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The Internet GUI Handhelds Portables

The Sad State of the Mobile Web 220

Posted by timothy
from the our-options-have-recently-changed dept.
snydeq writes "Despite being the much better development platform for today's smartphones, open Web standards still face an uphill battle on mobile devices, Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister writes, noting that here, as on the desktop, the main hurdle is scalability. But whereas successful Web development for the desktop is a matter of scaling up, mobile Web development calls for applications that can effectively scale down as well — an imperative that is fast making the state of the mobile Web 'even sadder,' McAllister writes. 'The more that modern Web applications take advantage of the new client-side technologies available in desktop browsers, the more the divide between the desktop Web and the mobile Web widens.' As a result, developers are forced to fall back on basic Web technologies — a tactic that too often translates simply into writing separate UIs for mobile users. 'The result? Mobile Web applications are in pretty much the same boat as they were when the first WAP-enabled handsets appeared: two separate development tracks, one for the desktop and one for mobile.'"
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The Sad State of the Mobile Web

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  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:14AM (#29767325) Homepage Journal

    Use CSS as it was meant to be used, and stop using javascript and flash where they are unnecessary, and your sites will work just fine on mobile devices. Oh, that's hard? Sorry, your crap tools which produce shit code you don't understand don't impress me.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:20AM (#29767347)

      Use CSS as it was meant to be used, and stop using javascript and flash where they are unnecessary, and your sites will work just fine on mobile devices. Oh, that's hard? Sorry, your crap tools which produce shit code you don't understand don't impress me.

      It's a good thing that sites like Slashdot work great on all devices though... ...oh, wait...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Trevelyan (535381)
        On the iPhone, /.'s left and right page columns are removed (I guess by CSS) so that the centre story column takes up the full width of the screen.

        The only real problem is that the nested comments quickly run out of width when the nesting gets too deep. Oh and that floating Full/Abbreviated/Hidden thing on the left doesn't work, but then I don't use it on the desktop either.
      • It's a good thing that sites like Slashdot work great on all devices though... ...oh, wait...

        Hey, slashdot looks like shit on any browser on any device. So it least it's fair. Kind of.

        (Posted from a textbox that's twice as wide as my screen).

      • by Yvan256 (722131) on Friday October 16, 2009 @08:51AM (#29768003) Homepage Journal

        I think you forgot the "Use CSS as it was meant to be used, and stop using javascript [...] where (it is) unnecessary" part.

        Slashdot is a mess. Authors should be ashamed.

    • by JordanL (886154) <jordan...ledoux@@@gmail...com> on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:39AM (#29767473) Homepage
      Look at all the OpenSource solutions to rapid web development.
      • Concrete
      • Joomla
      • SilverStripe
      • Etc.

      None of those programs even have a core that's close to being mobile enabled, and no one using them is going to create one. I think the largest problem is simply that the tools most people use for their websites are too bloated, complicated and poorly written to create an effective mobile web.

      For example, I have a client that I just last week had to broach the subject of a mobile enabled version of their Joomla 1.5 site with. They were adamant that a version that cellphones could use was absolutely important, but because of the HUGE framework Joomla uses, and the relatively small number of functions a mobile version would need to perform, I basically opted to build a very tiny CMS that would mirror the data from the Joomla database.

      You may thumb your nose at web developers who create ridiculous sites and clearly don't know what the hell they're doing, but you are only displaying your own ignorance. Clients drive website development, not developers, and for the vast majority of clients mobile web is something they just don't care about. And because of that nearly all of the tools available exclude the mobile web.

      As a web developer, I rarely have to touch the subject of the mobile web, and when I do I basically have to present my clients with two options: 1. you pay me a non-trivial sum to create a second version of your site just for the mobile web or 2. you are restricted to sites built in tools which are mobile web enabled.

      I can tell you from years of experience, unless it's part of their business model clients go for option 3: fuck the mobile web.

      • I've just finished building a new website for a startup and mobile was a consideration from the start. As a result the page content is all modularised and there is a layout+css switcher for mobile devices. Some of the fancy stuff doesn't work as well or look as good on the mobile site but all the functionality is there - with and without JavaScript (progressive enhancement really comes into its own here). This means that going forward there is only one site and two layouts to maintain, a vast improvement

        • by JordanL (886154)
          See, this only works if you use no modules/components/plugins/extentions/etc. with whatever rapid development framework you're working with, because I can guarantee you that the modularized code isn't going to export mobile friendly code. If I could trust extended pieces of code, I would simply manage layouts as you describe.

