Monday, December 20, 2010

8 Tools For Easily Creating a Mobile Version of Your Website

As an entrepreneur, you’re most likely always on the lookout for new developments. Perhaps your customers are reporting that your site needs a mobile version so that they can visit it while they’re on the go, or maybe you recently saw a competitor’s site through your mobile device; it looked slick, and now you’re feeling outclassed.

The mobile web is burgeoning. Usage of iOS, the operating system for Apple mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad, almost doubled in just seven months (from March 2010 to October 2010), according to Netmarketshare. This is an indicator of just how many people are browsing websites, more and more, through their mobile devices instead of their computers.

Small businesses should be on top of this trend. To help out, we’ve compiled a list of easy-to-use tools for creating mobile sites. The tools in this list were purposely chosen for ease of use — that is, they’re all aimed at site owners who don’t have any web development/coding experience. They’re perfect solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses because of their cost effectiveness (and most are even free).

How These Tools Work

Most of the tools below have graphical user interfaces and copy-and-paste code blocks that can be installed on your site quite easily. If you can install a tool like Google Analytics on your site yourself, you’ll be able to use these tools.

These tools work by detecting the user agent of your site visitors, which is just fancy talk for finding out whether a visitor is using a regular web browser or a mobile web browser. If the user agent is a mobile browser, users are redirected to your website’s mobile version. The common practice is to assign the mobile version of your site with a sub-domain as such In this manner, your site traffic is forked into two segments, giving all of your site visitors an optimal browsing experience.

1. Mobify

Mobify allows you to create a mobile version of your website through an intuitive and user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI). Setup is a breeze, and you can have your very own mobile site in minutes.

If you run an e-commerce store, even better! Mobify has the Mobile Commerce platform that’s geared specifically toward e-stores for the mobile web.

Mobify runs on a freemium model, but its free version is very generous and includes the option for a custom domain (such as The paid plans start at $249 per month and include features such as the removal of the Mobify logo on your mobile site, mobile analytics for reporting site traffic stats, and so on.

2. Wirenode

Companies such as Ford, Nokia and Reebok use Wirenode, a mobile website generator that has helped more than 50,000 websites create mobile-device-friendly versions of their sites.

Its free plan has a user-friendly editor for designing your mobile site, free hosting for up to three mobile sites, website statistics reporting, and more. The paid plans start at 15 Euros per month (about $19.80 USD), with upgrades such as support for custom domains and the removal of Wirenode advertisements.

3. Mippin Mobilizer

If you’re strapped for time, Mippin Mobilizer is a no-frills tool that will take you minutes to use. All you have to do is enter your site’s RSS feed URL, configure some options, sign up for an account, install some code on your site, and you’re done! As you set up your mobile site, it has a live preview on the right-hand-side so that you can see the progression of your site’s design as you configure it.

4. Onbile

Onbile promises that you can have a mobile version of your site in five minutes or less. It delivers this promise by giving you an intuitive user interface for constructing your mobile site and a custom-generated script to paste into your index page so that when mobile device users visit your site, they are redirected to the mobile version. You can select one of 13 customizable templates as a starting point for your mobile site design.

5. Winksite

If you’re interested in creating an online community based around your mobile site, check out Winksite, a web app for building a mobile community for your website.

It even generates your very own QR code, a two-dimensional code readable by mobile devices with QR scanners and used to automatically pull up text, photos, videos, music and URLs. There are many ways to use QR codes for small business marketing. You can print your QR code on your business card, print ads and other branding materials, and when mobile users want to visit your mobile site, they just need to use their mobile device cameras to scan the QR code.

If you would like to generate a QR code without having to use Winksite, check out this free web-based tool called QR-Code Generator.

6. MobilePress

Do you use the WordPress publishing platform for your website? If so, you’re in luck because there’s a bevy of plug-and-play WordPress plugins for automatically generating a mobile version of your website. One such plugin is MobilePress, a free WordPress plugin for creating a mobile theme for your WordPress-powered site. Another WordPress plugin to consider is WordPress Mobile Edition.

7. iWebKit

iWebKit is a simple framework for creating your own iPhone/iPod touch apps. It can be used to create an app like Mashable’s iPhone app, for example.

Though iWebKit can be used by anyone, even without knowledge of HTML, it isn’t as user-friendly as the other tools mentioned above and requires that you download and install the app as well as read the user manual. But for a small time investment (no cash needed, the iWebKit framework is free), you can have your very own iPhone app just like the big kids.

