile behaves very differently than IE. The team that builds it is not the same one as that which builds IE. The documentation is all different, quirks are different etc.

    The “ease” would come when you develop a web-app which works “fine” on both desktop browsers as well as mobile browsers (safari on iphone). You still might choose to profile the device that the user is accessing your web-app from, and change your behavior (because of interaction design/usability concerns), but at least you won’t have to fight the browser to do this.

    P.S. My original comment in response to your first one links to the IE Mobile page.

  5. hmm so IEMobile behaves “differently” from IE but safari (desktop) would behave identically to safari(iphone). How do you conclude this? got your hands on an iPhone yet?

    (the link you provided doesn’t say anything about teh differences between IE and IEmobile. It’s justa generic MS product)

  6. Fair point. I don’t know for sure – merely being hopeful, and going off the announcements/advertisements (they show the website of the NewYorkTimes or something rendering well on the iPhone). Fingers crossed, though!

    As far as the page on MS website, trust me, I’ve been working on supporting a web-app on various mobile browsers (as well as desktop ones), and Mobile IE is different enough from regular IE to be a pain in the a**.

  7. fyi I wasn’t trying to be snarky. Generally some developers get early access to upcoming stuff. I was (honestly) wondering if you managed to get an iphone and were basing your opinion on experience. Written communication doesn’t convey voice tone very well.

  8. We’ve been doing just that with Opera Mobile for some years already. Opera Mobile, just like all other Opera browser, run using the same rendering engine code. Which makes developing and testing these web applications much easier.

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