Mobile Web Compatibility Oct 19, 2012 – H.264, navigator.platform, Spade, Phony

Here’s what’s new in mobile Web compatibility this week.

H.264 video playback

Maire Reavy (media product manager) provided a list of video sites to test for video playback compatibility. Aaron Train has bucketed them as follows:

H.264 video that’s working

  • Metacafe (Desktop site served)
  • Videobash.com (Mobile site served)
  • Ovguide (Mobile site served)
  • Vevo (Mobile site served)

H.264 video with issues

  • tv.com (Mobile, but don’t see any video)
  • ustream (Mobile site served, should be H.264 but don’t see any video playback)
  • Veoh (Mobile, H.264 offered but video content downloads rather than plays)

Flash video

  • Hulu (Desktop only site)
  • video.yahoo.com (Desktop site served)
  • vids.myspace.com (Desktop site served)
  • Break.com (Desktop site served)
  • Justin.tv (Desktop site served)

Silverlight video

  • Netflix (Desktop only)

The current focus of our video playback test effort is Advanced Video Coding (AVC) profile support across different devices and operating systems. You can track progress on the Mozilla QA H.264 wiki page.

You can contribute by filing a bug when you encounter an H.264 video playback error or a message that H.264 is not supported in Firefox.

navigator.platform

Firefox OS does not include any operating system identifier in its user agent string. Gervase Markham provided a detailed explanation for this decision. It follows from this explanation that Firefox OS should not expose itself to Web clients in any manner. Therefore, navigator.platform will return an empty string when called on Firefox OS.

Any comments on this function can be directed to bug 801614.

Spade update

Clint Talbert and the A-Team made some notable progress on Spade, an automated tool to analyze CSS property usage and UA sniffing practices on the Web. Spade completed a test run of 100 sites, which is 10x the previous test run size. The A-Team is continuing to work on running this tool at Web scale with a short term goal to analyze the top 500-1000 sites on the internet.

Phony

Matt Brubeck has updated the Firefox for Android Phony add-on, which allows you to change the UA served by Firefox, to include the Firefox OS UA as an option. With this change, you can now use your Android device to test the impact of UA sniffing on the content served to Firefox OS.

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Mobile Web Compatibility Oct 12, 2012 – Issue Tracking, Brightcove H.264, Firefox OS UA Whitelist

Site testing and outreach

Firefox mobile evangelism issues are currently tracked in the Firefox for Android -> Evangelism component in Bugzilla. However, there is another notable mobile Firefox platform: Firefox OS. In addition, there exists a Tech Evangelism product in Bugzilla, where several mobile evangelism issues have been filed. In order to consolidate our effort, a new Tech Evanglism -> Mobile component has been created. Evangelism bugs should be filed in this component. In addition, when filing a bug, please set the OS field to Android, Gonk (for Firefox OS), or All for issues with both platforms.

Brightcove served H.264 encoded media was failing to play in Firefox for Android. The source was determined to be a bug in the Gecko video element’s canPlayType function (bug 794171). This fix will be in today’s Firefox Nightly builds. This fix has also received approval for Firefox Aurora and Beta and should land there shortly.

Bug 40919 was filed against Wikipedia to recognize Firefox OS as a mobile browser.

Firefox OS user agent whitelist

As I wrote last week, a whitelist mechanism has been added to override the Firefox OS user agent (UA) on a per site basis. The introduction of this whitelist is a mitigation strategy to deal with sites that do not send mobile content to this platform. After discussion on the mailing lists and in Bugzilla, Gerv Markham has published the policy for adding sites to this list.

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Mobile Web Compatibility Oct 5, 2012 – MozCamp, User Agents, Microsoft.com, Google Images and Maps

For various reasons I did not blog about mobile Web compatibility updates in September. Here then, are some highlights of what’s new in mobile Web compatibility this past month.

MozCamp Europe 2012, Warsaw

Jason Smith and I presented Opening Up the Mobile Web for Firefox at MozCamp EU 2012, in Warsaw, Poland. (My summary of MozCamp EU.) The session was well attended and, going off script, resulted in a lively discussion about the implications of mobile Web compatibility for Firefox and for the Web. Jason and I are looking for additional opportunities to share this material and get people actively involved in testing mobile sites.