8. MoFuse

MoFuse is loaded with a large set of features for building and managing your mobile site. It’s aimed at agencies, news media, and small- and medium-sized businesses. Prices range from $7.95 to $199 per month and include features such as site analytics reporting, support for more than 5,000 different mobile devices, customer support, a QR code manager, and more.

Bonus: Resources for Testing and Evaluation

Once you use one of the tools above and have your very own mobile version of your main site, it’s a good practice to ensure that everything’s in order. Here are additional tools and resources for testing and evaluating your new mobile website.

  • mobiReady – This tool will test your site for dotMobi compliance and W3C mobileOK compliance, sets of mobile website standards that ensure an optimal and accessible mobile-site user experience. It also looks for errors and gives you a user-friendly report of any errors discovered. It’s easy to use — just plug in the URL of your mobile site.
  • W3C mobileOK Checker – W3C has an official tool for checking a mobile site’s “mobile-friendliness”.
  • iPad Peek – Don’t have an iPad? That’s quite alright, you can still see how your mobile site looks through the popular Apple mobile device using this tool that emulates what people see on the iPad.
  • Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 – W3C, the standards body for many of the web’s technologies (such as CSS, HTML and JavaScript), has a document that outlines mobile web best practices. This is aimed at web developers and can be a pretty dry read, but it’s worth a few moments to read and look over it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hotmail Gets Interactive, Runs JavaScript Within E-mails

Windows Live has just announced something new for Hotmail: Interactive e-mail.

The e-mail giant is allowing developers to embed and run JavaScript from within e-mails; this is the natural next step in e-mail’s evolution from plain text to HTML and beyond.

What this means for the average e-mail recipient is that more of the messages they receive will be increasingly up-to-date, and content will be interactive. If the developer sending the e-mail is hip to Hotmail’s changes, you’ll be able to take actions from within the e-mail itself without having to navigate to a slew of other web pages. Basically, the new Hotmail e-mails will look, feel and behave like a web page running within an e-mail.

It’s a cool update, and it also has the potential to keep Hotmail more competitive with Google’s Gmail, which offers users previews of content from Flickr and YouTube within e-mails.

The problem with running JavaScript in e-mails, of course, is security: How can Hotmail protect users from malicious code? Windows Live Active Views is a product aimed at answering this question.

While we’d love to know more about what exactly Active Views is and how it does what it does, all Microsoft has told us so far is that Active Views uses “technology that allows senders to run code securely in their email messages.” That’s a pretty vague statement about a pretty cool feature; we’ll let you know when we learn more.

Orbitz and will be the first two companies to use the new interactive e-mail platform from Hotmail, with LinkedIn and Netflix jumping on the bandwagon soon. Here’s a quick demo of the product:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

10 Chrome Web Apps to Check Out

The Google Chrome Web Store has only been open for a few hours, and already hundreds of apps are available to use.

To be fair, not every app offers a new experience; some are merely bookmarks to existing web apps. There are already a number of apps, however, that really push the boundaries of what we expect from a web app, offering new, optimized experiences and tight browser integration.

The great thing about web apps is that you don’t necessarily have to use Google Chrome to benefit from these great interfaces. Some of the apps do use Chrome-specific optimizations, but most will work identically in Safari or Firefox 4 beta.

Here are 10 Chrome web apps that we think are worth exploring:


Why It's Awesome: SlideRocket is a fantastic web app that lets you create robust, media-rich presentations in your web browser. SlideRocket even has a new HTML5 slide viewer optimized for the iPad.

What makes the Chrome app extra cool is that SlideRocket lets you sign in with your Google or Google Apps account instantly. Plus, the Google connection means that the app can now easily integrate with your Google address book (perfect for sharing a presentation or adding collaborators) and you can access real-time Google feeds to integrate into your slide deck.

Sports Illustrated Snapshot

Why It's Awesome: The Sports Illustrated Snapshot app really showcases just how jaw-dropping high-speed sports photography can be. Every day, new photos are hand-picked and captioned and added to the various channels in the app. Plus, users can purchase access to curated images from the archives or from big events like the Super Bowl.

We love the way the app flows; it would look at home on a tablet.


Why It's Awesome: Sony's web video service offers a great blend of original series, movies, TV shows and shorts. The Crackle Google Chrome app is keyboard friendly and easy to browse, and it offers a really robust lean-back experience. We could easily see this app on a Chrome-enabled set-top box.


