Archive for December, 2008

Predictions for the mobile web in 2009

Whether it be newspapers, the gogglebox or the Interweb, now is the time that pundits everywhere write their predictions for the next year.

Most are wrong. Mine are right.

Hurray! A new bandwagon

We’ll see more companies realising the incredible pentration of mobile phones. Worldwide, there are far more phones than there are computers – some 73 million people in China (29% of its Internet-connected population) use only a mobile to connect to the web. (Source: The Economist, citing the China Internet Network Information Centre.) Given the relative difference in costs between a phone and a computer and the looming recession, mobiles will continue to dominate.

We’ll see lots of fumbling around as people work out how to serve these mobile users. There will be “mobile versions” of sites that attempt to use GPS information to serve location-based information to mobiles, but this year we’ve seen notebook sales outstrip desktop sales so these are portable devices that can equally benefit from location-based services, yet they’re not mobiles. Confusion will ensue, just as it did in the early years of this decade when people made allegedly separate-but-equal “accessible versions” of sites.

More and more mobile users come online

We’ll see consolidation/ continuation of trends we’ve seen in 2008: exponential growth in the number of mobile users and the number of web pages each user consumes will continue to rise. The next billion human beings who come online will do so with a mobile device, and the majority will be in the developing world where we already see the highest growth: page views per user in Indonesia and the Philippines are significantly higher than the worldwide numbers—growing more than 1120% in the Philippines this year, for example. Libya saw 3780% growth in 2008. (Source: Opera’s State of the Mobile Web reports taken from aggregated statistics from the Opera Mini servers.)

One world, one web (let’s get together and feel alright)

We know that users across the world want the same kind of services on their mobiles: trustworthy news sites (BBC) and uncensored information sites (wikipedia), search (Yahoo/ Google) and social networking (different territories have different favourites: Indonesia favours Friendster, India and Brazil favour Orkut, others like Facebook). Users do not like stripped-down “mobile-versions” of sites. They want the full web, on their phones (even older models that are not Smartphones). This is the same in the developed world and the developing world. No more “separate but equal”, thank you very much.

So we’ll see lots of interest from browser manufacturers in the mobile space (Microsoft, Google Android, Mozilla’s Fennec), encouraging competition and helping make mobile web mainstream. Site owners will be looking to tap these developing markets, and require developers who know how to do mobile development, of whom there aren’t many.

Using web standards to develop single websites that can be consumed by any device will prove to be the most cost-effective development methodology, just as it is accepted to be the best way to develop sites that are accessible to people with disabilities. The question is whether developers will get that message in 2009.

Surprise success for Internet Explorer 6 Mobile

After its 2009 launch in China, IE 6 mobile will be rolled out and embedded in such diverse places as a GPS system for the Penny Farthing, a migration tracking device for Dodos, and a web-enabled 8-track cartridge and Betamax home entertainment system.

So have a happy Hogmenay. Try not to die in 2009. xxx

Cooking cow placenta soup

I’ve been hibernating over Consumerfest in my wife’s family farm in Chiang Rai, on the lush green mountainous fringes of the Golden Triangle (the border of Thailand, Laos and Burma) where I could pick starfruit, limes and bananas from trees in the garden. (It’s not all idyllic of course: AIDs and prostitution have a terrible effect on the area as I documented in my inaugural blog post Harvesting the young rice.)

On Consumerfest eve, one of my sister-in-law’s cows had a baby (which we called “Christmas”) and, this being Thailand where “if it’s got four legs and it’s not a chair, we eat it”, the placenta was too good a raw material for a meal to be left in the fields.

So here’s how to cook cow placenta soup.

  1. Take placenta
  2. Wash it thoroughly
  3. Boil for an hour to soften it
  4. Cut galangal and herbs, add to pot
  5. Chop all into bite-size pieces
  6. Simmer for an hour
  7. Serve with minced raw buffalo in its own blood
  8. Add toast and coffee for a delicious Christmas breakfast

How did it taste? Not as nice as it sounds, but not too revolting, actually. It reminded me of liver with its offal taste and also of heart’s chewy texture. Basically, the cheaper cuts of meat that most of the UK abandoned fifty years ago when most people got rich enough to eat chicken and other less internal cuts of meat. The minced raw buffalo is like spicy steak tartare.

Christmas dinner was more traditionally English: I barbequed six chickens stuffed with sage and onion, and we cooked roast potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower with Christmas pudding and cake.

Hibernation

So, November’s been a big month—I’ve had a birthday and a cold, helped release Opera 10 alpha (Web Fonts, 100/100 Acid 3 and 30% faster…) and the draft British Accessibility Standard. I’ve been to Oslo twice, and toured Indonesia.

It’s been exhilarating, eye-opening and fun, but has taken its toll physically, so I’m officially hibernating until New Year to keep them pesky scleroses at bay.

If you need any contact with Opera until then, please seek out Chris Mills who can help. If you email me and would like an urgent response, please re-send it on the 28 December so it’s top o’the inbox.

If you find you’re missing me terribly, next week ZDnet UK will publish my first monthly column—a look at HTML 5 called “Will 2008 prove the year the web grew up?”.

Finally, have a Merry Consumerfest, regardless of which invisible friend in the sky your version of Consumerfest is dedicated to (if any). As regular readers know, I don’t send cards; I think sending pre-packaged sentiments directly into landfill via road and plane is wasteful, so I give the money to charity instead. This year I’m sending a few quid to a charity that my friend Henny is involved with called Stuff for Sam, which

is about raising money for our 4 year old friend Sam who was paralysed in a car accident in 2005. We hope to raise £30k to help buy him special equipment to stimulate and help him develop.

They’re nearly at that target if you feel like helping too.

See ya.

xxx

BS 8878: draft British accessibility standard for public comment

The British Standards Institution is inviting all interested parties, and in particular marketing professionals and disabled web users, to review and comment on the draft of a new standard on accessible web content. DPC BS 8878 Web accessibility – Building accessible experiences for disabled people – Code of Practice is applicable to all public and private organizations wishing to offer accessible, usable web content to their customers,

Based on PAS 78: 2006, Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites, DPC BS 8878 informs organizations of their legal responsibilities in relation to web accessibility, calling on them to appoint a specific person or department to oversee activity.

Julie Howell, Chair of the committee responsible for drafting DPC BS 8878, commented, “Once published, this standard will be a fantastic tool for organizations wishing to understand their responsibilities in enabling disabled people to use web content. DPC BS 8878 encourages the enhancement of the overall user experience – a much more holistic approach than we have seen previously and one that I hope will yield exciting results. Right now we want to encourage as many people as possible to read and comment on the draft standard to ensure it is as relevant as possible.”

IST/45, the BSI committee responsible for BS 8878, comprised representatives from: AbilityNet; BBC; British Computer Association of the Blind; British Dyslexia Association; Chartered Institute of Marketing; Employers Forum on Disability; Equality and Human Rights Commission; IBM; Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG); Lloyds TSB; Opera; Pinsent Masons; Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID); United Response; University of Salford; University of Southampton; Usability Professionals Association (UPA); Web Standards Project (WaSP).

Read the full media release: BSI British Standards invites comments on new draft standard on accessible web content.