W3C ‘Touch Events’ Specification Targets Tablets, Touch Screens

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards body that overseas HTML, CSS and other web technologies, has release a rough draft specification for touch screen devices. The spec is far from complete, but eventually it could give developers a set of standards for creating touch-based interfaces.

Thus far touch screen devices have primarily mimicked mouse behaviors. But the rise of multi-touch gestures and the larger screens available on tablets, mean that touch screens of the future may offer design possibilities far beyond the mouse-based world that exists on today’s web. The goal of the W3C’s touch-based spec is to help define standard behaviors and events that developers can translate into touch-friendly interfaces.

Like much of the W3C’s work, the new touch-screen spec starts with existing specs, in this case Apple’s iOS touch event spec. The W3C’s draft adds several more events like X and Y radii for touch areas and a “force” property. The later, while rather vague at the moment, could give developers a way to emulate mouse-rollover events. For example, a light touch could trigger a rollover, while a hard touch clicks a link.

Mobile platform consultant Peter-Paul Koch calls out a few minor problems and undecided issues — for example, no units are specified for the radius or force properties — but overall says the spec is a step in the right direction.

The Touch Events Specification is a long way from done; it doesn’t even have a real URL on the W3C site yet. And, other than the events cloned from Apple, the spec is not supported anywhere in the wild. Still, touch screens clearly need an expanded set of standards to go along with desktop standards and it’s nice to see the W3C stepping up to the plate.

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