          Most clients just aren't big enough to warrant all the small fires mobile development creates.
      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday October 16, 2009 @08:26AM (#29767813) Homepage Journal

        None of those programs even have a core that's close to being mobile enabled, and no one using them is going to create one.

        I've never looked at any of those, but with Drupal it's fairly trivial to create an acceptable mobile experience.

        You may thumb your nose at web developers who create ridiculous sites and clearly don't know what the hell they're doing, but you are only displaying your own ignorance.

        You're being a stupid ass. I'm talking about shit like using javascript on a link that just opens a new page, when an HREF would have done as well and can be manipulated by JS through the DOM. I'm talking about shit like using flash for rollover links. I'm not talking about shit like google docs [slashdot.org], which can reasonably be expected to fail on castrated browsers. The vast majority of websites out there would work fine on a mobile browser if they simply made intelligent use of CSS, and less unnecessary use of javascript. Every time I have to have javascript to submit a form that results in a page load anyway, I know that somewhere out there a big fucking idiot designed a website. Every time I have to load a flash movie to navigate a website, the web dies a little.

        I can tell you from years of experience, unless it's part of their business model clients go for option 3: fuck the mobile web.

        Again, in Drupal it's simple enough as having a mobile theme, using one of the many canned methods available to make sure that mobile users get to see it, and you're done. Since mobile browsers are simple, mobile themes are simple, and it's little extra work. This is part of the whole point of using a CMS, and if yours doesn't let you trivially support displaying ordinary content to mobile devices then it's pathetic.

        • by nametaken (610866)

          Every time I have to have javascript to submit a form that results in a page load anyway, I know that somewhere out there a big fucking idiot designed a website. Every time I have to load a flash movie to navigate a website, the web dies a little.

          This is a little harsh. .Net forms and their button controls frequently use javascript for client side validation before server side validation on submit. They fail gracefully in browsers with javascript disabled. That's not developer incompetence, that's a good

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        Most sites could be written in plain vanilla HTML with no scripting, flash, etc whatever and could be easily read and navigated by any device.

        The problem is people have forgotten how to code in HTML. The pity is HTML is dirt-simple and people still can't be bothered to learn it, preferring to use a bad tool to do it for them (and face it, all of the web development tools suck).

      • by suggsjc (726146)
        I guess it all depends on features and scope, but the "mobile web" is only as complicated as you want to make it. If you have good markup, then things translate very well to mobile phones.

        In general, there are two types of mobile browsers. Ones that try to emulate the "real web" (ie. iPhone/Safari, Opera Mini, etc) and ones that just strip out all of the css and just display the text (ie. Blackberry browser).

        I've found that if you take a look at your site without css enabled (in Firefox, View ->
      • by jdgeorge (18767)

        My impression is that the solution to the mobile-unfriendly tooling that some companies have chosen is to create an iPhone app for their sites, which I assume is cheaper than retooling their real Web sites to actually work well for mobile platforms. Do you think this is an accurate assessment?

      • And because of that nearly all of the tools available exclude the mobile web.

        I don't know, some open source frameworks do have support for mobile websites built in - you can just customise a few layouts on Rails for example (as in 1 or 2 layouts), or just change the CSS if you like and you can add mobile support pretty easily. I've done it on a few sites and it wasn't difficult.

        I understand some of the larger CMS frameworks will make this difficult, but then they make most stuff difficult if it wasn't originally considered when they wrote the framework - that's the compromise you ma

    • Yeah for sure, there needs to be more emphasis on standards compliance and simple pages that convey information. I'm not going to sit though a 20 second flash intro and then fight my way though animated menus that render behind other page elements. If your website can't serve it's function as a means to convey information then I'm going elsewhere.
    • by fermion (181285)
      I agree completely. The sad state of the mobile web reflects the sad state of the web overall, and it stems from the design decision to focus on context, not visualization. That is,HTML defines a context for a header, or table, or citation, but does not impose a rendering of those contexts. This, of course, is not a good thing if one is developing an application front end, which is what MS and others were interested in doing.

