W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-coremob@w3.org > June 2012

Ringmark, Core Mobile, and the Financial Times

From: Robert Shilston <robert.shilston@ft.com>
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2012 22:03:36 +0100
Message-Id: <56CD889C-584C-4CF9-99C3-46AD6444B58B@ft.com>
To: public-coremob@w3.org
Dear all,

I've been holding off from posting to the list whilst I've been getting a sense of the attitudes of existing members.  However, the discussions have been relatively quiet so I thought I'd contribute my thoughts ahead of the face to face meeting.  To put these in context, let me introduce myself.  I'm the engineering manager of the Financial Times' web app, and founder of Assanka which was acquired by the FT to form FT Labs.

In short, one of our challenges is to assess the amount of work needed to be done to for app.ft.com to support an arbitrary new device.  What we've found with many new devices is that the features we need might be present, just not behave very well.  So, just as Jet from Mozilla said a couple of weeks ago, the browser may claim to support wordBreak, but it not actually work.  Examples we've seen of this are, in my mind, closer to browser or hardware bugs than whether something's supported.  Here's a few:

1) webkit animations running at just a couple of frames per second (Android Browser)
2) local storage quota errors erratically firing (Windows 8)
3) application cache manifest not being re-verified (iOS)
4) CSS font family fall back list not being used during the loading of an @fontface custom font (PlayBook)

I've given an examples above of issues across a range of different browsers.  I definitely don't think there's any value in pointing blame or comparing one browser as being significantly better or worse than others in this topic area - each of these bugs are things that would be very challenging to detect in JavaScript, yet cause us great amounts of effort to diagnose and work around.

So, what I'm getting to is how should Ringmark assess these issues, or how should the group work to improve the ability for everyone to build web apps.

I can hypothesise a comprehensive set of tests which would all verify functionality that's required for app.ft.com such that our supported devices would pass all tests, yet still behave very poorly because of implementation bugs.  I don't have a good answer for this, yet it's a big pain point for developers starting work on HTML5 mobile projects.

Moving beyond browser bugs, then I think the features we'd like to be widely available, to enable both better web apps and faster adoption by new developers, would be:

1) UI for managing local storage / local database quotas.  The quota management API indicates how this might be managed from a code point of view, but I'm not aware of a consistent interface or nomenclature used by browsers to empower users to manage their control over individual applications.

2) Ability to create home screen / chrome-less web apps without needing native wrappers.  A combination of https://people.mozilla.com/~anarayanan/webapps.html and the Fullscreen API will help this.

3) Ability to list and delete local databases:  At the moment, our app asks for a 5MB database by default (which browsers instantly grant without user-consent).  However, we can't then request it be increased to 50MB (the largest limit on iOS).  Instead, we either have to ask the user to approve multiple intermediary steps, or request a large quota on a new database.  Once we're in this 'big database' mode, we then have a 5MB orphaned database that we'd like to delete, but currently have no ability to do so.

4) Ability to schedule background tasks:  Workers and SysApps may help achieve this.

5) Native touch scrolling as a CSS overflow option (iOS 5 introduces this, but I think it'd be great to champion this to other browsers)

6) Chrome adds Web Intents, but it'd be good to have more OS and browser neutral means of launching intents and similar.

I look forward to your thoughts.


Robert Shilston [07940 387593 | skype:rtshilston | @rtshilston]
Director, FT Labs [labs.ft.com | 0870 085 2038 | @ftlabs]

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Received on Monday, 11 June 2012 07:43:35 UTC

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