RealTime IT News

W3C Plots Better Browsing For PDAs

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today jumpstarted a bid to make it easier to access the Web from a mobile device, a dodgy feat that threatens to thwart advanced mobile communications globally.

The standards body launched the Mobile Web Initiative to show users that it is serious about improving the quality of Internet access on handhelds, wireless pagers and smart phones.

The effort is being overseen by W3C Director and Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, who said that mobile access to the Web "has been a second class experience for far too long." Berners-Lee discussed the MWI in his keynote at the World Wide Web 2005 Conference in Chiba, Japan.

The chief problem lies in the graphical representation. Browsing the Web from a mobile device is challenged by the lack of technology, interoperability and standards to represent Web pages in form factors as small as a one-inch screen.

Unlike pinpointing information from a browser configured for desktops, the small screens of smart phones or PDAs make Web sites hard to access, if they may be accessed at all, according to the W3C.

It follows that content providers have a hard time building sites that work well on all types of Web-enabled phones because there is no suitable development standard.

Many experts believe this is one of the key barriers to broader adoption of more sophisticated mobile computing gadgets. In fact, convergent devices that combine voice, video and other Internet communication forms are supplanting traditional mobile devices, according to a new IDC report.

IDC said today that handheld device shipments decreased 12.1 percent year-over-year and fell 30.6 percent sequentially in the first quarter of 2005. Conversely, the worldwide converged mobile device market grew 134.6 percent year-over-year.

MWI will work to make sure device usability and mobile services improve even more, said Evan Smouse, director of strategic technology at HP, which is a founding sponsor. Additional founding MWI sponsors include France Telecom, MobileAware, Segala M Test, Vodafone and Volantis.

"We believe the MWI will accelerate the development of rich media content services and will be a catalyst for the next generation of engaging communications experiences," Smouse said in a statement.

The MWI will consist of two core groups. One group will write "best practices," developing guidelines and checklists to help content providers develop Web content that works on mobile devices. The "device description" group will log a database of descriptions that can be used by content authors to mold their content for a particular device.

MWI will complement W3C's work in the mobile Web space, including the creation of Web standards for multimodal interaction and profiles for mobile devices. Related standards include XHTML, SVG Mobile Profiles, and the SMIL Basic Profile.

The W3C also works on standards with the Open Mobile Alliance. Both groups share information to avoid competing standards for making it easier for users to access the Internet via mobile gadgets.