      CSS allowed control of the visualization, but by the time it came out there we

    • So you are saying you should only code the hard way? Isn't the point of these tools even CSS is to make programming tasks easier? I can see flash as it is not widely supported however most web enabled mobile devices that are worth developing for have Javascript, especially if they support CSS. I actually push for heavy Javascript and less on Server side processing as for the most part the client even a smart phone has excess processing power and it can handle doing most of the legwork and just use the ser

      • Speaking as a non-Web-developer: It seems like using these new fancy tools isn't all that helpful, if using them creates lots of integration work (as in the angry post above), with the main benefit being flashy effects. I've seen sites that advertise a game or something, that rely on an elaborate animated Flash menu that would've offered the information just fine as plain HTML. Why demand Flash and cookies and Java and .NET when all I want is to view some text and pictures?
    • by 6Yankee (597075)

      I wouldn't have put it quite as bluntly, but yes.

      I'm working on a custom skin for phpBB, and by using sensible HTML and CSS I've got something that looks good on the desktop and on IE Mobile. I use Javascript to pull in all the pretty stuff like avatars on the desktop version; mobile devices (and IE6, which gets the mobile stylesheet) never need see it, and the site is usable without it.

      My skin is actually usable on a handheld, though it still needs some work. phpBB's own is a complete mess, and there are s

    • by FyRE666 (263011) *

      In other news: Beer is crap when you serve it in a wine glass.

      It's not just the design and layout, the content and navigation requirements are often different for mobile and desktop browsers. Sure you can cram a long story into a 4" screen, but a mobile user often has different requirements (and time) to a desktop user. A mobile version of a news site would probably want to serve abbreviated or rewritten versions of the stories, or geo-location based stories, or whatever.

      One size doe not fit all. Get over i

    • by blueZ3 (744446) on Friday October 16, 2009 @11:29AM (#29769887) Homepage

      And stop referring my phone to a "mobile" version automatically with no opt out. What's currently driving me crazy is not Flash (I avoid those sites anyway) but being forced into a mobile (read: limited) version of the full site when my phone is perfectly capable of rendering all the images, menus, etc.

      The "dumbed down" version should be an option--maybe even the default option--but quit using my user agent string to force me into the mobile site ghetto.

  • Outdated? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tpwch (748980) <slashdot@tpwch.com> on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:15AM (#29767327) Homepage
    Is this really true anymore? With devices like the Nokia N900 being released, that has full-featured browsers that can handle everything a desktop browsers can, I doubt this will be an issue much longer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jellybob (597204)

      Modern smartphones can handle just about anything you throw at them. The UI is the problem, since what works on a 22" widescreen monitor, with a keyboard and mouse, doesn't work on a 9" touchscreen.

      We're not going to see alternative mobile UIs going away any time soon, and that in my opinion is a good thing. The desktop version will work if you really want all the features that it comes with, but it's not going to be the optimal way of using things.

      Native mobile applications are also a big factor here, and

      • Native mobile applications are also a big factor here, and are often a far better choice

        I fear you might be right, but it sure sucks. We went from an app ported to every platform, to a single app using middleware called "browser", and now we're headed back to an app for every platform? Ugh. There's got to be some way to avoid this bullshit.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      I don't think that you can take a device the size of a small paperback and claim it's representative of what mobile phones can do. The hardware performance will probably trickle down to cheaper devices in five years, but phones with 2-inch screens and a mechanical keypad continue to dominate the market for good reasons. Most users don't feel the need to carry a large touchscreen slab for the amount of web browsing they do, and getting a web app to work properly on a small button-driven device without simply

      • by Jellybob (597204)

        I don't think this is actually an issue though.

        Most of the people I know who have phones using keypads and a 2-inch screen don't use them for browsing the web, and have no intention to do so.

        If I'm building a mobile web application, I'm going to target the touch screen devices, because those are what people who actually use mobile phones to browse the web are using.

        • by jimfrost (58153) *
          Ask any random iPhone user if they browse the web. There is a good reason why iPhone users have 5 times the data usage of any other....

          Prior to the iPhone I rarely hit the web with my phone (it had to be an outright emergency). The plan made it stupid expensive and I got grey hairs waiting. But having seen how useful the iTouch was when it was on the net I went for an iPhone (AT&T be damned. No, really, damn AT&T). Having a useful web browser pretty much everywhere has been a godsend.

