MWI Team Blog

Dispatches from members of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative Team

Categories: Current state (32) | Developing Countries (15) | Events (20) | Looking forward (13) | News (42) | Technical (33) |

Mobile Web for Social Development Roadmap published — 30 November 2009

I'm glad that the Mobile Web for Social Development Interest Group I have been co-chairing eventually published its mobile Web for social development roadmap, its most important deliverable.

This is finalizing 16 months of hard work and discussions. We hope now to receive comments from different groups including the Web Accessibility Initiative, the W3C Internationalization Working Group, Mobile Web Best Practices, Voice Browser, but also from the community working in the field (NGOs, development agencies, etc.).

I believe this document is an important milestone in the path to extend the frontier of the Web in developing regions. It is the first document published by W3C that investigate the potential of the Web and mobile technologies in the Social Development domain, and identifies technology (and other) gaps to be bridged in the future by W3C, the Web Foundation and others.

It is also in my opinion a useful resource for those in the field willing to mainstream mobile technologies in their project. Having discussed with and visited different organizations deploying mobile content and applications in the field, I have come to realized that many of them have a vision of how ICT can help achieving their own goals/impact, but are missing an overview of the available technology landscape. They are usually moving from the vision to the tools directly: looking at what they can find on the market, and using it. I think that it is critical to add an intermediary step, before moving to the tools, to look at the specific needs, profile and requirements of the targeted end-users, the objective of the application, and the complete life-cycle of the project before choosing a particular (set of) technology(ies). The MW4D roadmap hopes to fill this gap, helping organizations to understand the technology landscape and informing them on the critical factors to consider before choosing one specific option.

Obviously, this is only a first step. They are lots of directions to explore. For instance, the document does not investigate specific application fields, and it would be interesting to understand the specificities of each domain (health, government, education, etc.), to identify patterns or information needs that are relevant to these domains, and how to address them. The current roadmap also focuses on using mobile phones to access content, but not to author or deliver content. If mobile phones are really the “computer for Africa”, it is critical to investigate how these devices could become an authoring platform, or a delivery platform (e.g. hosting a web server to deliver content and share information with surrounding clients).

This are only a few examples of potential future items for our group. The group just got an extension till the end of February 2010 to build a new charter, and define its future. Note that the MW4D IG is a public Interest Group, and does not require W3C membership to participate. See details on how to join the MW4D IG.

Therefore, I encourage everybody interested in this topic to join the group, the mailing-list and the bi-monthly teleconferences to participate in the work on this future new charter.

I also encourage everyone to read the published MW4D roadmap and provide feedback!

Stephane

The Pythia casts mobileOK spells — 18 November 2009

Web authoring tools ease publication process. Simplicity comes with some loss of control over the generated content. There is hardly anything an authoring tool user may do to improve her content when the W3C mobileOK Checker reports that pop-up windows should not be used. So what?! I do not have any of these pop-up links in my content!

The underlying theme can be updated, but this approach works up to a point when e.g. the post would best be split into multiple pages when delivered on mobile devices. Authoring tools that do not provide content adaptation mechanisms need to be extended to be able to serve mobile-friendly content to mobile devices.

I have been working on an open-source suite of tools written in PHP lately, named mobileOK Pythia, designed to help generate mobileOK content and more generically speaking to help adapt content to fit the properties of the requesting device. Here is a short overview of the outcome of this work. More information (including crucial information about the choice of Pythia as a name ;)) can be found in the documentation of mobileOK Pythia.

This work is part of the MobiWeb 2.0 project supported by the European Union's 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7).

Plug-ins for WordPress and Joomla!

WordPress and Joomla home pages with the mobileOK Pythia plug-in

From a user's point of view, the visual and hopefully useful outcome of this work is the creation of the mobileOK Pythia plug-ins for WordPress and Joomla! that make it possible to generate mobileOK content with these tools.

The plug-ins feature:

  • Device identification: based on WURFL, an open-source DDR published as an XML file, and accessed through a standard DDR Simple API interface.
  • Content adaptation to fit the properties of the requesting device in terms of e.g. screen size, script support, page size limit.
  • Theme switching: possibility to switch to a more mobile-friendly theme when the requesting device is identified as mobile.
  • POWDER: a machine-readable mobileOK claim for the Web site can be automatically created and served using a POWDER document. The POWDER document is made discoverable through the addition of a Link HTTP header field as decribed in the POWDER Primer.
  • W3C mobileOK Checker link: a link to the W3C mobileOK Checker is added next to the authoring input form to be able to assert the mobile-friendliness of the created content while it is being written.
  • mobileOK theme: a mobileOK template may be installed with the plug-in.

The development of a third plug-in for Moodle has started but it is still work in progress.

There exist other plug-ins that provide similar functionality (see for instance WordPress Mobile Plugin, WordPress Mobile Pack, Mobilebot 1.0 or WAFL: Mobile Content Adaptation). mobileOK Pythia separates tool-specific functionalities from tool-agnostic libraries to ease porting to other tools. In particular, the plug-ins wrap the same extensible libraries:

  • AskPythia to identify and retrieve the properties of the requesting device.
  • TransPythia to adapt content based on the properties of the requesting device.

AskPythia

AskPythia is an open-source conforming implementation of the Device Description Repository Simple API in PHP. It is not a DDR but a wrapper to existing DDRs.

AskPythia ships with an implementation on top of the WURFL database that maps WURFL capabilities to properties defined in the Device Description Repository Core Vocabulary standard. Support for other DDRs is welcome!

Check AskPythia's documentation for more information.

TransPythia

TransPythia is a transcoding library that adapts content (HTML, CSS, images) based on the capabilities of the requesting device. The library ships with a set of transcoding actions that are particularly adapted to mobile devices and that may be extended as needed.

Main transformations are:

  • Images conversion and adaptation: adapts images to match the requesting device's list of supported image formats and to fit the screen size. Removes images that cannot be converted or that are still too big for mobile consumption after conversion.
  • Pagination: a generic pagination algorithm that may be used to paginate HTML pages or HTML fragments when the requesting device is identified as a mobile device.
  • Tables linearization: to remove nested tables and linearize tables when the requesting device does not support them.

Check TransPythia's documentation for more information.

Feedback

If you would like to comment, contribute, report bugs or simply tell us what you think, you are very welcome! Feel free to send an email to the public-mobile-dev@w3.org mailing-list (with public archives).

by Francois Daoust in News, Technical 1 comment Permalink

W3C Cheatsheet for developers — 5 November 2009

Screenshot of the W3C Cheatsheet on a phone

I’ve been working over the past few weeks on a nifty little tool that summarizes a number of W3C technologies, including the Mobile Web Best Practices, in a mobile-friendly format, called the W3C Cheatsheet.

See my post in the W3C blog to learn more about it, and send your feedback!

by Dominique Hazael-Massieux in News, Technical Permalink

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Contacts: Dominique Hazael-Massieux