Facebook, Microsoft, Mozilla form W3C group to clean up the mobile web
Citing severe mobile fragmentation and
unstandardized standards, Facebook, Mozilla, Microsoft, Samsung,
Verizon, Intel, and almost every player in the mobile space — except Apple
and Google — have announced at Mobile World Congress 2012 that they’ll
be forming the W3C Core Mobile Web Platform (Coremob) Community Group.
This group will bring together developers, OEMs, browser makers, and
carriers to agree on core features that will “accelerate the adoption of
the Mobile Web.”
Now, we can dissect this development
in two ways: First, this could just be 29 companies looking after their
mobile interests. While desktop browsers are all fairly close in terms
of feature parity — the HTML5/hardware acceleration Browser War of 2010
made sure of that — mobile browsers are horribly disparate. At best,
mobile browsers support a tiny subset of HTML5 and have fairly awful
awful mobile surfing experience that you can draw from. This W3C group
might simply have the noble intention of getting mobile devices to the
stage that they can reliably run open web apps.
But then why are Apple and Google not part of Coremob?
Both are active members of the W3C in general, but for some reason
they’re not interested in cleaning up the Core Mobile Web Platform. When
it comes to standards, mobile Safari and Android’s stock browser are
certainly two of the better browsers out there, but they’re still no
where near powerful enough to be the basis of a mobile web platform
— so that can’t be the reason. The reason they’re not part of the W3C
group, of course, is because they’re both making vast amounts of money
through their proprietary, locked-down app stores. Curiously, though, Google does have the Chrome Web Store, and Chrome is coming to Android,
so you would think it would be somewhat interested in the mobile web
platform. Google has historically been very hot on emerging web
standards in desktop Chrome, but perhaps the conflict with the Android
Market is too hairy to ameliorate.
Facebook and Mozilla might come across as unlikely bedfellows, but at the end of the day they both really, really want
to live in a world where the web is truly free from monolithic,
monopolistic corporate interests. As it stands, through almost complete
domination of the smartphone and tablet markets, Android and iOS dictate
the direction of the mobile web. It’s a scary thought, but if Apple and
Google decide that open web apps pose a threat to their empires, they
don’t have to support them. Much in the same way that Microsoft stifled
the internet with Internet Explorer 6, Apple and Google could do the
The only way to break this stranglehold is through
competition. Firefox for Android has been jogging along and is now
fairly usable. Boot to Gecko opts to do away iOS and Android entirely,
and replaces the OS with a web browser Samsung has Bada, its own OS.
Microsoft and Nokia are doing jumping jacks on the sidelines, waiting
for a chance to shine — and of course there’s Windows 8, which will make
a huge splash.
Back then it was Firefox that broke through the
Internet Explorer iron curtain — this time Mozilla’s back, and it’s
brought some friends.