Archive for the 'reading list' Category

Reading List

Closing the gap between native and web




If Molly Holzschlag has helped you (and if you’re a webdev, she has), please help her pay for her chemotherapy. And then have a think about the morals of a first world society that doesn’t provide this to its citizens.

Reading List

A bumper reading list as I forgot to press “publish” on it last week.

Closing the gap

A look at some discussions and emerging standards that attempt to close the gap between usability of web and usability of native apps:

  • Installable webapps: extend the sandbox – a proposal by Boris Smus of Google to allow web apps that are actually on the web (rather than packaged) use extended permissions
  • Exposing privileged APIs to web content – similar to the above: “a discussion on the challenges we face in exposing privileged APIs to web content and a proposal for exposing such APIs to web pages by mitigating the risks inherent in doing so” by Rich Tibbett (Opera)
  • Enabling new types of web user experiences – “In the court of public opinion, the war between native apps and web apps appears to be over. Even though the web world is valiantly and consistently improving the web platform, the world seems to have moved on, embracing and rewarding native apps.”
  • requestAutocomplete – take my money, not my time – an article by @jaffathecake on the API that’s “a superhero in beige clothing”, eg that looks quite dull but which makes payments, especially on mobile, much easier
  • What is EME (Encrypted Media Extensions)? asks (then answers) Mozilla’s Henri Sivonen: “soon the video DRM capability will be the only thing that Silverlight and Flash have but the HTML/CSS/JS platform doesn’t”



Reading List

Apologies for the irregularity of the Reading List at the moment; September and October are autumn conference season and my schedule is bonkers.

Responsive Images

A meeting at Mozilla Paris on how to solve Responsive Images, organised and summarised by Marcos Caceres concluded

  • Browser vendors agree that srcset + DPR-switching is the right initial step forward (i.e., the 2x, 3x, etc. syntax).
  • Agreement to then consider srcset + viewport size after some implementation experience (possibly drop height syntax from srcset spec). If not implemented, Width/Height syntax to possibly be marked at risk in srcset spec.
  • Browser makers acknowledge the art-direction use case, but still think <picture> is not the right solution.
  • Adding new HTTP headers to the platform, as Client-Hints proposes to do, has had negative impact in the past – so Client Hints might need to be reworked at bit before it becomes more acceptable to browser verndors.

So initially, we’ll use something like

<img src="normal.png" 
srcset="retina.png 2x"
alt="otter vomiting">

Browsers that have “retina” displays will choose retina.png as they have 2 CSS pixels to one physical pixel. Browsers that aren’t retina, or don’t understand the new syntax, fall back to the good old src attribute.

WebKit and Blink have implemented (but not yet shipped) srcset, Mozilla is planning implemention now.

Meanwhile, an alternative “srcN” proposal has been put forward by Tab Atkins and John Mellor (excitingly, “John Mellor” was the real name of The Clash’s Joe Strummer). It claims to solve Resolution-based discrimination, Art-direction discrimination and Viewport-based discrimination usecases. Discussion here.

UK Government Web

The Cabinet Office’s Open Standards Board is recommending open standards technology. The first two to be approved are HTTP/1.1 and Unicode UTF-8. Francis Maude, the Minister, allegedly said “open standards will give us interoperable software, information and data in government and will reduce costs by encouraging competition, avoiding lock-in to suppliers or products and providing more efficient services”.

This may not be revelatory to those of us in the web world, but it’s a Good Thing for the nation.

I had the pleasure of hearing Paul Arnett (now of Twitter, previously of talking about the initiative at From The Front conference a few days ago, and thought it was a sign of schizophrenia that the same government that can allow subject experts make a world-leading governmental portal is the same government that disregards experts and its own consultation in wanting to censor the web.

I realise now that it’s the old Tory DNA: the belief in encouraging competition by economic liberalism, reducing bureaucracy, while remaining socially authoritarian and reeling from one moral panic to the other. So no change there.

Standardsy Stuff


Reading List

Reading List

Here’s your bank holiday reading list!

Reading List

Responsive images

WebKit has (partially) implemented a new attribute to our ancient chum <img> called srcset that allows authors to send a high-res image only to browsers that have high-resolution displays. It looks like this:

<img alt=… src="normal-image.jpg" srcset="better-image.jpg 2x">

That “2x” thing after the file name means that if a browser has 2 or more physical pixels per CSS pixel (eg, high resolution), it is sent better-image.jpg. If it’s not high-res, or if it’s a browser that doesn’t support srcset, it gets normal-image.jpg. There’s no JavaScript required, and it doesn’t interfere with browsers’ pre-fetch algorithms because it’s right there in the markup.

You can extend it further if you want to:

<img alt=… src=… srcset="better-image.jpg 2x, super-image.jpg 3x">

This implementation doesn’t have the horrible “pretend Media Queries” syntax that sources close to Tim Berners-Lee* called “like, a total barfmare, man”, but this is potentially a great leap forward; it saves bandwidth for the servers, stops people downloading gigantic images that they don’t need, is easy to understand and has graceful fallback.

Let’s hope it turns up in Blink, Trident and Gecko soon.

* “sources close to” is UK newspaper code for “we just made it up”.

Graceful degradation of SVG images in unsupporting browsers

Very very clever: SVG and <image> tag tricks. (Yes, <image> which the HTML5 parser aliases to <img>.)

Microdata / RDFa / “semweb” shizzle/ SEO

In The Downward Spiral of Microdata, nice Mr Manu Sporny predicts the death of “HTML5″ Microdata and the triumph of RDFa Lite now that both WebKit and Blink have dropped support for the Microdata API (which allowed JS access to Microdata).

Co-incidentally, Mr Sporny is an inventor of RDFa Lite. Personally, I don’t care which triumphs – now only Opera Presto supports the Microdata API, there is no technical reason to prefer one to the other (in fact, as Facebook supports RDFa and not microdata, so you could argue it has greater utility).

Reading List

Web Standards



Reading List



  • Call for information on the supply of Information and Communications Technology to the public sector – UK Office of Fair Trading seeks to find out “whether there are barriers to entry which make it difficult for smaller businesses to compete”, “whether public sector users face high barriers to switching suppliers, such as costs of transferring and restrictive licence agreements”, “whether some suppliers seek to limit the interoperability and use of competitor systems with their own”
  • A Gov Supreme by Jeremy Keith: “the biggest challenges of responsive design … are to do with people. Specifically, the way that people work together.”
  • Leaked letter shows ISPs and government at war – BBC report on the UK government’s “think of the children” pretext for Web censorship
  • The web: less engine, more gas – “we look like magpies constantly alighting on the next shiny thing, losing sight of the bigger picture”


PS: We just released a preview of Opera 16. Here’s a comparison video made by Austin Evans, a technology video producer on Youtube, comparing Opera 15, Firefox 22, Chrome 27 and IE 10. He tested the browsers’ speed, security and performance in a variety of ways.

Reading List

If you’re in the UK and are interested in the Web, the Speak The Web conference will be in Nottingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester this month, for a very small sum of money. What’s really surprising, of course, is that there is anyone outside Brighton who does any Web work.

Standards ‘n’ shizz

Reading List

What a week, eh? Some people called Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had a baby, and Instagram announced 15 second videos. And if that were not exciting – nay, dispruptively paradigm-shifting game-changing enough – check out these hot links!



  1. That Old-Skool Smell from Alex Russell – which sounds like an ad for a new fragrance, but it’s a blog post about how to reform W3C to work better
  2. That Old-Skool Smell, Part 2…and he follows it up with a second.
  3. …which Karl Dubost doesn’t like, saying W3C, we can improve it together