PPK of Quirksmode-fame it at it again, this time badmouthing iPhone-centric web development. A lot of people seem to take issue with his point of view, but aside from the (typically Dutch?) in-your-face bluntness, I do think he makes some very valid points. The web is about broad accessibility, about allowing as many people as possible to access your information/ application and the same should indeed be the case for mobile web development. Sexy as a iPhone-UI mimicking webapp (based on e.g. iUI or JQTouch) might seem, it does have a number of important shortcomings:
it is sub-optimal for the web, even on iPhones, as the context is very different (e.g. in terms of responsiveness)
the iPhone-UI-approach does not make a lot of sense on non-iPhone high-end touch devices
it will probably not work on mid- and lower-end phones at all
So yes, web-developers should try to build mobile sites that render on as many devices/ browsers possible, as we do on the non-mobile web. Unless you’re willing to invest in several sites for different handsets, building for one specific device is a bad choice, however good the browser might be (and Safari Mobile indeed is great). That’s why I decided to switch from the iPhone-centric WPTouch (which I installed only 3 months ago) to “WordPress Mobile Pack” for this blog. WMP offers great mobile functionality out of the box;
It includes a mobile switcher to select themes based on the type of user that is visiting the site, a selection of mobile themes, extra widgets, device adaptation and a mobile administration panel to allow users to edit the site or write new posts when out and about.
When running the MobiReady test to assess how “mobile-ready” my blog is, I get a great score of 4.35/5 (page size being the main remaining issue). So thanks for ranting PPK!
Some people seemed all too happy to dismiss my post as being plain old Flash-bashing. Sorry to disappoint you, but I”m not saying Flash is evil or that it will (or should) disappear altogether. Next correction: I do have Flash player installed and in general I do know if a application is made in Flash or not. Heck, the web has been my job for more than 10 years now and Flash has been a point of interest for quite some time already. And yes, there indeed are innovative web applications and games that are build in Flash. That being said, I do think (because of accessibility, SEO and some more philosophical reasons) it’s best to avoid using Flash to develop a site’s core functionality if the same can be achieved with non-propriety, standard web technology.
It’s not about Flash vs HTML5
“The only constant is change” and that’s all the more valid on the web. Flash has an important role to play in this respect, having pushed the boundaries of web-based UI’s for many years. But as some of the cutting-edge features that once were only available in Flash, can now be created more efficiently using non-propriety technology, there’s a shift towards the use of those open web components (e.g. the Flash carousel on National Geographic website that was shown in the Adobe video from my previous post has been replaced by a JQuery implementation). I believe (and that’s what the previous post was about) this trend will continue in 2010 because of features of HTML5, CSS3, canvas, … becoming available to a wider audience either natively (in new browsers) or through libraries that provide cross-browser compatible implementations. And yes, I’m afraid that in my book that means Flash will become less relevant (“irrelevant” in my previous post being an obvious hyperbole).
Despite great efforts by Adobe, Flash on the mobile web (i.e. in a browser, non-browser implementations are irrelevant in the discussion about “open web vs flash”) remains almost non-existent. The fact that Apple continues to refuse Flash for the iPhone only makes this worse, due to the seemingly untouchable “game-changer” status of their phone and due to the fact that more than 60% of all mobile pageviews originate from their mobile devices.
To sum it all up: when Adobe Flash evangelist Serge writes “Flash Player has it’s place on the web today and in the future” I can only agree. But I’ll bet you that place in the future will be less prominent than the one it holds today.
My 2nd prediction for 2010 (the first one being ‘offline is the new online‘): the glory days of Flash are over. The reason for this is twofold; the mobile web and the strong advances “open web” technology is making.
Open web moving in, fast
Adobe’s answer; mobile banners & deploy to Appstore
So with a Flash-less mobile web and with strong browser-native competition for both multimedia and graphics on the “normal” web, how does Adobe see it’s future? Well, they plan to roll out “iPhone packager for Flash” in CS5, allowing any Flash developer to publish to the AppStore, but there’s still no news about in-browser Flash on the iPhone. For non-Apple devices, Adobe is boasting a preview version of Flash 10.1 in a mobile browser (the Android 2.0 browser on Google Nexus One in this case) with this promo video;
I don’t know about you, but somehow a sub-par game, web video and banners don’t convince that Flash has a bright future ahead. Not on mobile and maybe even not on the open web as it’s shaping up to be. But maybe you think Flash will remain in the spotlights despite all of this? Why? Let us know in the comments!
The fundamental problem on the iPhone is not Apple’s App Store approval policies, but the iPhone developers’ arrogant disdain for Web technologies. […] After ten years I am fucking tired of the “Web development is not real programming” bullshit that the arrogant bastards in “real programming” are spouting because they’re too frightened to learn something new. Fuck those condescending, ignorant, self-important, stupid, blind, fearful pricks. Fuck them real hard. Where it hurts. And fucking them real hard where it hurts is exactly what Apple is doing right now. That’s why I changed my mind. That’s why I’m cheering Apple on. I hope the App Store approval process sticks around for a loooooooong time.
