iPhone Developer Guidelines Promote One Web, Open Standards

I was a little nervous to look at iPhone for Web Developers from the Apple Developer Connection; with a splash as big as the iPhone, it seemed inevitable that they’d cut corners when it came to support for open standards. Surely the Use Standards and Tried-and-True Design Practices heading was a tease. But then… wow…

The first surprise was support for the tel: URI scheme, like so:

      <a href="tel:1-408-555-5555">1-408-555-5555</a>

I managed to set up one-click calling from the gnome desktop via Vonage, so every phone number marked up that way saves me precious time.

Given Flash’s market share, this is bold:

Don’t bring up JavaScript alerts that ask users to download Flash. Flash isn’t supported and neither are downloads.

And it goes on from there: Ensure that your HTTP server sends the correct MIME types is a great bumper-sticker summary of the TAG finding on Authoritative Metadata.

The http://www.w3.org/html/wg/ pointer under “Connect With Web Developers” is backed by active participation in the W3C HTML Working Group.

Some stuff I wonder about… is it really worth sending all these bytes in the value of the HTTP User-Agent header field?

    Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko)
            Version/3.0 Mobile/1A543a Safari/419.3

The reference movie stuff sounds like SMIL; I wonder if it is. And I forgot most of what I know about RTSP, so I don’t know whether “iPhone does not stream media using RTP/RTSP” is a big deal or not.

They don’t support “Custom x.509 certificates”; so you don’t get to choose who you trust. I hope they’ll relax that eventually, though I can understand a conservative approach to security in the first release.

Overall, I think the guidelines underscore the One Web message in the W3C mobile Web guidelines.

I wonder about some of those guidelines, meanwhile. I’m not really an expert on deployment of mobile handset technology, so I don’t have good arguments against “120 pixels, minimum.” But I find it hard to believe that’s really going to be a relevant target for the lifetime of a typical W3C Recommendation.

I know a lot of mobile deployment is in the developing world; I wonder how long handsets last there. I gather the half-life of a handset in leading markets is around 18 months. I use a t-mobile Sidekick, which is its own mixed bag of blessings and curses with respect to open standards. It’s starting to show its age, so like Norm Walsh and Tim Bray, I’m keeping an eye on OpenMoko and the like.

This One Web stuff is important. Google maps is, of course, a hugely useful Web service. At first, Javascript was a critical requirement to do anything with Google maps, and the sidekick didn’t do Javascript at all. Now the sidekick has some flakey Javascript support, but it doesn’t matter because Google Maps does unobtrusive javascript. The result is that I can use my desktop browser, 22″ monitor, and cable broadband connection to get directions; click “link to this page”; send the address to my sidekick by IM; follow the link from there; and consult the directions from the car.

Speaking of rich applications and the mobile web, W3C is holding a Mobile Ajax workshop 28 September in the San Francisco Bay area. It looks like a really cool workshop; I’m bummed that my travel schedule takes me elsewhere. Position papers are due 15 August. They don’t have to be great masterpieces, so if you have something to say on the subject, please send one in!

2 thoughts on “iPhone Developer Guidelines Promote One Web, Open Standards

  1. I was, also, very pleasantly surprised by the iPhone for Web Developers guidelines. From an non-geeks perspective [my own] Apple did it well. There has been a lot of hell being raised about iPhone only Web content and a lot of that may be based in part on lack of knowledge about what guidelines Apple has recommended and about how, under certain conditions, a business may have a need to target iPhone customers, exclusively, e.g. browser sniffing.

    Apple, I believe, may have changed the playing field with this mobile device.

    All of this brings me to the primary points — mobile technology is advancing rapidly and the “One Web” delivery via RIA or traditional Web content needs a lot of clarification. It is all getting terribly confusing. Guidance and support [simple, direct and stupid] from the W3C is needed.

    Thank you very much.

  2. I was kind of suprised with Apples lack of flash support. But I can understand where they are coming from. They are smart and they know what they are doing. The Iphone is actually a great platform to design for. A lot of my clients are opting for more support for Iphone interfaces.

    Wil Waldon
    Iphone Website Designer

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