          It's k

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Tyr_7BE (461429)

            I really don't understand this. Just about every iPhone user on the web loves to shout to the heavens about how fantastic the browser is. What makes it so great? Technically it's the most capable browser on a mobile device, but not by very much. Take a look at this http://www.quirksmode.org/webkit.html [quirksmode.org] . Iris browser and Bolt browser both fare very well, but nobody ever talks about them like they do with Safari. I tried Opera Mini 5 the other day and I was extremely impressed. It basically gave me we

            • by swv3752 (187722)

              It is mostly the zoom features and the ability to rotate.

              That and sites just work like they do with a desktop browser. I recently tried Blackberry (Maybe a Pearl) and it would not display sites right, neither does the Storm. Also tried a touch screen Samsung, and it was not quite right either.

            • Just to make you feel better... I do have an iphone and the web browser isn't all that. If the page has more than a paragraph on it, it gets shrunk down so tiny, you can't read it. You can zoom in, but then you have to scroll back and forth and all over the place to read it. Clicks take a while to register sometimes and I hate that it doesn't save my login information, even though there was an update that was supposed to allow this and there is a button to log in automatically. There is plenty wrong with i
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by glennpratt (1230636)

                Double tap on a paragraph and it will zoom to fit.

                AutoFill passwords works fine for me, perhaps you forgot to turn it on (Settings -> Safari -> AutoFill). Do bear in mind, many sites manipulate login forms to prevent saved passwords from working.

            • by Sancho (17056)

              It probably has to do with marketshare, the fact that the iPhone was the first widely used browser to support all of that, and the zooming--dear God, the zooming, which makes most pages downright pleasant to read.

              Since the iPhone was released, there have been lots of other manufacturers that put out very capable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing browsers. But there aren't nearly as many people using any single one of them (and possibly all of them combined) as there are iPhone users.

        • by jank1887 (815982)

          I finally enabled web on my LG8350. why? well, I'm still on a data-as-minutes plan with verizon, have a bazillion minutes, and I wanted to do certain things. What things? (1) check my email (GMail), and reply on occasion, (2) check flight status. (3) peek at my weekly ESPN fantasy football matchup if I'm out on Sunday. (4) peek at my google calendar, (5) check the weather, (6) google an answer to a question (usually via wikipedia), (7) keep tabs on my Gameknot chess games.

          My phone can't do 3/4 of what IPho

    • Re:Outdated? (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:25AM (#29767377) Journal

      The iPhone uses the same rendering engine as Safari. The Nokia 770 shipped with a version of Opera that could render almost everything that the desktop one could, but was painfully slow with some sites (e.g. Google Maps), but that was more to do with the slow CPU than anything else. My cheap Nokia phone has a WebKit browser too, and the tiny screen is more of a limiting factor than the browser's capabilities. Flash support on mobile devices has been a little tricky until not, but now Adobe is pushing hard to get full Flash supported on everything with an ARM CPU that's going to stop being a problem soon. In terms of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, handheld devices are just as capable as ten-year-old desktops with small screens running modern software.

      Note, however, that TFA talked about web apps, rather than web sites. Web apps are typically very JavaScript heavy, and so may have problems on mobile devices if the JS engine can't keep up. This is completely different to the WAP era, however. Back then, mobile browsers couldn't browse normal sites. Now they can, but they may experience problems on a few web apps that do a lot of the client side (these didn't even exist in the WAP days).

    • by Chrisq (894406)
      I find it specially ironic that one of the links provided in the summary [infoworld.com] says

      It's also the engine found in both Apple's iPhone and Google Android, arguably the two most important mobile Web platforms today.

      That means Google Chrome isn't yet another browser to support,

      Which in fact contradicts the whole assertion of the article

      • by Yvan256 (722131)

        Actually, from what I've read, WebKit (rendering engine) is used by both Safari and Chrome (and I guess Android), but the javascript engine isn't the same.

        So, for the (X)HTML and CSS, yes they should be the same. For the javascript, they are not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      Is this really true anymore?

      Yes. I have a Motorola i776, and with many sites it complains about not having enough memory. That includes slashdot. I won't work with wikipedia at all. The phone's browser controls are horrible too, for instance there's no slash and no back button. I only bough the thing (cost $100) a few months ago.

      • browser (Score:2, Informative)

        by zogger (617870)

        Did you jump through the hoops and put the opera mini browser on it? I know the guys at the howard forums recommend that over the stock browser that comes with that phone.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Thanks, I didn't know it was possible. I'll have to do a little research. And yes, that OpenWave browser is pure shit.