User agents

The Firefox OS user agent (UA) has dropped the “Android” token again. In order to mitigate against sites that will not serve mobile content to Firefox OS before it ships but do serve mobile content to Firefox for Android, a whitelist mechanism has been added to override the UA on a per site basis. The policy for how a site is added to this list is being discussed on the dev-platform mailing list.

There has also been discussion on the dev-platform mailing list about whether to include hardware tokens in the UA. It seems some hardware vendors use this type of mechanism for various promotions. For example, customers of a specific hardware vendor may have free access to an event’s videos. There are, as expected, a number of arguments against this type of change to the UA.

Spade (automated test tool)

The A-Team had a bit of a setback with the development of Spade due to a loss of resources. Clint Talbert and Mihnea Dobrescu-Balaur are now working to stand this tool up. As I write this the tool is running a test job. If all goes well the initial results should be available in a week or two. We expect this tool to give us insight into the percentage of the top Web sites that have a mobile version, the percentage that make use of UA sniffing, and the percentage that make use of non standard CSS properties.

Site testing and outreach

microsoft.com has been rebuilt as a responsive site that seems absent of any UA sniffing. This is great news and I hope starts a trend with other Microsoft Web sites.

Brightcove, a prominent video platform, is currently broken on Firefox for Android as it does not detect that Firefox can play H.264 content. Investigation is tracked in bug 794171.

The layout of Google images search is nicer in the Android Stock and Chrome browsers. More images returned per page, the grid layout is structured better, and the page menu is more easily accessible.

Similarly, Google maps design is not as pretty in Firefox as it is in the Google browsers. Firefox also does not have access to street view, which was recently released as part of the mobile Web based maps app.

In order to handle video served by YouTube, the Firefox OS team has built a video Web activity into the platform.

As a great example of the community taking ownership over a portion of test coverage, Pavel Cvrcek has started testing Czech Web sites for mobile compatibility. His results are tracked in bug 794622.

Firefox for Android

Firefox Input now displays any URL submitted by the user along with their sad feedback. This is a new and good source of site issue reports.

I suggested that it would be beneficial to know for what sites a user selects the Request Desktop Site option in Firefox for Android. Knowing the sites should give us a view into whether the mobile version of the site is broken or whether users prefer the desktop site in some cases. Brad Lassey has a speculative patch for a feature that prompts the user to submit the site. Discussion is taking place in bug 790614.

The Firefox for Android team has received user feedback that desktop sites have usability problems on mobile. One specific case that was mentioned is that it is difficult to interact with menus that appear when the mouse hovers above them. While this type of issue is expected from desktop sites in a touch environment, the question is how should the team address this concern? Do users prefer the desktop site? (It may be preferable on a tablet.) Are users requesting desktop sites with the Request Desktop Site feature vs being served desktop sites by default? Are users using this feature because the mobile site is broken? Is the mobile site preferred by the user? The answer to these questions should give us guidance on how to proceed with technical and evangelism solutions to these issues. Please leave a comment or submit Firefox Input (in Firefox, Help->Submit Feedback…) with your feedback.

CSS3 Flexbox

The CSS3 flexbox implementation has landed on the Firefox Nightly 18 channel. This feature is currently disabled due to some test failures and the layout team is working hard to enable it shortly.

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MozCamp EU 2012 in a word: Passion

After MozCamp EU 2012, I’m left with one word in my head: passion. This being my first MozCamp, I found it amazing to see focused passion spilling out wherever I turned. The Mozilla community is extremely passionate about Mozilla’s mission, products and people. This passion was on display in the sessions, the random outbursts of Mozilla cheers, and perhaps nowhere more than onstage during the Mozilla community quilt and leadership panel.

For me, most of MozCamp was filled with sessions. In selecting the sessions for the desktop and mobile track, Paul Rouget and I focused on those that had tangible goals and fit within the MozCamp theme “Mobilize Mozilla”. I think this filter for our selection process worked very well. The sessions that I attended (half of the desktop and mobile track) included some lively discussions and brainstorming about what Firefox means to each of us and how to better share Firefox products with the world. I watched groups participate in hands-on debugging sessions, discussed the Firefox release model and release engineering and test processes, and participated in hands-on hacking by building my first mobile add-on. I also presented a session about mobile Web compatibility with Jason Smith in which the passion for this specific topic was clearly evident in the discussion that ensued. (You can see some pictures of these sessions in my Flickr photo stream.) I would like to thank all of our desktop and mobile session presenters and encourage each of you to write or comment about the success of your individual sessions.

