Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Apple, standards and plugins

I hate to sound dramatic but with Apple sounding off about web standards over plugins with their latest products I was wondering just how much Apple was dragging he industry forward, or if it was doing the opposite.

Some years ago, developing web applications meant having to know the details about the browsers your audience were using. We're still suffering from this today with discussion over different box models and questions about just when are Microsoft going to release a standards compliant browser. One example of this is anyone who uses Exchange for email. They might know the pain of using the web client given how rich it is in Internet Explorer and how average it is in any other browser.

The advent of cross browser JavaScript libraries helped reduce many of these pains and it's great to see a lot of work going into the new HTML5 specs that are taking lessons direct from these libraries. However, whilst singing the praises of a few websites that are using the new HTML5 audio and video elements, Apple seem to be creating their own events for touch that I can't see anywhere in the specs. It seems Mozilla are also playing the same game also and I'm worried that we're returning to a world where we have to tailor lots of code to target specific browsers.

You only have to go to or log into Gmail to see iPad websites that have orientation and swipe support. It's all very nice but how much extra work is going to have to take place to get a website to work in different browsers and different devices? What happens when a new device comes out with different events, or even as with the new iPhone and it's different screen resolutions, how will that change the work already in the wild?

This raises further questions for me, especially after reports of JavaScript execution speed on the iPad , even though some frameworks claim this isn't so much of a problem, such as Spoutcore Touch
and others go further saying that no framework should be used at all to ensure performance

Although Apple have created fairly complete documentation about building web content for their devices, it does beg the question why there should be differences if we are supposed to live in a standards world? How long will it be before you hit a webpage and have it say "The website is best viewed with iPad", or any other device or browser for that matter?

Should we ignore the devices ad go for standards like the BBC iPlayer for big screens like PS3 and iPad , use libraries to augment sites like how allows the user to swipe the image carousel, tailor something specific for each device such as or should we just be building native applications?

How should we progress? Should we let our analytics decide? Should we take the standards route or device specific route? This will certainly be one to keep an eye on.

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