    • Re:Outdated? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by koiransuklaa (1502579) on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:36AM (#29767455)

      Exactly, I think it was Nokias Ari Jaaksi who said something like this several years ago: "there is only one web. If your device does not work there, you lose". That was pretty much true then, and it's even more true today.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bemymonkey (1244086)

      The N900 hasn't even been released yet, and it's already outdated (not that that's going to stop me from buying one...). It's one of the first smartphones to play in-browser Flash video halfway decently, but what about when Youtube switches to H264 only... what about when the next technology after AJAX/CSS/Javascript comes out?

      Sure, the browsers on new smartphones are great, but they're still a long way away from being able to display pages the same way as a desktop or laptop... mostly because of CPU constr

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:25AM (#29767381)
    ... pixels and readability.

    No matter how you package it, a text-based website cannot be read conveniently on a postage-stamp sized screen. You spend all your time scrolling the text sideways, and up and down. All this gets in the way of your main aim, which is to get the information on that site. This presumes (falsely) that a usable proportion of the mobile device's screen is not taken up with banner ads, or visual embellishments which simply get in the way. Mobile web is fine for sites that just have a couple of lines of information and maybe a single icon and a link, but for anything more complex you need a screen at least 1024*768 and at a physical size where the letters can actually be read at that resolution.

    Since the web is still (and probably will alway be) text based - as this is the best way to achieve a reasonable density of information, mobile users just have to accept that a "massive" 3 inch display just won't hack it. For example, cut a small rectangle out of a piece of paper that covers your whole screen. Now try and do any meaningful work through that hole and you'll have ripped it away within minutes. That's the problem with mobile devices, they're just not big enough to get all the information you need to be displayed at once.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Surely the rise of web apps demonstrates that most people aren't that interested in actually reading stuff on the web, though. They want to do things on the internet, and the web happens to be a ubiquitous platform for the apps to sit on. Your average Tweet, Facebook pic, or YouTube vid doesn't exactly struggle on even a QVGA display.

      As a corollary I wonder whether big-screened e-ink devices are a more natural platform than computers for consuming actual web sites these days. Add a touchscreen and you're no

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      but for anything more complex you need a screen at least 1024*768

      Funny, back in the nineties my computer screen's resolution was 640x480 and I had no trouble surfing any site on the internet. I never got a sideways scroll.

      I've found that for sites that won't display properly, if you go to them via m.google.com Google will reformat the screen so it's useable (or less unusable, depending on the site).

    • by Stevecrox (962208)
      There nothing wrong with small screens if the websites properly designed.

      For example BBC news website works fine on my Nokia 5800, the frames aren't fixed in width so the whole thing adjusts to properly fit the screen all I have to do is scroll down the page and set the zoom level to something appropriate. Slashdot does something similar where the comments section width never exceeds the available viewing space's width meaning I can scroll across to the comments section and it will fit nicely on the scree
    • by Looke (260398)
      "Scrolling the text sideways"? It doesn't sound like you ever tried a decent mobile browser, like Opera Mini. It reflows text and resizes images to fit your little 3 inch window. For a whole lot of sites out there, neat and simple tricks like that work brilliantly.

      As for the rise of web apps that the article brings up, that's where a mobile browser like Opera Mini falls short.
  • by alen (225700) on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:30AM (#29767415)

    except for the flash based ones, slashdot is the most annoying to navigate on my iphone

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Krneki (1192201)
      Find a flash block add-on for your web browers. Oh wait, you use an iPhone, nevermind.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by _LORAX_ (4790)

        Moron, the iPhone has a built in flash block ( aka, it doesn't support flash ).

    • really? I'm posting from my iPod touch, and I've always found slashdot to be one of the easiest sites to use on this. Hell, it beats most special iPhone mobile versions of sites in my opinion.

      • by alen (225700)

        it's always annoying to try to click a link for the story and it selects the entire thing and just takes you back to the top of the page

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cerberusss (660701)

      except for the flash based ones, slashdot is the most annoying to navigate on my iphone

      Just create a separate account, then log into that account and do:

      • Click on Help & Account (upper right)
      • At the right, below 'Classic Index', click General
      • Check 'Use classic index'
      • Check 'Simple design'

      Then go to your iphone and log in with the new account. Simple as that.

