Two Events Show Effort To Fix Mobile Web Browsing

Nokia releases its browser tools to open source community, and .mobi registration begins.

May 29, 2006

2 Min Read
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When it comes to browsing the Web on mobile devices, there's one defining characteristic: It's completely inadequate.

Events last week show two approaches to solving that problem. One was Nokia's release of the code behind its mobile phone browser to the open source development community. The other saw companies starting to register their Web sites under the .mobi suffix, a domain designed for the mobile Internet.

Nokia, by releasing the source code for its S60 WebKit, is trying to rally mobile browser developers behind its platform, reducing market fragmentation. "If developers have to support 10 different browsers across multiple devices and operating systems, it's a problem," says Lee Epting, VP of Forum Nokia, the company's software developer program.

Can you see me now? Good.

On a modern phone, the S60 mobile browser can render Web pages as they appear to PC users, albeit smaller. The browser isn't forced to rely on specially designed mobile-friendly pages. Competing browsers such as Opera Mobile can do this, too.

Companies that build phones based on the S60 platform, which runs on the Symbian OS, include Lenovo, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung, and Siemens. The S60 Webkit browser engine is based on the WebCore and JavaScriptCore components of Apple's Safari browser, which itself is based on KDE's KHTML engine. The Nokia code includes a memory manager for handling memory errors, a mouse pointer module for easier navigation, a method for rendering HTML page frames as tables, full support for text search, and a reference user interface. Nokia introduced the S60 browser last November.The philosophy behind the browser is to let people access the same existing Web sites whether they're using a mobile phone or a PC.

The .mobi strategy takes the opposite tack: that companies will alter their sites to work with mobile phones, and that mobile phone users will seek out .mobi sites. Starting last week, members of mobile industry associations could register their domain names, and starting June 12 trademark owners can register.

Criticisms of the .mobi approach are that it devalues existing domains and that other efforts to expand beyond the .com suffix haven't taken off.

Nokia, like most tech companies, is supporting both efforts. It doesn't care how we get to a better mobile Web experience--just that it gets good enough that you buy a new phone to do it.

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