About the Workshop
The Workshop on Mobile Ajax, co-sponsored by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and OpenAjax Alliance, was held on 28 September 2007 in Mountain View, California. The chairs were Daniel Appelquist of Vodafone, co-chair of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative (MWI) Best Practices working group, and Jon Ferraiolo of IBM, representing OpenAjax Alliance.
The workshop was designed to provide a forum for participants to exchange
information about the present state of Mobile Ajax, share visions for its
possible future, and identify opportunities for industry collaboration in
order to promote end-user and industry success with Mobile Ajax.
Representatives from thirty-six separate organizations attended the
How the Workshop was Organized
The workshop was announced to the general public on the W3C site and
invitations were sent to all members of the W3C and the OpenAjax Alliance.
In order to attend the Workshop, participants were required to submit a
position paper (see complete list of position
papers) no longer than 5 pages that expressed their perspectives on
Mobile Ajax and identified the topics that they wanted to discuss at the
workshop. The co-chairs and the Program Committee reviewed
the position papers, extracted a list of common areas of interest, and
selected a subset of papers to be presented at the workshop in the form of
The workshop itself was divided into topic-focused sessions, where each session lasted between 45 and 90 minutes. The sessions were:
- Welcome and Introduction
- "One Web"
- Access to Device Capabilities
- Widgets, offline, and device-resident
- Role of server-side adaptation
- What new standards efforts do we need?
- Education and evangelism
The day ended with wrapup session in which the attendees expressed the most important takeaways from the workshop and discussed what follow-on actions needed to be taken. That was followed by a workshop summary from Dan Appelquist.
SessionsThe sections below summarize the workshop's sessions:
Welcome and IntroductionAfter welcoming comments and participant introductions, Dan characterized Vodafone's opinion that within 5 years mobile access to the Web will be dominant. He characterized key differences with mobile, where there are restricted resources (e.g., small screen) and additional capabilities (e.g., camera). Dan showed demos of mobile applications already available today running on a mobile handset. One interactive example -- related to German football -- used SVG. Dan characterized a "One Web" vision where content at a given URL can adapt to the needs of any any device (a user-centric definition of "One Web" - the key use case being characterized by content from any given URL being "thematically consistent" a-la the Mobile Web Best Practices ). Jon described a "One Web" vision for long-tail applications where one version of an application runs anywhere (a developer-centric definition of "One Web"). When asked how these two visions relate, the answer was that they largely overlap. Mike Smith summarized current W3C activities around related to Ajax and mobile browsing, including work being conducted in the W3C MWI Best Practices working group, as well as in the W3C HTML, Web API, Web App Formats (WAF), Ubiquitous Web Applications (UWA), and SVG working groups.
"One Web"Multiple position papers expressed a vision for the future where the Desktop Web and Mobile Web are one in the same. As this is a fundamental issue, it was the first topic of discussion. The session began with lightning presentations from AOL, Google, Paving Ways and NTT DoCoMo (see complete list of position papers). The identified discussion topics included:
- What does "One Web" actually mean?
- Subset HTML, CSS, DOM, JS: yes or no
- Small screen, CPU, memory, latency, input devices, etc.
- How to address?
- Always with you, phone, camera, location, identity, etc.
- How to address?
- How important is the integration between Java/MSA and Ajax?
- What's the backup strategy for devices that don't support Java?
- Who should take the lead on security proposals?
Microsoft has its own APIs for access to device capabilities, as does Opera. Vodafone offers VodaScript.
Security is a key issue. There was discussion about how Java offers a security manager, but others spoke up on the topic of artful balancing of user interface versus robust security mechanisms.
Widgets, offline, and device-residentThe widget phenomenon represents another use case for Mobile Ajax, where Ajax mini-application are launched from the mobile "desktop" rather than from within the mobile browser. This session had lightning presentations from Nokia, Google, ACCESS and Sprint. Discussion topics included:
- How important are widgets?
- What's the uptake on W3C Widgets?
- How important is offline?
- Who should take the lead on offline proposals?
- How important is Ajax running local (device-resident apps)?
Role of server-side adaptationPresenters included ICEsoft, Novarra, MobileAware and Volantis. ICEsoft showed two demos of Mobile Ajax in mission-critical applications, including one application in deployment today where a Canadian shipping company deploys an Opera-equipped smart phone to its truck drivers for dispatching delivery assignments to particular trucks. Novarra, MobileAware and Volantis presented slide decks that explained the advantages of server-side adaptation and how it works. Discussion topics included:
- Which problems can server-side adaptation solve?
