One Web: Desktops and Devices Unite!

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-05-01 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

As Web-enabled devices proliferate, the goal is to deliver one Web experience for users.

There is but one Web and the issue of a mobile Web versus a desktop Web should be of no consequence.

If Adobe has its way -- given its Open Screen Project announcement of May 1 -- that will be the case. The Open Screen Project is an Adobe-led effort to drive rich Internet experiences across televisions, personal computers, mobile devices and consumer electronics

At the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco on April 24, Mitchell Baker, chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, delivered a keynote entitled "Opening the Mobile Web," where she called for one Web.

Of course, as the leader of Mozilla, which produces the open source Firefox browser, "Firefox is the best and most effective means to get to that place," Baker said of the "one Web" concept.

"There is one Web," Baker said. "For most people the mobile Web should be irrelevant... The key to the Net should be the same -- information -- what I can get to and what I can do with it. And that should not be dependent on the device you're using," she said. Moreover, "on a mobile device I want things quickly. I should be able to manipulate it, access it, store it, mash it up, etc. All the rest should be irrelevant."

Kevin Lynch, chief technology officer at Adobe, said, "I also think there should be one Web." That is why Adobe launched the Open Screen Project.

However, there are constraints on developing applications for the desktop "that we don't see in developing for devices," Baker said. "And I know there are issues with screen size and other things, but developing for the desktop is a different set of constraints and that is the human constraint -- the baggage of 30 years" of developing for one primary target environment, she said

"The reason having one Web is important is that as we get into mobile devices, we don't have the mental constraints," Baker said. "And as we find new ways to use our devices we'll find new ways to use our computers."

Developing for the Mobile First, Big Screen Second

Meanwhile, Lynch said that although most developers and content providers "still design for a big screen, but over the years we may see that shift to designing for the small screen first and then move to the big screen."

Lynch said because it is harder to design and develop applications and content for the smaller screen real estate of devices, building first for the small screen and then enabling migration or access to the desktop is easier than going in the opposite direction. "That's how I think this might work for users," he said. "You can get applications for your device that can show up as a widget on your PC. There is still some complexity in terms of input methods, but I think the problem is a lot more solvable this way."

For her part, Baker took on some of the terminology of the Web. "The browser, it's an ancient metaphor," she said. "How many of us browse anymore?"

Having an open platform matters, as does the ability to move effortlessly between the desktop and mobile devices, Baker said.

But, "Mobile is also a bad metaphor," she said. "It's a misnomer. I do not want a mobile device -- I do not want my phone walking around without me. I'm the mobile element."

Mobile Remains a Different Breed

Meanwhile, in another session at the Web 2.0 Expo, Daniel Appelquist, a senior technology strategist at Vodafone Group, said: "I was glad to hear Mozilla talk about the mobile Web. My impression has been that they don't really get mobile, so I'm really excited to see what they come up with."

Appelquist, who gave a talk on Mobile AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and the future of the Web, said, "We're moving away from a world where the carrier or operator chooses what the world will see and the user chooses what the world will see."

Appelquist also listed his Top 11 Mobile 2.0 Trends: Smart mobile browsers; mobile Web sites; Mobile AJAX and widgets; mobile search; mobile ads; mobile mashups and open APIs, mobile RFID and 2D barcodes; location and geotagging; mobile social networks; mobile user generated content; and smart Web devices.

Backing off from the "one Web" concept,  Appelquist laid out several reasons why the mobile experience is different than the desktop, including limitations such as the small memory footprint of devices, lower CPU speeds, small screens, different input modes, slow/high latency networks and browser fragmentation.

The future will see mobile applications migrate into mobile Web applications and widgets; consumer expectations will increasingly accept different representations on different devices; and there will be more browser consolidation and standards compliance, Appelquist said.

 
 
 
 
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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