Why It's Awesome: Springpad is kind of like a mashup between Evernote and Zootool. You can capture information from various sources for your own personal notebooks, set reminders that can then be tweeted to you and create information or organize data around your Facebook contacts.

The Springpad Chrome app really becomes cool when you use it with the Springpad Chrome extension. Capturing, collating and referencing your information is a snap.

HuffingtonPost NewsGlide

Why It's Awesome: If we were the Huffington Post, we would make the NewsGlide Chrome app our iPad app. It flows well, pulls up content in an attractive way and is easy to navigate.


Why It's Awesome: Clicker's Chrome app is actually optimized for remote controls or keyboards. That makes it a really hot addition to a home media PC. You can easily navigate without using a mouse, search for content and play back your favorite shows from the available sources without missing a beat.

A netbook running Clicker hooked up to an HDTV would kind of be like what Google TV was supposed to be.


Why It's Awesome: TweetDeck has been promising to take an HTML5 approach to its web and mobile apps for quite some time. The Chrome app brings that plan to fruition. Not only can you log in with your existing TweetDeck account, you can also import information from the TweetDeck Air app.

The Chrome app might not replace TweetDeck for diehard users, but think about this: This is portable. Now, if you're on someone else's computer, you can access your TweetDeck columns from within Chrome. Snazzy.

Why It's Awesome: has apps for Adobe Air, Windows 7, iOS and Windows Phone 7 already, but the Chrome web app brings the comic viewing, purchasing and sharing experience to the browser. has lots of deals with some of the top comic book publishers to deliver comics that can be read and synced across your devices. You can also download free comics and comic previews. The Chrome app integrates with the other apps and lets you take advantage of the special Flow view.


Why It's Awesome: We already discussed the MOG app, but we wanted to give it another shout-out for creating an entirely new interface for Chrome or Safari users.

New York Times

Why It's Awesome: Frankly, we wish all newspaper websites looked this good. With keyboard shortcuts, layout choices and support for multi-touch, the New York Times app really manages to create a fantastic web app experience that helps you forget you're in a web browser.


Monday, November 22, 2010

A bridge to the cloud: Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office now available to early testers

Tens of millions of people have moved to Google Docs because it’s 100% web: it provides real-time collaboration in the browser, with no software to install, manage or upgrade. Of course, we know that many more of you still use Microsoft Office, because until recently, there weren’t many tools to help you collaborate and share with others. Now there’s more choice.

To help smooth the transition from Office to the cloud, my teammates and I founded a company called DocVerse, which was acquired by Google earlier this year. Over the last 9 months, we’ve been hard at work moving the DocVerse product to Google’s infrastructure. We’ve also renamed it Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office. Today, we’re pleased to take the next step towards a public launch and make it available to early testers.

For those of you who have not made the full move to Google Docs and are still using Microsoft Office, Google has something great to offer. With Cloud Connect, people can continue to use the familiar Office interface, while reaping many of the benefits of web-based collaboration that Google Docs users already enjoy.

Users of Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 can sync their Office documents to the Google cloud, without ever leaving Office. Once synced, documents are backed-up, given a unique URL, and can be accessed from anywhere (including mobile devices) at any time through Google Docs. And because the files are stored in the cloud, people always have access to the current version.

Once in the Google cloud, documents can be easily shared and even simultaneously edited by multiple people, from right within Office. A full revision history is kept as the files are edited, and users can revert to earlier versions in one click. These are all features that Google Docs users already enjoy today, and now we’re bringing them to Microsoft Office.

All you need is a Google account, and you’re ready to go. That’s it!

If you’re a Google Apps for Business customer interested in joining our preview program, please sign up here. If you’re not, don’t worry- at launch, Google Cloud Connect will be available free to everyone, including consumers.

Posted by Shan Sinha, Group Product Manager on Google Docs Blog

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Oracle Announces Release Date for Java 7

java_logo_oct10.jpg Today, Oracle announced that the Java Development Kit (JDK) 7 will be generally available on July 28, 2011. Yesterday, the company submitted the specs for Java 7 and 8 to the Java Community Process Executive Committee for approval. According to Java Chief architect Mark Reinhold's blog, the 'results should be available in two weeks.' However, as we reported recently, the Apache Software Foundation is threatening to vote against the approval of Java 7.

According to the submission materials, here's what Oracle intends to improve upon in the Java 7:

Continually improving the productivity of Java developers is critical to keeping the Java SE platform at the forefront of software development.

Exploiting the opportunities of multicore CPUs in a way that is safe and practical for developers is essential for all Java applications.