  • Pot, meet kettle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:34AM (#29767435) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot is one of the worst for the mobile web. When I try to read slashdot on my blackberry (peal 8120) not only does it not render, it crashes first the browser and ultimately the phone itself. Just simply trying to load slashdot leaves me needing to pull the battery from my blackberry to execute a hard reboot.

    Last time I asked, CmdrTaco's response was that slashdot is not concerned about development for mobile devices.
    • Re:Pot, meet kettle (Score:4, Informative)

      by romiz (757548) on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:48AM (#29767523)
      For reading only, there is a lite version [slashdot.org]. It works on a 128x160 screen, and it's even more selective than browsing at +5.
      • by bazorg (911295)
        and that works nicely on my Nokia 3120. thanks for the tip. I'll check if other slash based sites do the same and my toilet time will never be the same!
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Doesn't work on my crappy phone, there's no slash. I wish slashdot would start a mobile.slashdot.org, or better yet folow Googles example and make it m.slashdot.org.

        I have found a workaround, however -- going to about any site through m.google.com will render it phone accessible. Not all sites, though; wikipedia simply doesn't work at all on my phone.

    • Slashdot doesn't even support Unicode. It's kind of sad that what used to be the Internet's foremost tech site is now a decade behind even the simplest Tumblog with regard to basic Web features and functionality.

    • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday October 16, 2009 @09:16AM (#29768283) Homepage

      If it crashes your phone, there's something wrong with your phone, not the site.

      • If it crashes your phone, there's something wrong with your phone, not the site.

        Because clearly, when so many other pages work, and this one particular site causes my phone to crash, the fault is with my phone.

        • Re:Pot, meet kettle (Score:4, Informative)

          by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:50AM (#29769411)

          If it crashes your phone, there's something wrong with your phone, not the site.

          Because clearly, when so many other pages work, and this one particular site causes my phone to crash, the fault is with my phone.

          If a Website, even a maliciously crafted one, can crash your phone, then you have multiple problems with your phone. First your browser or browser plug-in is flawed. Second, your phone's OS is failing to properly handle a crashing program. There might be something wrong with the site as well, but your phone definitely has several things wrong with it.

          • If a Website, even a maliciously crafted one, can crash your phone, then you have multiple problems with your phone.

            If you for some reason took my comment to imply that the blackberry is the world's greatest web browsing experience(TM) than we are not communicating well. The blackberry browser has problems, for sure. However slashdot has problems-a-plenty of its own.

            When a blackberry attempts to load the slashdot main page, the amount of scripting that the slashdot page sends to the client (in this case my unfortunate blackberry) is simply too much. My phone gets stuck in the infinite loop of shitty code left by so

    • Last time I asked, CmdrTaco's response was that slashdot is not concerned about development for mobile devices.

      Lets just hope it stays that way to spare us Eternal September.

      Seriously if you thought AOL users were bad, they are nothing compared to iPhone users.

    • by dwandy (907337)
      My HTC Magic renders /. perfectly - the browser even sticks* and fits** the comments onto the screen-size.
      Sounds like it may be time to get a better phone if you're intent on surfing...

      *by this I mean that in the nesting of comments I need to move slightly to the right to see the next comment, and as I slide it "sticks" when the comment is fully (width-wise) inside the screen.
      **by this I mean that to read a comment I don't ever need to scroll left/right as I'm reading (just up/down) even though the whole

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr_Silver (213637)

      Slashdot is one of the worst for the mobile web. When I try to read slashdot on my blackberry (peal 8120) not only does it not render, it crashes first the browser and ultimately the phone itself. Just simply trying to load slashdot leaves me needing to pull the battery from my blackberry to execute a hard reboot.

      I had this problem with Slashdot over 5 years ago and wrote AvantSlash [fourteenminutes.com] which turns the pages into something which is readable [fourteenminutes.com] on just about any mobile device. Please try it if you can.

      It kind of sa

  • by Paul Carver (4555) on Friday October 16, 2009 @07:42AM (#29767485)

    Anything that puts the brakes on flash only websites is a good thing in my opinion. I just wish that there were more users of phones that supported HTML really well but didn't do Javascript so that there would be more pressure on web developers to make their pages accessible.

    It seems to be an overwhelming human tendency to put form above function and the only thing preventing web developers from tying everything up in an impenetrable Gordian knot is the ever smaller number of old computers and phones that they might grudgingly spare an occasional though on.

