Google crawls and converts WML pages

I knew the Googlebot Mobile visited and stored results for XHTML-MP and WML pages and I assumed they would be used as results to mobile users.

It looks like not only mobile users get “desktop” results, but also the other way around.

I was searching, as usual, for some strange User-Agent string and I found this result:

The converted page looks OK in my browser, of course, but I have no clue what it says! :)

Apple Safari to support WML?

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 [38816], [38833], [38838] 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!

Premus update!

A little bit of publicity and links are worth much more than bare money.

I wrote a short Premus review here the other day and now David has updated the online demo to the latest development version that includes the validator, better source view and syntax highlighting.

He also squashed a few bugs here and there.

Bookmarking has been disabled due to spammers immediately using it to publicize their sites. The current version shows how bookmarks can be used, but you are not allowed to create new ones. If you make a local install you will be able to use them, of course.

See the updated Premus live, or read the CHANGELOG for a few more details about the changes.

Message to David: you need to practice your communication skills, the changelog is too short! 😛

Premus

“The name Premus comes from PRoxying EMUlator Service. It is a mobile browser emulator that converts WML, XHTML MP, cHTML and Vodafone’s PML (c. 2004) into standard HTML that you can browse in your normal web browser.”

This is what David Johansson says on the site as a short description of the software. David has been developing mobile services for many years now and he was among the early supporters of WURFL.

Premus was born from the need of testing mobile sites, WML in WAP 1 in the beginning and later many more markups. I would not call it exacly an “emulator” as David does, but rather a testing tool. In two words, Premus lets you pick a user-agent (from WURFL, of course!), define a URL and specify extra headers, if you’d like. The software makes the request and reformats the markup so that it renders well in your web browser. It’s not a Java application or applet, it’s not a real emulation engine or and SDK. It’s a web-based tool that lets you easily test your sites and make sure that all the links work and the pages look as you expect.
You should not expect a faithful representation of how it will look on the mobile device; it does not show alerts if you picked the user-agent of a WML device/browser and the remote site returns XHTML. It is intended for programmers and authors that have developed a site or a complex service and need to check that everything is OK.

Since real device testing is ALWAYS suggested, this is the perfect light-weight tool to make a general test before going with the mobile.

More in detail, while browsing with Premus, you always see the general page layout, but you can also see the original source, you see, edit and force cookies and headers. By default you have a some input fields on the top of the page for the user-agent, URL and manage all the proxy features and see the page in a dedicated box. De-activating the “frame” checkbox you can see the page layout in a window on its own, more similar to the mobile browsing.
A very helpful feature is actually on the bottom of the page. It shows a list of external resources (normally images) and the size of each. Also provides the time needed to download the markup and all external contents. The time is calculated on the fast internet connection of the server, not calculating the mobile networks latency, but will be useful to compare different pages and sites.

Premus will help you save a lot of time.

Premus is now released as open-source so you are free to download and adapt it to your needs.
If you look at the version in development you will see some new features that are not in the online demo, yet. These are features that I have strongly suggested to David and actually it really took him a few hours to implement them, but I think they will make a big difference.
Syntax highlighting has been added for the source view, very useful when you need to check your markup. Also the spacing has been changed for better readability.
Even more important to me is the markup validation. It’s disappointing when you build a big site, get ready to test with your mobile (take it from the drawer, put the correct SIM card, check the WAP profile, go online) and discover there’s a typo in the XML declaration. Checking that your markup is validated will certainly guarantee the best interoperability with all browsers. When you want the best possible support you really want this. Well-formedness is the first thing! Look what happens if you validate http://m.gmail.com/ :

Premus validation resulf for mobile Gmail
All the code is Python and should be easy to install on most modern Linux disto’s.

Some other minor things could be cleaned up and improved. Nevertheless this is a very good testing tool. If you are a mobile sites developer, I suggest you try it out, especially the development version that adds those 2-3 features that will actually ease your work a lot.