What is the Web and What is the Mobile Web?
Is there one Web or a separate Mobile Web?
While these sound like silly questions – they are not.
Many people view the Web as ‘Online’ – however, with Offline browsing, technologies like Gears etc, that is not the case i.e. the Web can be offline
So, Is the Web primarily about the browser?
The browser itself has evolved and with technologies like browser plugins and widgets – the browser becomes a different software object than the one it started off as.
Things get MUCH more interesting if we go to the Mobile Web.
What is the ‘Mobile Web’?
Again, we have some technological grey areas.
Widgets can be based on web technologies but are not necessarily invoked from a browser. Similarly, we are likely to have offline browsing (for example Gears on mobile being mainstream)
Hence, to come back to the basic question:
How do we define the Web and the Mobile Web?
Is there a separate Mobile Web or is there only One Web?
Firstly, the definition of the Web
The W3C see the Web to be beyond a ‘web of documents’ and believes in the idea of the One Web which means going from a web of documents to a One web of Data and Services on Everything for Everyone … where Web technologies provide the means of accessing and interacting with content via and between all devices (computing, communications, PIM, entertainment, embedded, transportation, industrial, health care, etc.) … worldwide.
Many people struggle with the idea of One Web because they view One Web in context of browsing whereas it is to be viewed more like Powered by Web technologies – at which point it makes a lot of sense of course.
From a user perspective, the vision of One Web is to make access to the Web on mobile devices as – seamless, reliable, cost-effective and useful as desktop / laptop Web access unfragmented by devices, browsers, operators, content providers …
When we talk of One Web from a user interface perspective, again there is considerable debate since people assume that it means you must serve exactly the same page format for mobile as for desktop use.
Of course, that would be silly ..
What One Web really means is Thematic consistency – a topic explained by Jo Rabin in this very insightful blog One Web – Why does this stir up such emotion?
The key is Thematic consistency (as per Jo’s blog above)
A key point here is that One Web doesn’t say that you must serve exactly the same page format for mobile as for desktop use. That would not be sensible. What it does say is that when you serve content it should the thematically similar – i.e. that a page served from a particular URI should be about the same thing, even if the format or the exact expression is not the same on different devices.
A few caveats:
a) I am a fan of Open technologies and agree to the idea of One Web as described above. However, other ‘LITE’ open technologies can also complement Web standards
b) Specifically, I am a fan of microformats,
c) And also of technologies like Wurfl from Luca Passani
d) Is there a space for proprietary technologies? In my view – yes. Technologies like Flash are clearly useful and they drive YouTube and much of the Web content. However, I see the role of proprietary technologies in consumption oriented situations rather than communication oriented scenarios.
e) Open source can also have a place in the standardization process – Open source vs. Open standards – cooperating vs. competing
Of course the issue of One Web, Open source and Open systems stretches beyond the technology. It is also a business model issue(free vs. ARPU), Uniqueness of Mobile issue(what can mobile do uniquely which the Web cannot) , at what level of the stack can the functionality be implemented The search for the IMS/NGN application: A multimedia version of Kindle (Amazon book reader) the usage of web services on mobile devices – driven by the Web or by Mobile? (Am I the only one who uses gmail on my blackberry and what does it say about Mobile applications ), Closed vs. open, Application distribution(appstores), Enablers(ex payment), Access to device APIs from the Mobile Web, Access to network APIs from the mobile Web(GSMA third party network access initiative ) and finally the meaning of the ‘network’ itself i.e. extending the cellular network to WiFi, Wimax, Bluetooth etc. Add to this issues of Context, Security and Identity and we have a complex ecosystem
But nevertheless, there is still only One Web and by that I mean – Only one thematically consistent Web powered by Web Technologies