Mobile Web Compatibility June 22, 2012

Here at Mozilla we are working tirelessly toward two new mobile releases: the revamped Firefox for Android and Boot to Gecko (B2G), a mobile phone that’s powered by the Web. With both of these efforts Mozilla controls only part of the user experience – delivering the products. The other part of the user experience is controlled by the mobile Web content that is available. Sadly, the state of the mobile Web is not one of standards compliance but one of Webkit specific functionality. This is not surprising as the default browsers on the iPhone and on Android devices are both built on Webkit. Developers have simply been conditioned to code for the Webkit based browsers on these platforms. However, this does pose a problem for browsers like Firefox, Opera, and, believe it or not, Internet Explorer that use different rendering engines. (The rendering engines for these three browsers are Gecko, Presto, and Trident.)

A number of us at Mozilla have banded together in the mobile Web compatibility effort in order to open up the mobile Web to non Webkit based browsers. (I do want to note that while our goal is to open up the mobile Web the majority of our testing is done with Firefox.) This effort is similar in many ways to the evangelism that went along with the original Firefox release to move the Web from Internet Explorer and ActiveX specific content to standards based content.

This is a big problem that needs many hands for testing and for developer and site outreach. A mailing list will be set up shortly to help coordinate and we meet Thursdays at 9am PT to talk about life, the universe, and everything…related to mobile Web compatibility. Here are the meeting details if you’d like to join us:

Dial-in: conference# 95346
US/International: +1 650 903 0800 x92 Conf# 95346
US toll free: +1 800 707 2533 (pin 369) Conf# 95346
Canada: +1 416 848 3114 x92 Conf# 95346
Vidyo: PB&J
IRC: #planning

I will venture to post status for this effort each week. On that note, here what’s new this week.

Site testing and outreach

The YouTube team updated their site to recognize Firefox for Android and serve Firefox mobile content. (Thanks YouTube!) Unfortunately we hit an issue in Firefox for Android playing the video content that is served by the YouTube mobile site. We’ve worked around this issue temporarily in bug 766914 while we investigate a cleaner solution.

Twitter has been actively working with us on a number of changes to that will allow their mobile site to function well on Gecko. The Mozilla QA team verified a number of fixes this week and it looks like Twitter will be fully functional on Gecko in the near future.

Lawrence smoke tested a number of sites and found that the following sites all serve consistent content (this means some do not have a mobile site) across browsers: Amazon, AOL, Craigslist, ESPN, Fandango, Paypal, Pinterest, and The Weather Network. Issues were discovered while testing the following sites: CNN (bug 766951), CNET (bug 766958), and Yelp (bug 766943).

The A-Team has put together a proposal to automate user agent sniffing and CSS property usage issues in the long tail of the Web.

Related Conversations

With a new platform (B2G/Gonk) comes a new opportunity to discuss user agent strings. That discussion is happening in the dev-planning mailing list.

In relation to developer outreach, here’s an Etherpad where people are discussing what makes a good quality app?

About Lawrence Mandel

Firefox program manager
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