The Apple stories just don’t stop coming, do they? Here’s yet another provocative issue concerning the company, but this time with web development: the iPhone is the new Internet Explorer 6, according to Peter Paul Koch.
The iPhone has become an obsession. If we don’t pay attention, we’ll have a mobile web that only works on the iPhone. And then we’ll have the real mobile web that wasn’t made by us and doesn’t give a shit about web standards and best practices.
Worse, it seems web developers are happy with this state of affairs. It seems web developers are congratulating themselves on excluding 85% of the smartphone users. They certainly never bother to check their sites in S60 WebKit, the largest smartphone browser in the world.
We’re doing exactly the same as ten years ago. We now say “iPhone” instead of “IE6,” but otherwise nothing’s changed.
No, wait, there’s one more change: the iPhone has far less mobile market share now than IE6 had desktop share back then.
The once most advanced browser is now the most hated, and the same fate could happen with the iPhone and its mobile web browser. However, given that they were made by two very different companies—the oft-hated Microsoft and the much-adored Apple—it’s hard to imagine the revolutionary smartphone gaining a stigma someday. An interesting achievement if that does somehow happen, but what an unfortunate future that would be.
Still, I have two points to make. First: I’m glad that a reputable voice is finally calling out this obsession with creating custom-tailored websites for the iPhone, when it’s supposed to have the most advanced browser, displaying pages as they normally would on a regular computer. Chances are you don’t have to. That’s what the multitouch zoom gesture is for, so that the screen size wouldn’t be such a hindrance.
Second: hype, here we go again. PPK draws back the curtain and tells us that there are other devices far more popular than the iPhone, yet the buzz about mobile web development is strongest with iPhone apps and iPhone app-like websites. It goes against the very idea of web standards, of making websites work in as many platforms as possible, not just what gains the most attention and is considered cool. (As an aside: what can be said about implementing CSS3 properties via browser-specific extensions? Is it the same thing?)
Finally, a minor third point: Koch isn’t addressing every mobile web developer in his article, just the ones that are so caught up in this iPhone-loving bubble that it’d be a shame when they mislead impressionable developers branching out to the mobile arena.
And a far worse shame if because of the hype we somehow get stuck in the rut that is IE6 all over again.