So you bought this brand new HTC Hero and you tell everyone it’s on a par with the iPhone 3GS and its great browser? I mean, both are very recent Webkit-implementations aren’t they? Safari Mobile on iPhone OS3 is based on AppleWebKit/528.18, Chrome Mobile (or don’t they call it that?) for Android 1.5 on AppleWebKit/528.5+, and between 528.5+ and 528.18 there can only be minor differences? So HTML5-goodies (such as geolocation, localstorage and app cache) which Google is actively promoting, will work out of the box, just like on that dreaded iPhone 3GS, won’t they? Sorry to bust your bubble, but Google seems to have decided otherwise; there’s no navigator.geolocation, no localstorage and no app cache on my HTC Hero (which is running Android 1.5 aka cupcake). You can access similarfunctionalities by calling the built-in Gears plugin, but mobile web-developers can’t assume that these HTML5-draft-specs are available on all modern high-end mobile handsets at all. Hell, even “big” Chrome 126.96.36.199 (which is based on Webkit 532!) does not seem to support these killer-features. Must be that Google is secretly pushing for Gears to become the default “rich internet enabler” instead of HTML5?
But let there be no doubt; it’s a great handset! My Hero sports a beautiful touch-screen, a nice -albeit young- Linux-based OS and a top notch webkit-based browser (with Adobe Flash 10, a first for a mobile device). The price is considerably lower then that of an iPhone and the platform is very open (esp. if you compare it to the golden cage Apple created for its ecosystem). I’ve installed several free apps from the Android Market and downloaded and installed a great AR-application from outside the Market without having to jailbreak anything (more on Android-apps in a later post). But there’s one thing I really miss on my fancy device; a physical keyboard. Because as ancient as my Nokia e61i might have been, I really was more productive (as in “writing mails”) on it thanks to the (small) physical QWERTY-keyboard it sported. And while friends and colleagues assure me that I’ll get used to the virtual keyboard, and I’m sure things will indeed get better, we should not kid ourselves; nothing beats a real keyboard. Ever! So let the quest for a small compatible bluetooth keyboard begin!
That sure is a lot of data, Captain! What does that mean?
You will have to be patient, because downloading 1 or 2 Mb for that initial page will probably be gruesomely slow (especially if you’re on EDGE because there’s no 3G-coverage)
You will end up paying good money for all that data transfer, because data is money when you’re on mobile time
You might even curse your handset or crashingbrowser (more on google), because all that data will end up in RAM and these devices do not come with tons of that.
In these broadband-times, website builders seem to have completely forgotten about best practices for download size of complete web pages (html + all js/css/images/…). This means that a lot of websites should be considered non-accessible on mobile devices. If you want your normal website to be usable on IPhone’s, HTC’s and other Nokia’s, you’ll have to start taking download size into account again. That means taking some technical measures (using mod_deflate and mod_expires for example) and making hard functional choices to remove some stuff (on this blog dropping the rather useless mybloglog-widget saved me 210Kb, going from 10 to 7 posts per page another 200). And if you want to target mobile users specifically, you’d better invest in a mobile-specific version of your site!
The methodology followed to measure these download sizes;
Dat ik nooit bijzonder enthousiast was over deredactie.be en dat daar nu verandering in komt! Niet omdat ze op hun site de overdaad aan Flash en andere audio-visuele excessen hebben verwijderd (of nog maar optioneel hebben gemaakt), maar omdat ze een mobiele versie in beta hebben uitgebracht. Meer nog, er zijn 2 versies; één voor de “gewone” mobiele surfer en één voor de “iphone-elite”. De “gewone” m.beta.deredactie.be, die overigens ook perfect werkt op een iphone, is een no-nonsense mobiele site waar -zoals het hoort- de content centraal staat. Door middel van kleurgebruik (dat zich ook aanpast aan het moment van de dag) blijft deze mobiele versie het “deredactie-merk” trouw. Voorlopig (?) worden er geen multimedia-bestanden aangeboden, een video in 3gp-formaat of een audio-fragment in mp3 zouden nochtans niet misstaan. Indien de transcoding software van Mobixx mijn gewone PC-browser dan ook nog zou herkennen en de breedte van de “viewport” zou aanpassen, dan zou m.deredactie.be ook de perfecte “light”-versie van die overdadige grote broer kunnen zijn. Over de “iphone”-versie ben ik minder enthousiast; beta.deredactie.be/iphone mag dan wel die typische iphone look&feel hebben (met dank aan het WebApp.net framework), je verliest op die manier wel volledig die specifieke deredactie-identiteit. Maar wat belangrijker is; qua bruikbaarheid doet de iphone-versie het ook minder goed. Op de eerste pagina staan enkel navigatie-elementen, er is geen hoofdpuntje, geen fotootje, geen lettertje inhoud terug te vinden. Ook op de categorie-overzichtspagina’s staat er minder informatie; je moet het daar stellen met de titel en een kleine afbeelding, voor de samenvatting/ teaser uit de “gewone” mobiele versie (cfr. screenshot) is er in zo een sexy iphone-interface immers geen plaats. Alle iphone-gekheid op een stokje; volgens zijn er mij slechts een heel beperkt aantal gevallen waarin een “mobile safari“-specifieke versie van een site zinvol is. Of wacht … Nee, toch niet, ik kan zo geen enkel geval bedenken. Een goeie mobiele site moet (middels wat transcoding om verschillende schermgroottes en andere verschillen op te vangen) op zowat elk mobiel toestel bruikbaar zijn, punt! m.deredactie.be scoort er alleszins eentje. Ze weten waar ze mee bezig zijn, daar bij The Reference (ontboezeming: “de ref” was tot februari 2007 mijn werkgever) en partner Mobixx!