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Re: FYI - "Mobile Web 2009 = Desktop Web 1998"

From: Eduardo Casais <casays@yahoo.com>
Date: Thu, 5 Mar 2009 13:14:40 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <289825.45463.qm@web45010.mail.sp1.yahoo.com>
To: public-bpwg@w3.org

Nielsen's article is solid. As for the never-ending discussion on "one Web", 
here is my take.

1) Convergence of mobile and desktop in terms of a few limited (though well
publicized) software characteristics such as the browser is not meaningful. A 
real convergence implies closing the gap in processing power, storage capacity, 
transmission bandwidth. When looking at the cold figures, both worlds still 
differ by orders of magnitude -- fast convergence is unlikely. Convergence also
implies a unification of the context of utilization of the various devices and 
applications, and of user interface attributes -- a doubtful assumption.

2) The "one Web" cannot hide the fact that developing different variants of the
same application is unavoidable. A simple look at various W3C guidelines (e.g. 
for accessibility) proves the point: such documents are largely long lists of
(justified) exhortations to provide a variety of alternative representations:
for blind users, for deaf users, for browsers supporting frames or not, for 
browsers with or without plugins, for devices with or without pointing devices 
or keyboards or touch input, for monochrome or colour displays, etc. In practice,
this "one Web" is implemented as disparate syntactic sugar to bind together 
more or less widely different variants of the same application -- this is really
what for instance alt="...", <noscript>, <noframes>, media="...", and @media 
are for. 

3) Nielsen's article is based on rigorous studies of actual Web sites carried 
out with a range of mainstream devices, ranging from features phones through 
smartphones to the iPhone, and that are actually deployed -- not with two-years
away promises from roadmaps. The conclusions might be disquieting for enthusiasts
of the "one Web" -- and of the specialized mobile Web -- but they are empirically
substantiated. Suggestions to rely upon media queries are only partial solutions
(they do not address the issues of page sizes or scrolling, for instance), and
they actually re-state the conclusion of the article: one must prepare variants 
of the application (in this case of its styling) for handheld devices...

4) We should not forget the dynamic aspect of the entire problem: the desktop 
Web is evolving too -- it is a moving target to converge to. The mobile Web 
itself is evolving (sometimes overtaking the desktop Web) in non-convergent 
fashion as well: hand-touch devices are introducing changes in the way one must 
deal with user interface elements, events, etc -- which differ subtly from 
existing constraints and practices but are not relevant for the desktop Web at
this stage.

All things considered, the equivalence "Mobile Web 2009 = Desktop Web 1998" does not seem entirely far-fetched to me. I first encountered the discourse about the mobile-desktop convergence in 1996,
when the original Nokia 9000 Communicator was launched. I will not hold my breath.


Received on Thursday, 5 March 2009 21:15:21 UTC

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