With the advent of new programming languages on the JVM it is important for the JVM to reflect the needs of language implementors, and that the Java language be able to interoperate with those languages.

In order to provide a competitive user experience Java applications sometimes need the ability to access and manipulate, in a controlled and testable fashion, the native semantics of the file system of the underlying platform.

And, also from submission materials, here's what it intends to improve in Java 8:

Exploiting the opportunities of multi-core CPUs in a way that is safe and practical for programmers is essential for all Java applications.

Modularity is a fundamental building block for developing, deploying, managing, and evolving all Java applications. Existing frameworks and tools support these tasks today, but standardization in the Java SE Platform would promote interoperability and benefit developers, users, and vendors.


Happy 25th Anniversary, Microsoft Windows

Windows 1.0

It was 25 years ago today that Microsoft released Windows 1.0. The world’s most popular operating system has gone through a number of versions since then, and the next iteration, Windows 8, is expected within 2 years.

At the time it launched, Windows actually wasn’t a full operating system. Rather, it was a graphical user interface (GUI) that ran on top of DOS. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said at launch that Windows 1.0, which carried a suggested retail price of $99 in 1985, was “unique software” that would provide “unprecedented power to users today and a foundation for hardware and software advancements of the next few years.” (You can read the full, 32-page Windows 1.0 press kit at this link.)

While that uniqueness has long been up for debate, it is certainly easy to argue that Gates was right about Windows laying a foundation for the future of the personal computer. Windows has been the dominant operating system for the past two decades. Its future as such, however, is in doubt. Computing seems to be undergoing a fundamental shift away from the PC paradigm and toward mobile and tablet-based interfaces.

The graphic below, from ZDNet UK, illustrates the progression of Windows from November 20, 1985 to today.

The following image is a screenshot of Windows 1.0, which sat on top of Microsoft’s command-line operating system, MS-DOS.


Friday, November 5, 2010


want to browse sites that work with MS Silverlight while you are in linux and u don't know how
Moonlight is the Linux version for Microsoft Silverlight

Friday, October 22, 2010

Microsoft to Launch Browser-based Game Store


On November 15 Microsoft will launch Games for Windows Marketplace, an online store that will let users buy digital copies of games directly from the browser.
Besides online access from any computer, key features of the store are “ultra-fast” downloads, search by titles or by genres, clean navigation as well as deals and discounts, including “Deal of the Week” and other recurring and seasonal offers.
Users will be able to purchase games with their Microsoft Points or a credit card.
The Games for Windows Marketplace is, in a way, a browser-based version of Microsoft’s Windows Games on Demand store, which is a part of its Games for Windows Live online service. By placing the store in a browser, Microsoft eliminates a couple of steps needed to purchase a game.
“With Games for Windows Marketplace, we set out to create a digital store built for PC gamers end-to-end. And by integrating with our existing Xbox LIVE and Windows Live services, we’ve made it easier than ever for millions of gamers to see for themselves how easy buying PC games can be”, said Kevin Unangst, senior global director of PC and Mobile Gaming at Microsoft.
At launch, there will be about 100 games available at the store, including Grand Theft Auto III, Dead Rising 2, Lost Planet 2, Max Payne, Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition, Flight Simulator, Gears of War, Halo, Zoo Tycoon, Fable III, Age of Empires Online and Microsoft Flight.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New MacBook Airs Are Like iPads With Keyboards [PICS]

Today Apple ended weeks of speculation surrounding updates to the MacBook Air. The lineup will be expanded to feature an 11.6-inch entry model and a more substantial 13.3-inch model. Pricing for the 13.3-inch model will start at $1,299, compared to just $999 for the 11.6-inch MacBook Air.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was quick to point out that the new MacBook Air is a logical step beyond the iPad. Gone is the clunky button found at the base of previous MacBook Air models. The new versions now feature the same smooth, clickable trackpads available on every other MacBook and MacBook Pro.

The trackpads are capable of enhanced multitouch functionality similar to that found on the iPad. That said, the MacBook Air is substantially more powerful than any iOS device.

MacBook Air Standard Features

Both models will include:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo CPU
  • Nvidia GeForce 320m GPU
  • Solid state storage
  • 2GB DDR3 memory (expandable to 4GB)
  • Instant-on capabilities
  • FaceTime Camera (formerly iSight)
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • Up to 30 days of standby battery life

11.6-inch MacBook Air

Its display is capable of a 1336 x 768 resolution and it has a battery that will last for five hours. This model comes with either a 64GB hard drive for $999 or a 128GB hard drive for $1,199. Both models feature a 1.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, but the 128GB model is upgradeable to 1.6Ghz for another $100.

