Tag Archives: mobile

Opera and WebKit

Opera’s surely been feeling the heat from WebKit given that it’s basically taking over the world, including mobile. So here’s a thought: why don’t they abandon their own rendering engine, Presto, and adopt WebKit? Then instead of being “that other browser”, which developers are loathe to bother testing for, they’d be the best (from what I’ve heard of Safari) WebKit based browser out there. Seems a no-brainer to me.

Google Gears: too much interface?

So I had a quick look at Google Gears this morning. Unlike some, I do most definitely see value in supporting disconnected scenarios, not because I don’t see pervasive wired and wireless networks being the rule in the not-too-distant future – I do – but because I understand that networks are unreliable. That said, I do have some concerns about how Gears was put together.

My primary concern is that I’ve always felt that supporting offline use in existing browsers required more innovation of implementation rather than interface, whereas Gears is all about interface. What I mean by that is that I believe that a better, more easily deployable and usable solution would be for Mozilla itself to tweak the implementations of its HTTP stack, cache, and XMLHttpRequest object. Instead, Gears gives us new interfaces like LocalServer, which developers are supposed to use to check for valid cached representations before hitting up XHR: something XHR could very well do itself, largely transparently (I expect – haven’t considered all the backwards-compatibility issues).

Now, Gears could very well be something that was deployed for its ability to enable features today, because Google didn’t want to have to wait for HTML 5 (and its equivalent of client-side storage) to be deployed. And from that perspective it’s great (though requiring a plugin is a bit of a pain). I just hope that the Gears folks are talking with Hixie and Mozilla about where to draw the line here.

WAP-think invades Mobile Web 2.0

How has Mobile Web 2.0 come to this;

One way that Web 2.0 companies can similarly adjust their services for mobile devices is by relying less on browser-based applications and more on small software clients that users can download onto their phones. “The browser will fade into the background,” said Wood.

The article’s not all bad though (in fairness, the main message is obvious – as Micah says, “Duh”). It also warns against “naive copying of PC services” (which I assume he means Web sites primarily targetted at PC users – a subtle but important distinction), which is good advice, but here’s a tip for mobile folks; if you find yourself moving outside the browser, or doing so while not using Web technologies (widgets), you’re not doing Web 2.0. It might be “Mobile 2.0”, but it’s not Web 2.0, and therefore not “Mobile Web 2.0”.

And this…

He used the example of Google Maps, an application initially designed for the PC. Because the application is built on Ajax, like many other Web 2.0 services, it pushes data out to the client device in order to speed up future user requests. On a mobile phone, that process drains battery life, eats up limited memory and results in potentially very high data-access charges. Google Inc. has introduced a version of the program designed for mobile phones that eliminates some of that overhead, improving the mobile user experience.

Well, guess what; using the phone drains the battery, consumes memory, and costs money. Mapping on a phone is going to use more resources than, say, doing email, which in turn will use more than checking the current time. But so what? Mapping is resource-intensive (although you could certainly do better than Google has).

Have you ever used the fat-client Google Maps Mobile referred to above? It’s not exactly the posterchild for efficient use of resources – I’ve got (well, RIM had 8-) the phone bill to prove it. I’m not saying the Web version doesn’t consume more, but I would be surprised if a little optimization couldn’t bring it in line with the midlet. Besides, I’d bet that if you asked Google the reasons they created it, resource consumption would be way down the list, and the lack of widely deployed AJAX stack on mobile devices would be at the top … which is rapidly changing, of course.

While the unique needs of mobility should always be acknowledged, and normally accomodated, remember that there lies a very slippery slope … the same one that WAP happily slid down years ago by internalizing the belief that mobile was so special that it needed non-interoperable mobile equivalents of every protocol from IP on up. And while there are, as always, exceptions – apps that are much better off as an installable app than a Web app – are you certain that yours is one, and do you realize what you’re sacrificing by going that route?

What is a Message?

A couple of recent blogs and messages I’ve seen prompted me to write this. They both suggest that a “SOAP message” is necessarily a “message”. I disagree.

When bound to an application protocol, a SOAP message/envelope is not a message because it doesn’t contain the necessary information with which to understand what it means. For example, a SOAP envelope which included a HR-XML resume is not a message, because it doesn’t say what is to be done with the resume; is it to be forwarded on to somebody else? Submitted as part of a job application? Meant to update an existing resume? This is where the envelope of the underlying protocol, such as HTTP comes in; the HTTP request line (method, URI, version), headers, and the body which includes the SOAP envelope, forms the entire message.

If HTTP were a transport protocol, then a SOAP envelope/message sent over HTTP would always be a message. But it isn’t, it’s an application protocol. And please don’t think this is nitpicking. Far from it, I believe it’s the single biggest misunderstanding that has lead us to where we are at with Web services (i.e. a mess). If people knew what an application protocol was, I think many more (not all, of course) would have thought twice about proceeding with Web services.