The Mobile Web may just may drive forward the web of tomorrow. - Thoughts from Mitchell Baker's (Mozilla) KeynoteMay 9, 2008
I wanted to capture my thoughts intermixed with quotes from Mitchell Baker, Chairman, Mozilla Foundation at the recent Web 2.0 Expo keynote entitled Opening the Mobile Web, it was truly a great concept and conversation and eye opening for me to see there is real commitment to making the browser (which Mitchell would say is a poor metaphor, but that’s another story) the true platform of the web regardless of the device. Video: Mitchel Baker: Opening the Mobile Web
Your Mobile experience just may be your web experience of tomorrow…
Seems counter intuitive huh? it did to me at first… we all know where we are as far as Mobile capabilities… browsers are clunky and don’t support the same things, the connection is slow and the screen is small so everyone you talk to says, “dumb down your design for mobile,” “find a few most important things and put them on the first page,” “think about your user only having a few seconds, in a rush, to get your key data,” after we hear all that we simplify our application, for mine it was just search and find a store for http://m.bestbuy.com my first run at a quick Mobile Web prototype… but is this really the direction we are heading because of technical inadequacy?
Mitchell Baker says no, and I very much agree… we are doing this because our customers want it to just work, to have unfettered access to our information from any context and any device… to simply and efficiently get to what they need wherever they are.
You should not be thinking about what data can I get to or I’ve got this device so I can get to this data… …or this device has a phone on it so I can’t really get to the Internet I can only get to some part of it… that’s a lousy setting… doesn’t work well for people doesn’t work well for developers — there is no reason we need to build a world that looks like that…
The key of the Internet should be the same and what is that key that core it’s information… What can I get to and what can I do with it… and that should not be dependent on the device I am holding.
Right, I agree give people access to what we know wherever they are, but the trap you quickly fall into is creating the Mobile version of everything, firing up new web servers, cutting features, rewriting copy, creating hundreds of Java apps… doubling (probably more) your work and removing at least some user value all in the name of making it Mobile… we need to find ways to put the critical information and functions back and make them work in the Mobile context without all this rework.
Because Mobile is different right?
Mitchell sees this trend too, we are all designing for the “new Mobile use cases” and that is all good and fine but asks are they really new? Web users want easier access to more and more relevant information, using less keystrokes and have it available from wherever they are… is that new? No… it’s not… she said and I believe, these paradigms will become more and more the accepted web (notice I didn’t say “Mobile”) practice, but it will involve a little rewiring.
I bet in a few years all of those use cases web are finding today for people using Mobile will be equally important wherever we are and that being at home doesn’t mean we will live with outdated or clunky techniques… so I’m on a Mobile device I want things quickly I want the information I want, I want to get at them with fewer keystrokes… why won’t I want that if I happen to be sitting at home?
These use cases are convenience cases that are driven by the constraints of the Mobile device that we will find very useful on machines that have bigger screens and memory and permanent connections… there are constraints when developing for the desktop we don’t have with mobile devices… mental and human constraints, experience constrains us… we have had 35 years of desktop and laptop machines and coming up on 15 years of the graphical world wide web… those form knowledge, experience and baggage about how we approach things… as we explore the use cases of Mobile devices we will find new ways to use our computers that will be equally important if we are sitting in an office or at home on a differently formatted machine because mental constraints are often the hardest to get past.
Putting it out there, pushing the envelope towards “one web”.
There is one web for most people the Mobile Web is irrelevant, it should be something we don’t think about and basically is something we are not aware of… there is one web.
Mitchell is a “one web” purist, as you would and should expect from someone driving forward these concepts and taking them to reality and we should all appreciate it, it will simplify both our and our users lives.
I tend to take a different but very related tact, from everything I am gathering the browser can and will be the center of the Mobile Web as many of us had predicted and hoped. The work we are now doing to understand, optimize and simplify the web as part of Mobile use cases will be rewarded by our users and I can sleep better knowing that within the near future creating hundreds of versions of a Java clients will quickly go from a “feature” to a funny memory of the past like the classic “Under Construction” animated GIF.
Working within the current Mobile web browser set is possible — it’s not always fun — but it is possible and relatively reusable across many devices… As the iPhone metaphors and quality browsers emerge (WebKit, Mozilla) it will be even clearer that this is the path…Why not jump in now?
That’s the way we will see the constraints and the creativity and this odd openness of expectations that has to be fulfilled on Mobile devices move back into our entire web experience… how do we get there? it’s a better world for users… there is one web… you don’t have to choose… your device doesn’t limit you to the data of experience you can have…. well to get there we need and open development platform, an open web based development platform and of course coming from Mozilla we view FireFox as that platform….