13.2-inch MacBook Air

The 13.2-inch models featuring a 1440 x 900 resolution display, with larger batteries capable of running for seven hours. They come with 1.86Ghz processors and start at 128GB for $1,299, but it’s expandable to 256GB for $1,599. The 256GB 13.2-inch MacBook Air can also be upgraded to a 2.13Ghz processor.

Both of the new MacBook Airs are available today.

MacBook Airs Back-to-Back

MacBook Airs Side-by-Side

MacBook Air Keyboard

MacBook Air Right

MacBook Air Left

MacBook Air Top


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

HP Unveils webOS 2.0

In addition to announcing the Palm Pre 2 Tuesday, HP announced webOS 2.0, which the company claims is the most significant update to the platform since its launch in 2009.

HP purchased Palm back in April, largely because of the promise of its mobile software platform, webOS. Visually, webOS 2.0 retains the flourish of its predecessor, but operationally it’s a lot more robust.

HP is bringing webOS 2.0 first to SFR in France via the new Palm Pre 2. The Palm Pre 2 will hit Verizon later this year. HP says existing customers can expect the webOS 2.0 update to arrive “in the coming months.”

So what’s new in webOS 2.0? The Palm Pre 2 page has a pretty good explanation, but here are some highlights:

  • Stacks – This is webOS 2.0’s take on multitasking. HP calls this “true multitasking” (in other words, preemptive), which is what webOS 1.0 had before. It’s a way to organize and keep related items together. So if you are trying to open up a webpage or create a new calendar event based on information from an e-mail, you can group all of those items together in one stack.
  • Just Type – Just Type is a new mechanism that lets you start typing before opening an app. You can then choose a Quick Action like sending an e-mail or a text message or doing a web search. Basically it’s Quicksilver on your phone.
  • Adobe Flash Player 10.1 Beta – Like Android and the BlackBerry PlayBook, webOS supports a beta of Flash Player 10.1. Adobe has long demoed Flash 10.1 on webOS devices, but now it’s baked into the web browser.
  • Skype Mobile – Verizon customers will get access to Skype-to-Skype calls and messaging and low-cost long-distance calls. This is an extension of the Verizon/Skype partnership.
  • QuickOffice Connect – The office viewer that we love on iOS and Android is now on webOS.
  • Facebook 2.0 – This will be available in the App Catalog and offer support for Facebook IM via the built-in Messaging application and support Stacks and Just Type Quick Actions.
  • Updated Browser – The WebKit-based browser has been updated to include more HTML5 and geolocation support.
  • VPN – WebOS will now connect to corporate networks, including IPsec and Cisco AnyConnect mobile-optimized VPNs.
  • Bluetooth keyboard support — Like iOS 4, webOS 2.0 supports Bluetooth keyboards and other Bluetooth peripherals.

The new Synergy feature is one of the cooler new software features for keeping contacts and calendars updated. You can automatically sync your Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Exchange info. If a contact’s information changes in one place, you’ll see it updated on your phone. This is pretty similar to what companies like Xobni and Meshin are doing, but it’s built-in at the OS level.

We don’t have a webOS 2.0 device in our hands, but our friends at PreCentral have a pretty exhaustive review of the new update and they seem pretty impressed.

We’ve always been fans of webOS as an operating system. The problem has been inspiring developer interest in the platform and making sure the hardware is both powerful enough to run the OS and well-made enough not to break or be unreliable.

WebOS 2.0 seems to have a lot going for it, but as I noted on the “Briefly Awesome” podcast last week, it seems prime for a tablet device. That’s where we want to see webOS, and where we think it has its best shot of being an inviting platform for application developers and users.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

8 Photoshop Tutorials for Retouching Your Profile Pic


Yes, you’re beautiful exactly the way you are. But that was true when you woke up this morning, and it likely didn’t stop you from showering, brushing your teeth, and otherwise spiffing up a bit.

Why not spruce up your online appearance as well? Even if you don’t have a magazine photo team to touch up your photo, it’s easy to make a couple of quick enhancements with basic Photoshop knowledge (just please don’t go too crazy — your friends should be able to pick you out of a lineup).

Whether you want to remove acne or add a tattoo — these eight tutorials will teach you how to retouch your photos like a pro.

1. Change Your Hair Color

Get opinions on a new color before you actually commit to the switch. This tutorial outlines the basic technique for giving yourself a digital dye job.

