Arun’s views on the new HTML Charter

Arun Ranganathan from AOL has come with a public blog post about HTML 5, the status of XHTML2 and why AOL is going to be active in HTML and NOT in XHTML2.
In two words he’s saying that AOL is not going to work in XHMTL2 because they are not browser vendors and so that’s not their field, but that they are going to work in HTML WG (and the development of HTML5) because they are content providers.

XHTML2 is just a draft, it’s a future implementation, so it might make sense to leave it to browser vendors, but then why bother to work in HTML 5? To me, this means that XHTML2 is dead for AOL and that HTML 5 is the way to go.

Isn’t this a HUGE thing?

Read the full article: (Re)birthing Pangs: The HTML Charter Revisited.

HTML in e-mail

If you read technical news and blogs (read for example HTML Standards Process Returning from the Grave from Surfin’ Safari) around the net you should by now know that the HTML Working group has been re-chartered until 2010!

You will certainly know that it has been a highly debated topic between supporters of the evolution of HTML and the supporters of XHTML as the next version of HTML, that is to say that HTML is dead.

On the other side Daniel Glazman has raised a very interested topic which is the HTML in e-mail. It did not get into the charter, but at least we had a new public mailing list to discuss and hopefully get our voice heard in the group. Read from Daniel’s pen, “HTML in email” W3C mailing-list.

I have never been a fan of HTML in e-mail, but I agree with him that it can be a very important tool for promotional purposes and not only. There is not only spam, there are also valid e-mails, newsletters and mailing lists in which HTML is appropriate and provides an extra tool for formatting and layout.
XHTML and CSS could be the markup and styling too, of course, but if the web browsers are far from being strict, e-mail clients were not born for HTML and XHTML and their support for the standards is often poor.
This mailing list is NOT to complain about spam or unwanted HTML, but it is to suggest a viable, satisfying solution for a secure and quality implementation of markup and style in e-mail.
It would be dumb to create a new markup specific for e-mail when we already have 4 major versions of HTML, 2 major versions of XHTML, 3 major versions of CSS and a number of minor versions. Let’s just agree on something that can work for everyone!

This said, I invite everyone that thinks to have constructive proposals on this topic to check out the online archive of public-html-mail, join and let your voice heard (even to say that XHTML should be used).

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.

"Detecting Enhanced Devices" according to Cingular

I was reading an old email from devCentral and found a link that was supposed to described how to detect enhanced devices. It seemed quite interesting.

The passage (seemed more like an FAQ) was pretty disappointing.

I think that parsing the accept headers is not enough, unless you think that a device that supports XHTML is an enhanced device. To me, an enhanced device is a device that supports images, colors and has a big screen. A stylus is a big plus, of course.

WURFL is certainly a much better starting point than simply HTTP headers.