I was very pleased to read an article from Alex@Google that describes how they have decided to develop the new gmail mobile web interface.
There are at least two reasons why I liked this article, one is that, as Alex mentions, the team originally developed a J2ME application (that I used quite a bit on my old Sony Ericsson W810i) and then decided they needed a web application to serve slightly different needs (and probably slightly different users). The second reason is that it seems like if you don’t create an application for the App Store you are going to fail, while Alex explains quite a few reasons why developing a web site was better than a native application.
Bottom line is, of course, that users get multiple options and an opportunity to choose what suits them best.
I think the article is well worth 10 minutes of your life, if you still haven’t read it, hurry up to check HTML5 and WebKit pave the way for mobile web applications.
I was checking the latest changes of the webKit nightly to see if it’s worth updating my current nightly (about 1 month old) to something fresher. While looking at the timeline I noticed how a few commits have been made in the last few days to implement WML card, timer and do tags, some WMLScript and so on. BIG SURPRISE!
You can see for example a few changesets such as , ,  and a couple of bugs, #22522 and #22550.
I am definitely among those that think that WML is dead and that everything should be in XHTML by now and surely Apple as a company has been promoting the iPhone and the iPod touch as “full web” devices and in fact Safari Mobile does not even support HTML-MP. The addition of WML seems very strange to me.
OK, the main committer is not an Apple employee, but rather a KDE developer (Nikolas Zimmermann), but we all know that webKit is mostly controlled by Apple and if they are working on WML it means there is some interest. If they are working on WML, why not XHTML-MP?
We’ll see. I’ll keep an eye on this and definitely test a recent nightly!
Initially Nokia announced the decision of using the webKit browser in their mobile devices in the S60 series and they called it S60 Browser (running on the S60WebKit). That was already a landmark, I think.
Apple of course boosted the users of webKit and Safari releasing the windows version of Safari and then Safari in the iPhone.
Google followed announcing webKit in Android and now with Chrome.
MOTOMAGX is a linux platform by Motorola. They use it for some of their PDA’s. The other day I received their newsletter that among the other things mentioned widgets for MOTOMAGX and guess what? The official browser is the webkit.
A lot of big companies are jumping on the webKit band-wagon, but I think my original question still stands, Will Apple share ownership of the webKit? It’ll be especially interesting to see how Google will contribute and try to take control of the platform as now they have a lot of interest in making sure it goes in the right direction. So far it looks like Nokia did not have much voice in the project, at least from what I see.
More open questions:
- Where does this leave Opera (Mini)? Will there still be space for them?
- What about the Mozilla’s Fennec mobile browser? If you want to know my opinion, they might be late to the party.
- What about other browsers like Skyfire and Teashark?
Android SDK has been released. There are videos that explain how the platform works and that the browser is based on the webKit. This was a bit of a surprise for me, I think I was not even considering that Google could go for something that is not Mozilla/Firefox.
Anyway I think this is great news and means that the webKit will keep growing and more sites will work on my Mac. Actually most sites already work, but sometimes I have to fire up Firefox or Camino, especially for AJAX-intensive sites.
Anyway, today, during Future of Mobile, I asked Dan Appelquist (another happy Mac user) if he thought Apple would let any other company take control of the core of the browser. My feeling, so far, is that Nokia is using the engine, but more in their own separate silo and not with Apple… And I have to admit this feeling is not because I think Nokia is evil and do not want to share, but actually because Apple wants to have full control on the browser and does not care to get changes and updates from Nokia!
Dan, on the other side, thought that Apple would have to let go a little bit of control on it so that Google and Nokia would get some space in the project.
Well, it looks like he knows what he’s talking about, see this post on Surfin’ Safari about Android committing changes to SVN.
Now I’m even happier.
Reporting from Surfin’ Safari Blog:
[W]e have a WebKit detection script that properly checks for the WebKit engine (not just Safari) and properly detects versions.
This script has now been updated to support iPhone and the new iPod touch. You can try a live version to see what kinds of results you’ll get on different browsers and devices.
For all those that believed that mobile devices are the same as desktop PC’s.
Read the full article here: WebKit Detect script updated for iPhone and iPod touch.