2. Remove Wrinkles

This tutorial lets you take your pick of two techniques for removing fine lines. One uses the patch tool and the other uses the healing tool. Both also work for removing the dark circles under eyes.

3. Remove Acne

This quick tutorial teaches you how to use the healing tool to quickly remove acne.

4. Apply Makeup

If you are better at Photoshop than applying makeup, then primping post-photo might be more effective than painting your face before the photo. This short video walks through how to change your eye color, lip color, and add a natural blush. Warning: If you don’t like techno music, turn your volume off.

5. Enhance Eyes

Want movie star photo eyes? Then use movie star Photoshop techniques: This technique uses the curve tools to brighten your irises and creates a mock pupil.

6. Soften Skin

If you finish the easy acne removal tutorial and still aren’t satisfied, these techniques for improving the appearance of your skin should do the trick. The tutorial walks you through three different types of blur techniques so that you can decide which you like best.

7. Whiten Teeth

If you care about your teeth, but not enough to undergo an expensive dental procedure, this tutorial is for you. Simply lasso your pearly whites and adjust their color via curves.

8. Add a Tattoo

If you are trying to give your mother a heart attack or pretend that you are tougher than you really are, it might be easier to learn how to put a tattoo on a picture than to actually sit through the needle-intensive process. This tutorial will teach you how to make it look realistic. Because there is nothing worse than a cheesy-looking, fake tattoo.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

4 Game-Changing Trends in Web App Design

Web applications are one of the greatest revelations of the Internet. It’s a development that is largely specific to the Web 2.0 era, but their significance will be in effect for generations.

The web app is a signifier of a fundamental shift in computing. It’s representative of the cloud and our newfound ability to decentralize our technical lives and spread ourselves across desktop computers, mobile devices and pretty much anything else connected to the Internet.

But web apps are driven by trends, and trends move fast. So if you’re slaving away on a mobile app, here are four trends that you might want to consider before coding yourself into irrelevance.

1. Location

It’s not that location started with Foursquare, but it took Foursquare’s simple badge system to make the world pay attention. If your web app isn’t location aware, people are far less likely to be aware of it. With web juggernauts like Facebook launching Places and Google shifting product rockstar Marissa Mayer to location and local services, it’s safe to bet on geolocation.

These days, it’s easier than ever to to make your app location aware. HTML5 features a native location protocol (try finding yourself with an HTML5-compliant browser), and with a few easy lines of JavaScript, your app can be pegging latitudes and longitudes in no time. And, according to SimpleGeo’s Andrew Mager, HTML5’s location protocol is doubly useful for mobile web apps, because it doesn’t hog battery resources by constantly running GPS.

2. Data Portability

Internet dwellers have railed against the classic walled gardens of the web for years. It stands to reason then, that as we entered the Web 2.0 era, developers should have been prepared for this. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and, while your data is your data, there was a long period where you could only use it in the place it was created.

Now, there has been a gradual shift toward portability and many of the once guilty parties are taking steps to enable you to take your data with you wherever you choose. Services like Posterous have strongly pushed the envelope here in getting developers to ease up, but those initiatives were still, in several cases, stonewalled.

It wasn’t until October 6, when Facebook got hip to data portability, that this became a true trend. That announcement should be considered a death knell to any web app hoping to make a buck while keeping user data proprietary.

3. Mobility

It’s happening so fast that it’s hard to see the lines beginning to blur, but web apps and mobile apps are becoming indistinguishable from one another. Sure you can install an app on your Android or iOS device, but some of the best mobile implementations have avoided coding unique apps and focused on the mobile functionality of their web apps.

Perhaps the most shining example of this transition is Shaun Inman’s Fever. This RSS reader installs directly on your web server and is arguably the best RSS reader on the face of the planet. It’s also fully functional on most modern mobile devices by simply visiting the same URL that you’ve set the reader up on. No extra lifting, just one unified experience.

4. HTML5

It might not be completely ready for primetime yet, but if you’re not preparing for HTML5, you’re preparing for obsolescence. Incorporating features that make many of the oldest bastions of web plugins redundant, HTML5 is the future of the web. Video playback, geolocation, drag-and-drop media and more are all built-in.

When the the World Wide Web Consortium finally ratifies the HTML5 standard, you’ll probably start hearing more talk of Web 3.0 than you can possibly stand.

These four trends are some of the biggest ones in the web app world right now. Add your own thoughts on trends that are revolutionizing the way we create and use web apps in the comments below.