    Personally I wish browser plugins had never been invented. I've got a video player, a PDF reader, and all sorts of other applications and my browser knows how to launch them just fine. It annoys me every time some "clever" web developer finds some new way to force my computer to open a PDF inside my browser with restricted controls instead of dispatching it to my PDF reader with full functionality.

    When phones catch up fully with modern desktops it may well signal the end of the open, accessible, web. The "professionals" would sure like to make the web just another version of TV where they control everything and our only choice is to use it their way or turn off the set.

    • by Eskarel (565631)

      That's just great, if all you want from the web is static text. That isn't however, what the vast majority of people and companies want.

      AJAX exists because when Microsoft put it into hotmail it was so vastly successful that it actually got implemented as a standard.

      The web is about the delivery of information. That is it's function. Believe it or not, for most people, the form in which information is delivered is very important. You cannot separate form from function on the web. It just doesn't work. If you

      • by salesgeek (263995)

        AJAX exists because when Microsoft put it into hotmail it was so vastly successful that it actually got implemented as a standard.

        AJAX has always been a hack - powerful, useful, but at the end of the day, it's taken the web a long way from being just a nice and simple way to browse hypertext. What drove AJAX was *not* developer tools or websites, but rather the rapid replacement of dial up with broadband connections. Ajax works great on broadband. It sucks on dial up. There's a reason why AJAX interfaces still have a "classic interface so users with slow connections can use them. Mobile broadband just doesn't work like a cable mod

  • There is only one sad thing: that websites force mobile devices to versions which are tailored for mobile devices. Usually, the mobile versions of websites are very limited. Especially, in news sites, one does not find things any more. Worse still is to get automatically redirected to mobile pages which do not work.

    The infoworld article mentions scalability as a problem. This could be the crux since it is difficult to maintain different scaled versions at the same time, especially for web applications.
  • The problem with mobile content is as follows:

    1) It's easy to install Firefox / Opera / IE onto a pc, or even another OS, and test your pages using that one machine.
    2) Netbooks are same as pc's not too difficult to design / test on.
    3) How many mobile phones etc. does a normal person have to test a design? One? two?
    4) Mobile devices generally have crappy image quality.

    Only the most basic of pages like google's front page looks any good on most phones, there are far more non-iPhones and cloans around.

    So WAP d

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Only the most basic of pages like google's front page looks any good on most phones

      I don't care what a page LOOKS like, especially on a phone. I want to be able to read the information/article/story etc.

    • Blackberry has an emulator for every model they've made that I could see. They are freely available and easy to download and set up.

      Visual Studio comes with emulators for every Windows Mobile phone that is out there. I believe you can also freely download them without Visual Studio.

      The iPhone has an emulator as well - but you have to be running a Mac. But it's freely available and easy to download.

      Nokia? Yeah, they have emulators too.

      Not every manufacturer has them of course, but most do.
    • by tepples (727027)

      It's easy to install Firefox / Opera / IE onto a pc, or even another OS, and test your pages using that one machine.

      But it's not so easy to test in both Internet Explorer 8 and previous versions of Internet Explorer unless you buy copies of Windows to run in virtual machines, or you buy multiple PCs with Windows and don't keep them updated.

  • I hate getting on the web with my Blackberry Pearl through T-Mobile. It hearkens me back to the dial-up BBS days it is so slow. I also hate finger typing. I will only use it to get on the web if I am out somewhere and absolutely have to get a phone number or address or some other critical data off of a web site. I don't have the patience for it.

  • Cell networks, like the old telephone networks were built for voice, not data. They had almost zero foresight in planning. I've mentioned this [slashdot.org] before. And at least someone [google.com] is working hard to try and remedy the situation.
  • I would've thought that the MVC model would be a shoe-in for site developers looking to support both desktops and mobile devices. Just create a "view" that's tailored for mobile devices. How hard is that to do?
    • by e2d2 (115622)

      Not hard at all. What's hard is getting clients to pay for it. In my experience when they do want mobile development they go for the whole package, using a native mobile app targeted at specific devices like the iPhone.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      It's not hard. It's just that not only are a lot of Web developers lazy, a lot of them use WYSINWYE tools.

    • by tepples (727027)

      Just create a "view" that's tailored for mobile devices. How hard is that to do?