In attending an event like MozCamp I typically have two high level goals: learn and build relationships. The event venue (an old marmalade factory) provided an interesting place to work during the day. I think the desktop and mobile sessions were a very good opportunity to learn about various aspects of Firefox as a product. However, being a track chair, I felt a little tied to the desktop and mobile rooms. Of course, our MozCamp organizing committee thought ahead and booked a night out via a double decker, open roof bus ride and dinner. I found that this evening event was a great chance to meet additional people and get to know them in a different setting. I met community members from a number of countries who translate Firefox, several who are looking at translating Firefox OS, and one who translates Bugzilla into Polish, much to the benefit of this small (~100 downloads / release) but thankful community.

To wrap up, I will leave you with a short video of the MozCamp closing, which I think captures the spirit of this event.

Interested in more about MozCamp EU 2012? See The Record.

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User Agent Discussions

There are several discussions currently taking place about various facets of the user agent (UA) in Firefox, Firefox for Android, and B2G. In case you missed them, here are links to the current discussions:

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MozCamp EU 2012: Firefox Desktop and Mobile

MozCamp EU 2012 is almost upon us. As your Firefox Desktop and Mobile track chairs, Paul Rouget and I have been working hard to put together a great program for you. I want to thank everyone who submitted a proposal. We received more high quality submissions than the schedule can accommodate. This is the Mozilla community so no surprise there.

For our speakers, we have reviewed most of your outlines and presentations. In lieu of holding specific office hours, Paul and I are simply available to you. You can find us on irc as paul and lmandel. We are at your disposal through to the end of the event. You should feel free to ping us about any MozCamp issue.

For everyone attending MozCamp EU, the schedule is now online. We have also published an alphabetized list of the Firefox desktop and mobile sessions. Here’s a short rundown of the schedule:

Friday, Sept 7

  • 3-4pm – Tour of Fabryka (MozCamp Venue)
  • 6:30-10:30pm – MozCamp Welcome Event

Saturday, Sept 8

  • 8-9am –  Registration
  • 9am – Welcome to MozCamp
  • 2-6:30pm – Firefox Desktop and Mobile track
  • 8-11pm – Dinner

Sunday, Sept 9

  • 9:15am – MozCamp Day 2 begins
  • 11am-6:40pm – Firefox Desktop and Mobile track
  • 6:40pm – MozCamp closing

One of my MozCamp missions is to meet new Mozillians. I should be in one of the desktop and mobile track rooms throughout most of the event wearing a name tag that, not surprisingly, says “Lawrence Mandel”. Please do say hi. I would love to hear about how you are involved with Mozilla.

Have safe travels. I look forward to seeing you all in Warsaw at the end of the week.

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Mobile Web Compatibility Aug 31, 2012 – Firefox OS UA, testing article, smoke tests

Here’s what’s new in mobile Web compatibility this week.

Firefox OS UA reverted

The Firefox OS user-agent (UA) has been reverted to include the “Android” token. It is not yet clear whether this is a temporary or permanent change. The Firefox OS UA is now:

Mozilla/5.0 (Android; Mobile; rv:17.0) Gecko/17.0 Firefox/17.0

 Site testing and outreach

Jason Smith and I published the article Site Compatibility Testing for Firefox for Android on MDN. This article includes a short introduction to the compatibility issues that are present on the mobile Web and walks you through the compatibility test process from device setup to the test method and how to report your results. Send us any feedback on the article and, more importantly, start submitting your test results!

I smoke tested a number of sites for compatibility issues this week. Here’s a rundown of what I found.

Ads do not display on theweathernetwork.com. This issue appears to caused be UA sniffing. I still need to identify the ad provider and the root cause.

iG (ig.com.br) works well in Firefox for Android with the exception of their videos, which produce an error message. Without knowing the language, I gather that the error message states that Firefox can’t play the video format. This looks to be another case of UA sniffing as spoofing the UA to that of the Android stock browser allows the video to play.

The bablylon.com mobile site appears and functions in Firefox for Android but the site only has options for installing Android and iPhone apps. This is not an issue on Android but this content will not provide a good experience on Firefox OS.

The following sites have no mobile version: kijiji.ca, gc.ca, craigslist.ca, tdcanadatrust.com, royalbank.com, td.com, thepiratebay.se, rbcroyalbank.com, and bmo.com.

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