The W3C Serves Up Mobile Web Standards

by Sam Dean - Jul. 30, 2008Comments (2)

With all the competition there is surrounding mobile operating systems, many of them Linux-based, and increasing convergence between open source and emerging software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, it's not surprising to see standards getting short shrift. Heck, if you look back at many of the classic platform wars in the history of computing and communications, the key competitors didn't even want common standards a lot of the time; instead, they wanted to control their own "standards." That's why it's good to see the World Wide Web Consortium releasing its very first standards for mobile web site design.

The W3C's Best Practices document for mobile sites and delivery of web content is here. You can also find an on-demand version of the group's site validator here.

The W3C, of course, had a sweeping impact on standards throughout the rise of the commercial web, and it can do so with mobile sites as well. Our sister site jkOnThe Run has a good analysis of the standards and the press release from the W3C. This item from the release is worth noting: "Until today, content developers faced an additional challenge: a variety of mobile markup languages to choose from." In answer to that, the W3C is pushing the XHTML Basic 1.1 Recommendation in its Best Practices advisory. No doubt, site and content developers will continue to use a diverse set of markup languages anyway, though.

The recommendations themselves get quite granular in certain areas. There are recommendations on limiting keystrokes required in mobile interfaces, and proposed limits on scrolling (often an annoyance on small displays). Note that the W3C's Best Practices advisory applies to mobile sites. Mobile application standards will be the subject of a next set of proposed standards.


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The problem with standards is that you really need to get everyone to agree to it, otherwise you are stuck in the situation of the quote which says 'the beauty of standards is that there are so many to choose from"! Let's hope the manufacturers/ISVs stick to these standards.

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When will Microsoft begin its 'embrace and extend' campaign for this?!

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