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W3C Eyes Mobile Web Initiative

Firm in its resolve that more and more users will access the Internet with mobile devices, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) said it is considering a new effort to make Web access on a mobile device as easy it is on a personal computer.

W3C spokeswoman Janet Daly said the W3C Mobile Web Initiative will be the central conversation piece at a workshop on Nov. 18 and 19 in Barcelona, Spain.

The informal meeting, sponsored by HP, Orange, Vodafone and Volantis, will include more than 40 participants who will hold forth on how to remove the constraints of accessing the Web with different handheld devices.

Accessing the Web via most personal digital assistants, smartphones or wireless pagers has been a challenging confluence of button pushing. Moreover, when users do push the right buttons to access a Web site or download a music video, the rendering of the content is often poor because of the small screen.

For example, Web sites are either not accessible or not easy to navigate on mobile phones and content providers have a hard time building Web sites that work well on all types and configurations of Web-enabled mobile phones. Accessing the Internet in cars is another focus area.

This work is important because consumers and corporate employees are increasingly using mobile gadgets to transfer money or send, receive or download timetables, product information and e-mail.

The idea behind the Mobile Web Initiative in a way is testing the water for a possible new major Web initiative workshop out of the W3C, Daly told internetnews.com.

The W3C has conducted a variety of mobile-oriented workshops that were broader in focus, but this is the one where the attendees will do a gut-check on what they've accomplished so far.

"What's left to do to make this a thriving environment for mobile users that's going to give them the convenience, the pleasure and the productivity that they want out of the Web," Daly said.

Daly said work on accessing the Web from mobile gadgets began in 1998, spurred on by the WAP Forum, whose early approach to mobilizing Web access failed. Its model included rewriting the protocol stack without using the Internet.

WAP is now the Open Mobile Alliance, and it will collocate the mobile workshop with the W3C in Spain. OMA employs the IP stack, and this past summer, W3C and OMA agreed to collaborate on specs for mobile data services.

The W3C, meanwhile, has focused on mobile Web access with such schemas as the Voice Browser, which yielded Voice XML 2.0. This led to a suite of specs, such as the Speech Interface Framework, pieces of which are still in development.