Surfin' Safari

The Obligatory iPhone Post

Posted by Maciej Stachowiak on Wednesday, January 10th, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Yesterday, Steve Jobs announced the iPhone, a new combination phone, iPod and internet communications device. The iPhone version of Safari is, no surprise, based on a version of WebKit. WebKit is also used for the iPhone’s rich HTML mail capabilities. I’d like to congratulate everyone on the iPhone browser team, and also everyone who has contributed to WebKit, because your code is in there too.

One really important development here is that we may soon see the end of the “mobile web” as a separate concept. Think about the impressive browsing experience of the iPhone, as well as products like Nokia’s S60 Browser (based on WebKit) and the number of higher-end phones featuring Opera. Increasingly, you can browse the real web on a phone and have a high quality experience. There is less and less need for a special dumbed down version of the web just for mobile devices; instead we can have a single device-independent web that’s presented in the best possible way on a variety of devices.

The blogosphere outpouring on the iPhone and its WebKit-based browser is really exciting. Here is a small sampling of reactions.

25 Responses to “The Obligatory iPhone Post”

  1. Hwin Says:

    zomg first post!
    Looks way awesome, though. Kudos to all involved.

  2. roland Says:

    What did the User-Agent end up being? Same as desktop Safari?

  3. pauldwaite Says:

    > “There is less and less need for a special dumbed down version of the web just for mobile devices; instead we can have a single device-independent web that’s presented in the best possible way on a variety of devices.”

    Technically, yes: mobile devices can display client-side code much better. But I still think there are mobile-specific use-cases that will benefit greatly from mobile-specific services. If you’re trying to achieve a task on the move, it’s more likely to be time-critical, and thus highly optimised for speed.

  4. google636 Says:

    I don’t know if you’re allowed to say, but I’ve heard that third-party devs cannot get in on the iPhone. Does this mean that we can’t develop widgets? Does iPhone use a different system for widgets, or is it still a mini web page, but with stricter dimensions for the iPhone’s screen?

  5. squareman Says:

    Though I find the pinch and double-tap zooming to be great interface engineering (especially when browsing poorly-designed fixed table layouts), I couldn’t help wondering if there will be a “small screen” rendering of web pages much in the way that Opera and Firefox (with Web Developer installed) can mimic and that I’ve experienced on my Palm device.

    Frankly, I’d rather read the content top to bottom via scrolling than having to zoom in, scroll over, zoom out, zoom back in. Seems much more hunt an peck with the second method. Will the iPhone WebKit load “handheld” CSS or will it always defer to “screen” media? If the latter is the case, you’d completely block the cogent, aware designer from supplying the best experience for small screens.

  6. brmorris Says:

    Congratulations to all the webkats and webkittens! The iPhone – especially with Safari running on it – looks very nice indeed 😉

  7. squareman Says:

    PS: Certainly we see the added relevance of the pixel != pixel posts from months back.

  8. Pingback from Rimantas’ murmurs » Blog Archive » The Way the .mobi Died:

    […] gs? The Way the .mobi Died As we all know this did not work. I hope this will and the sanity prevails. Increasingly, you can browse the real web on a phone and have a high quality expe […]

  9. jcburns Says:

    I agree that it’s great that we can say goodbye to a dumbed-down version of the web…but I’d also like to poke web designers and remind them that heavy pages are still heavy pages, and it’s still annoying to wait for, say, the Amazon site to load (seemed to take a while during the Stevenote) when a few design tricks can really trim load times down.

    In other words, there are some kinds of pages that ought to be WAP-y, or EXTERMELY lightweight whether you view them at your desktop or on your phone.

    And let me add my voice to those who want to make Widgets and Cocoa chunks for the fine new iPhone.

  10. Neo Says:

    Performance seemed rather sluggish. Lacking hardware details e.g. CPU, System RAM, I wonder what the overhead of the OS + WebKit are on that thing.

    I imagine embedded content such as Flash will “just work” on the platform (YouTube videos-to-go).

    And yes, the User-Agent string would be interesting to know (to watch for in server logs).

  11. google636 Says:

    I have another inquiry: what does iPhone use for its “smart scaling?” Does it scale to view a div, or based on the top element selected, or to some preset width? How will it handle zooming in on complex multi-column CSS layouts?

    Also, I add my support for support of the “handheld” media type in CSS. Allowing designers to make the page look nicer on narrower screens is key. Users don’t care about seeing the whole screen as much as they care about seeing clear, well laid out content, and if a designer can create a 1-column layout for these devices it’s all the better.

    Finally, I’m wondering if you can comment on iPhone’s Safari form filling. Will it autofill, and on regular form fields, will the QWERTY keyboard pop up on the screen? Hopefully selecting check boxes, radio buttons, and popup lists is easy :)

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  18. BAM Says:

    I hope that a team will be dedicated to improve Outlook Web Access and implement Domino Web Access into safari. OWA is not that great today and DWA does not exists. Business people might be able to buy this device for themself… but not being able to access the Corp email is really a bad things that will make current WinCE phone and Blackberry phone still a better value.

  19. asbjornu Says:

    It’s absolutely true that we don’t need a separate mobile web. WAP was necessary 7 years ago because the bandwidth of those phones was so spectaclurarly bad and because the monitors and hardware on the phones back then couldn’t render anything more complex than a black/white 64×64 pixel image.

    But as CSS and HTML has advanced, the .mobi TLD, WAP and the likes should be dropped dead. They are completely useless and I wonder when “The Enterprise” will get it. If you need a separate WAP version of your web page to make it usable on a mobile phone you should ask yourself whether the page is a tad bit too complex, even for a desktop browser.

  20. Says:

    New here — and way out of my element.
    I understand there may not be a technical need to redesign a site for display on the iPhone — unless the site is already too complicated. But wouldn’t it make sense, from a marketing standpoint, to optimize a secondary site (say, “”) for the techie or executive audience? Something stripped down for the on-the-fly, short-attention-span, busy person? Maybe pages that look more like PowerPoint slides or like billboards? And a Contact Us page that just gives them what they need to make the call?
    It just seems that selling something to a woman in high heels, who’s trying to catch a plane and not spill her cappuccino, requires a different approach than selling the same thing to a guy eating chips in his den.
    I’m no expert, but most of you are — so thanks in advance for your input.

  21. asbjornu Says:

    MuPu, that can be achieved through CSS. Not sure if the iPhone browser supports the ‘media=”handheld”‘ attribute, but if it does (and it should!), you can just serve a separate stylesheet to all handheld devices to make your existing markup look like a slideshow or whatever you want. No need for a separate website with different markup, unless as I’ve already mentioned, your original website is overly complicated (which probably is a good incentive to redesign it for the desktop as well).

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  23. hyatt Says:

    Media queries solve these sorts of issues. With them you can find out specific information about screen size and so on and write style rules based on those assumptions.

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