      The hard part is testing your mobile view on the plethora of mobile devices, including devices sold in the country where your readers live but not in the country where you live.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday October 16, 2009 @08:54AM (#29768041)

    Here's a trivial idea... Instead of spending you time whining about mobile browsing, the iPhone and AT&T, you could just buy an iPhone and have a nearly perfect mobile browsing experience.

    Mobile browsing sucks because manufactures don't really care, just look at how bad it sucks on a Blackberry

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      So your solution to people's complaints about the iPhone's web browsing is for them to buy an iPhone? What?

  • Too Late! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by qazwart (261667)

    The iPhone has pretty much killed the Mobile Web Page. The WAP protocol is dead. Other phones are beginning to support full page web browsing. By the end of next year, even Windows Mobile phones will have the full sized IE8 browser embedded in them. Many sites are even optimizing their webpages for the small screen mobile devices. Some have switched to narrow columns on their pages which allow users to quickly zoom in on the column and read an article. Some have specialized websites that are "mobile friendl

  • by TwobyTwo (588727) on Friday October 16, 2009 @09:34AM (#29768481)

    This is an important debate, but Neil McAllister's article suffers from a number of problems. For example, it references the recently popular Webkit Comparison Table [quirksmode.org] along with Peter-Paul Koch's claim that there is no “WebKit on Mobile”. The article didn't point out that some people like Alex Russel have dug deeper [dojotoolkit.org] and have found that the facts don't support PPK's conclusions as strongly as one might think. Yes, if you include lots of older devices, there's quite a divergence in Webkit deployments, but what PPK and Neil McAllister don't say is that compatibility is much better on devices that ship recent versions, it's especially good for core features, and it's improving all the time.

    McAllister also implies that the mobile Web is in trouble because "On my BlackBerry, JavaScript performance is abysmal". Using that argument, I can prove that Windows will never be successful, because I could in the early days show you PC's that ran it with abysmal performance. The potential of technologies like Javascript needs to be evaluated using the best implementation you can find; that shows what's possible. He does go on to say: "And even when a handset vendor does improve JavaScript performance, as Apple did with iPhone OS 3.0, it's a relative increase." Aren't they all? "You're still dealing with a poky handheld processor (and in Apple's case, one that developers speculate is too feeble for Flash or Java)." Uh, so now the reason that the HTML and Javascript will fail is that ARM processors are too slow to run Java? What's the connection I'm missing? The fact is, that there are some pretty good AJAX sites for mobile, so we know the ARM processors are good enough to run that Javascript. Try, for example, going to http://www.gmail.com using Safari on your iPhone. Not a usable experience? Even works offline using HTML 5 local storage (not Gears). Also, even if Javascript performance were somehow related to Java performance, I bet the Android folks would like to hear that Java doesn't run right on ARM processors, since the entire upper level infrastructure of Android, including user applications, is built on just that combination (as optimized using the Dalvik VM).

    Unfortunately, articles like this can do real damage. Many people who are not expert in these things are struggling to figure out which mobile application development models are going to be workable. I happen to believe that the Mobile Web will, like the desktop embodiment of the Web, grow as disruptive technologies tend to: from something that's a bit shaky at first to the model that dominates? Why? Because unlike Mr. McAllister, I believe that the underlying processors and system technologies are capable of running it, and the value of a model that is fully cross-platform, can support zero install operation (you might want to install a mapping application to find a restaurant, but you almost surely don't want to install the restaurant's application to read menus or get discount coupons), can also scale to support installable applications (Widgets [w3.org]) and offline operation, is compelling. Furthermore, as has been the case for years, the Web has the unique value of allowing you to link to the over 1 trillion [blogspot.com] Web pages, without jumping out from some proprietary application container to a Web browser. Whether I'm right about the likely success of the mobile Web or not, this whole question deserves a much more careful analysis than McAllister's article provides. Unfortunately, there will be many people who read it and jump to the conclusion that the mobile Web is failing. A shame.

  • I know mobile browsing has traditionally been a pain, but outside of work I actually do more browsing and emailing from my iPhone than from my personal computer.
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Friday October 16, 2009 @12:45PM (#29770815)

    Seriously, that's what we did when creating our mobile ordering platform. Everything is in HTML with vanilla javascript for things like form validation. Then we created a mobile style sheet without graphics, other than a thumbnail of the logo, and it works on every mobile browser we've tried. iPhone, Blackberrys, Samsungs, Windows Mobile, Pre, various LG phones we've tried. Everything. Even over GPRS/Edge the pages load snappy.

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