Top 5 Developer Questions About HTML5 Answered

HTML Questions Image

Paul Gubbay is vice president of engineering for design and web at Adobe. He has spent the past 25 years working in the software industry with a specialized focus on creative and web professional tooling and solutions.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about HTML5 and confusion about what it is, what can be done with it today, the best way to learn it, etc.
With so much hype in the marketplace, I wanted to tackle the questions we hear most from creative professionals who want to take advantage of HTML5 but are unsure about how to get started.

1. What is HTML5?

In its simplest form, HTML5 is the evolution of HTML. Interestingly, it has become a “catch all” term for many technologies that can move the web forward, including CSS3, SVG and Canvas. What it offers most web professionals is a new set of functionality for creating richer interactivity for websites and applications across multiple screens. Due to the adoption of WebKit on mobile devices, HTML5 is gaining a lot of traction around smartphone and tablet development. In its early days, HTML5 will feel incremental in terms of how users can take advantage of it. But as the ecosystem evolves, frameworks and tooling will enable web professionals to create a new world of interesting experiences including applications that are accessible on a variety of devices.

2. Can I Use HTML5 Even if Users Have Outdated Browsers?

Although HTML5 is still in its infancy, there are several ways users can employ new language elements while ensuring that content degrades gracefully on unsupported browsers. There are plenty of articles on the web that discuss these techniques. For example:
  • Developers can work conceptually with new structural elements such as Header or Footer by creating classes with the same name and attaching them to divs within a user’s page.
  • You can take it a step further by using the new HTML5 elements today with a combination of JavaScript and some CSS to ensure compatibility with older browsers.
  • Developers can leverage JavaScript libraries such as Modernizr that take advantage of emerging technologies (HTML5, CSS3) while providing control over older browsers that may not support this functionality.
  • Developers can use HTML5 forms with new Input elements and types to provide richer functionality on modern browsers that support them with no penalty on older browsers where they will degrade gracefully to text inputs.
Of course if you are just targeting mobile browsers, you can take advantage of many more HTML5/CSS3 features. The mobile browsers that are primarily based on WebKit provide a lot more support, although there are still some inconsistencies across different implementations.

3. What Should Designers and Developers Learn First?

Developers should start incrementally by expanding their skills with technologies they already understand. Leveraging new functionality in CSS3 is a great place to begin. I also recommend following blogs to stay on top of what’s going on and keeping an eye on the different JavaScript frameworks that are springing up. There is a lot of innovation happening around mobile frameworks and runtimes right now. Some good resources to watch include:
Developers should also make sure they keep in mind the platforms they are building for, because the gating factor right now is browser support.

4. Am I Behind the Times?

9 Elements HTML5 Canvas

Hype about a particular technology can often lead to designers and developers feeling like they’re behind the curve, but that just isn’t true with HTML5. While there are some really cool examples out there today, in reality it is a much smaller subset of web developers that can create them, and the content works on an even smaller subset of devices.
There are significant hurdles to face when developing for devices, in addition to the typical cross-browser desktop compatibility issues everybody experiences. How do you take advantage of hardware acceleration? How do you take advantage of device APIs (e.g. touch, geolocation, offline cache, etc.)? What do you do when device APIs are not consistently accessible through the browser implementations?
Look for JavaScript frameworks and tools that can abstract across these differences and provide a set of building blocks that work consistently across the devices you are targeting. While there are many exciting capabilities being made available, most users will need to be pragmatic in their approach.

5. Why the Wait?

The gating factors right now for the widespread adoption of HTML5 are the browser vendors and the HTML5/CSS3 specification. Similar to the browser wars in the early days of the web, there is a significant amount of innovation happening within the browsers themselves. WebKit is becoming the predominant browser for mobile devices, but there are multiple implementations. Firefox and Chrome continue to push the boundaries on the desktop, with IE9 now joining the race with deeper support for HTML5/CSS3. While fast innovation is good news for web pros, it also creates inconsistency. This is where the Spec comes into play. The Spec drives the standard that all browsers need to adhere to. However, the Spec will not be ratified for many years.
Most web pros will be well served by standardizing on frameworks and tooling that can help them take advantage of the new functionality while degrading gracefully on the browsers that are still behind. Sites such as HTML5 Readiness can give users insight into what is and isn’t supported across Browsers.

What Is Adobe’s Stance on HTML5?