- What special challenges do Ajax techniques present?
- What new initiatives do we need?
What new standards efforts do we need?Some of the position papers called for new standards efforts across a spectrum of topics. Implicit in these proposals is the general notion that if the industry can agree on key standards, then the industry would be unleashed to pursue major innovations due to cost efficiencies achieved due to unification of the delivery platform. However, standards take years to develop and the marketplace is moving quickly. There were lightning presentations from Dojo, Wake3, Yahoo and Ikivo. Discussion topics included:
- Do we need minor incremental standards efforts or major new standards efforts?
- Create new standards specific to Mobile Ajax or evangelize standards that already exist?
The attendees listed many candidates for standards activities: local caching, smart caching, APIs to device capabilities, key mapping, security, mashups, microformats for PIM information, server push, DOM extensions for mobile, CSS extensions for mobile, and best practices.
Bennett Marks (Nokia) announced that OMA browser 2.4 include XHR and will be the last browser standard they will develop. OMA has concluded that full browsers will be sufficiently ubiquitous soon enough, so it does not make sense to do further updates of the OMA mobile browser subset standards.
There was general agreement that standards activities are not good places for invention and sometimes better when attempting standards to achieve market consolidation.
Education and evangelismTechnical standards are one tool to unify the industry around a common vision. Other tools are education and evangelism, which sometimes are as important as standards. Both W3C and OpenAjax Alliance have activities in the areas of education and evangelism, so this session was led by the workshop chairs, Dan Appelquist and Jon Ferraiolo. Discussion topics included:
- Initiatives for Web developers?
- Initiatives for Ajax toolkit developers?
- Initiatives for browser vendors and device manufacturers?
- Initiatives for developer tools (e.g., IDEs)?
- Initiatives towards web service providers?
The attendees brainstormed about what sorts of similar activities the community should pursue for Mobile Ajax. It was pointed out that the Zen Garden allowed for community-contributed style sheet examples. One proposal was to kickstart a similar community effort by developing 10 to 20 demos but allow the community to add additional demos. There was discussion about "test fests". Jon mentioned OpenAjax Alliance recent InteropFests, which aligns somewhat with both the community-driven demo idea and the test fest idea, so either approach might be feasible.
We identified a need to evangelize good support of Mobile Ajax to Ajax toolkit developers, which is likely a good task for OpenAjax since many toolkit vendors participate there. For improved IDE support of Mobile Ajax, we could evangelize the requirement of a Firebug-like feature across all browsers, desktop and mobile.
WrapupDuring the wrapup session, the chairs summarized what they felt were the key takeaways and appropriate next steps. Then, the microphone circled the audience and each attendee identified what was the most important takeaway for him. The workshop (in the form of the position papers, the discussion, and wrapup comments) reflected a generally shared vision among the participants:
- Ultimately, a common Ajax platform will become available across desktop
and mobile devices, thereby providing the industry with a universal
content and application platform.
- It will be the Web on mobile, not a separate mobile Web.
- Ajax running on mobile devices has its own set of special requirements and opportunities, such as limited screen size, keypad, CPU, memory, bandwidth, etc., and availability of GPS, camera, messaging, etc.
- There will always be a difference between higher-end mobile devices and
lower-end mobile devices, and in the short-term despite the rise of
WebKit, there is likely to be more fragmentation than on desktop.
Therefore, server-side content adaptation will continue to play a
- There was a call for pragmatism. Some of this pragmatism manifested itself in the form of experience-based recognition of the limitations of standards activities. Several people articulated that many issues facing the Mobile Ajax ecosystems will find leadership by other means, such as open source or vendor-driven proposals.
- Ideas for big new project by W3C or OpenAjax Alliance don't leap out at this time, although OpenAjax Alliance's investigations about mobile device APIs aligns with one major need, and the work of the W3C Ubiquitous Web Applications working group addresses that same major need.
- Multiple attendees expressed a desire for a follow-on workshop once
there is more clarity around new community activities.
Dan ended the day with this summary:
- The workshop was most definitely interesting, informative, and helpful
- There is a need for community action in this space, but not necessarily through a standards activity
- When we do pursue standards, in general we should work within existing standards activities rather than start new standards activities
- The W3C and the OpenAjax Alliance Steering Committee will review the workshop report and assemble proposals for the community to review.
- People should get involved and help (lead and/or participate) where
needed, either within W3C, OpenAjax Alliance or elsewhere