This is a question we get a lot at Adobe. As the current landscape continues to evolve rapidly, we believe people will benefit from implementing a hybrid strategy where Flash and HTML5 technologies are both utilized depending on the business need. For instance, if you are building an enterprise RIA with a multi-function team that needs a strong development framework, ubiquity across devices, and one vendor behind the technology, then Flash makes a lot of sense. If you are building a dynamic website that targets desktop, tablet and mobile, then HTML5/CSS3 is likely the right technology. In short, there will be places where HTML5 makes the most sense and provides basic interactivity, but there will always be a place for richer interaction and guaranteed consistency, and that’s where Adobe feels that Flash technology excels.


There’s no question that designers and developers should familiarize themselves with HTML5, learn what capabilities are currently supported, and, most importantly, where those capabilities are available based on the audiences they’re trying to target. Users shouldn’t make the mistake of falling in love with a particular site element and charging ahead only to find out that it doesn’t work at all in a browser that matters to their customer.
These are exciting times for designers and developers. We have some great challenges and opportunities in front of us that will have a huge impact on the future of the web. I can’t wait.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Google Just Lost a Potential Ally in its Legal Tussle with Oracle

Google Just Lost a Potential Ally in its Legal Tussle with Oracle: "

The battle between Oracle and Google over Android’s use of Java just got a lot more interesting. That’s because IBM has announced that it will be collaborating with Oracle to work on the OpenJDK project.
This means that IBM will no longer be part of the Apache Software Foundation’s Project Harmony, the project that provides Android with the components it needs to run Java code. With IBM leaving the project, Harmony is basically dead in the water.
Although Android wasn’t mentioned in the announcement, this is all interrelated to the Oracle lawsuit. Google responded to the lawsuit last week, claiming that Oracle, which got Java out of its purchase of Sun Microsystems, was acting in bad faith.
For the non-Java savvy out there, here’s an abbreviated rundown of how and why all of this stuff matters:
Apache Harmony is an open source implementation of Java. The goal in creating the project was to unite all of the various free software Java implementations together under one banner.
The project had a lot of early support, the only problem was that Sun (and then Oracle) never offered the project with a Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK). The TCK is needed to prove that Harmony is compatible with the Java specification and can be seen as a certified Java independent version of Java. When Sun first open sourced aspects of Java in 2007, it said it would provide the Apache Foundation with the necessary TCK for certification.
Sun never made good on those assurances and when Oracle took over Sun, the new company wasn’t interested in sharing the TCKs, instead wanting to focus all of its efforts on the officially sanctioned open source Java implementation, OpenJDK.
IBM’s Bob Sutor discussed the decision on his blog, writing:
“We think this is the pragmatic choice. It became clear to us that first Sun and then Oracle were never planning to make the important test and certification tests for Java, the Java SE TCK, available to Apache. We disagreed with this choice, but it was not ours to make. So rather than continue to drive Harmony as an unofficial and uncertified Java effort, we decided to shift direction and put our efforts into OpenJDK. Our involvement will not be casual as we plan to hold leadership positions and, with the other members of the community, fully expect to have a strong say in how the project is managed and in which technical direction it goes.”
This is a big blow to the Harmony project and by extension, to the libraries and classes that Android implements from Harmony in Android. Without big backing like IBM behind the project, it’s not likely to survive.
For now, the Harmony implementation of Java is fine. The problem will be when future versions of Java are released and Harmony can’t keep up in terms of features.
In Java, staying compatible is key. Interestingly, InfoWorld notes that Google has more developers working on OpenJDK than Oracle. So why choose Harmony for Android?
We think it’s because Google wanted to do an end-run around Sun’s licensing requirements. In essence, getting to take advantage of Java SE on mobile devices (something that Sun explicitly forbade without a license), but not having to pay for it.
Long before Sun’s sale to Oracle, others pointed out the potential licensing and IP quagmire that Google was entering with Android. The reality was, Sun didn’t have the power, the funds or the industry clout to really do anything about it.
Oracle does. In fact, Oracle’s clout and power is underscored by IBM’s decision to join up. IBM may be making its decisions for pragmatic reasons, but in the decision shows that IBM is not willing to side with Google in this elongated fight.
At this point, Google’s only real recourse is to sensibly settle and pay Oracle, or countersue and drag the fight out even longer. By fighting back, Google risks alienating its Java-base of developers.
While we question how important having a strong base of Java developers really is to Android’s success in the long term, it doesn’t mean it’s worth risking the future developments of the platform on a legal gamble.
Oracle is out for blood and IBM just provided the syringe.