All posts tagged ‘iPad’

File Under: Browsers

Mozilla ‘Junior’ Brings Firefox to Your iPad

Mozilla wants to bring Firefox to the iPad. The company is showing off a prototype iPad browser dubbed “Junior.”

Firefox for the iPad won’t be the first alternative browser for Apple’s iOS — iCab Mobile, Dolphin, Mercury, Opera Mini, and several others are already available — but it might be the first with a name most iPad users will recognize. (Google is also reportedly working to bring a version of its Chrome browser to iOS.)

Judging by what you can see in the video below, the name might be the only thing Firefox fans will recognize in Junior.

Due to Apple’s iOS restrictions, Firefox for the iPad would use the same WebKit rendering engine found in Safari for the iPad. As with the rest of the alternative web browsers available for the iPad, Firefox for the iPad’s distinction will lie solely in its user interface and features.

Alex Limi, Mozilla’s User Experience Lead for Firefox, says in the video that the motivation behind Junior wasn’t just to get Firefox on the iPad, but to “reinvent the browser for a new form factor.” “We wanted to make something entirely new,” says Limi, who goes on to add that while Safari for the iPad is “the best browsing experience on a tablet,” it’s still “a pretty miserable experience.”

Mozilla believes it can do better.

Mozilla’s idea of an “entirely new” browser thus far consists mainly of a full screen browsing experience that dispenses with any browser chrome and tabs (something the first version of Safari for the iPad also lacked). Instead you’ll find two buttons toward the bottom of the screen, at roughly thumb height when holding the iPad in portrait mode.

The left-hand button is the back button. The right side harbors a plus button, which brings up a page switching and speed dial interface that’s reminiscent of Opera’s expanded tab view — thumbnails of the actual page rather than just labeled tabs. Both buttons are also hiding some extra features that are revealed only when you press and hold them. Hold down and you’ll reveal features like reload and forward on the left side and some sharing buttons on the right.

Perhaps the best idea Limi mentions in the Junior demo is the ability to create separate user accounts. A simple swipe to the left of the main navigation page will bring up a user login menu. If you share your iPad with other family members you already know that maintaining separate Facebook, Google and other logins is a pain in Safari for the iPad. Junior’s proposed accounts interface would eliminate that headache.

Junior is still very clearly a prototype and many of its user interface ideas are still up in the air. In other words, don’t look for Junior to actually ship any time soon. Junior is also forcing Mozilla to come up with a new building and testing process — the company can’t release test builds via Apple’s App Store as it can on other platforms. According to the video the company is still developing the best way to build and test prototypes. We’ll be sure to let you know when there’s something available publicly.

File Under: Web Basics

The iPad 3 and the Future of the Web

Apple is expected to announce the third version of the iPad tomorrow. It’s easy to mock the excess enthusiasm the tech community has for new Apple gadgets — Wow! Look, it’s a new computer!

At the same time it’s just as easy to see why that enthusiasm exists — Apple can be counted on to push the boundaries of how we use computers and how we use the web.

As developers, pushing the boundaries makes for exciting times. Difficult times too. Times that challenge our current models of what the web is and what the web might become.

Apple has already pushed the web in several new directions by popularizing touch-based devices and in the process redefining our behaviors, habits and expectations.

Taking away the mouse forced developers to rethink many things we previously took for granted — of course I can use a drop down menu that activates when a mouse rolls over it, how could that possibly not work? Well, now you know. That was only one small change and suddenly web developers had to pivot, best practices had to change.

What will all the new changes coming this year mean for the web? No one knows yet, but the web today is feeling less like a thing that lives in your browser and more like something that exists in the space between things. The web of tomorrow will be less visible and more powerful — the thing that pulls everything together and makes it work even when the web isn’t something you access directly on every device.

A while back Brad Frost told developers to “get your content ready to go anywhere because it’s going to go everywhere.” This has been happening for a while now with RSS and APIs that push and pull content to places often far removed from the “webpage” where it was originally published. Expect this to continue and to become even more common as we navigate between different devices, platforms and technologies. Android apps can’t run on iOS. Windows Metro won’t integrate with a Spark tablet. Something has to link the device silos together.

The web has already become a way to link information across otherwise disconnected apps. Take Marco Arment’s Instapaper, for example. Instapaper saves webpages for offline reading and syncs them between iOS devices and Kindles. Is Instapaper a web app? Is it an iOS app? Is it a Kindle service? It’s all of these things.

Even when platform-native apps are the access point, the web remains the key element in the equation. This will likely be the future of the web — less visible, less obvious, less about the browser, but essential for connecting everything together.

That doesn’t mean that the browser will go away. The browser will likely continue to exist for some time as a fallback. We will still need a device and platform agnostic way to access the web as long as devices remain silos. If iOS went away and Amazon stopped making Kindles, you could still read your Instapaper articles on any device with a browser. The opposite isn’t true — take away the web and the Instapaper apps would be isolated, with no way to connect them.

The web is bigger than the browser already and it will continue to expand into new areas. What’s going to happen when the web is on your television? How will the web need to change when the screen is much larger and further away? How will the web need to change if we want to interact with it by voice commands? Very soon Android devices are going to be in your car dashboard. Eventually your car itself will have an API. Your car could talk to, for example, your car dealer, logging in, making an appointment for a repair it’s just become aware of. It might then use another API to push the appointment on to your calendar app, which then might use the Siri voice API to ask what time works best for you, scanning your other appointments and offering suggestions.

Where in that scenario is the web as we think of it today? It’s just a series of APIs talking to each other. There is no web as we know it. And yet the web is still there, invisibly making it all possible. There’s a reason, after all, that we call it a web — it’s what binds everything else together. It no longer matters if what you’re after ends up displayed on a feature phone via Opera Mobile or inside the Instapaper app running on the latest and greatest iPad. The web is already everywhere.

Photo: Benoit/Flickr

File Under: HTML5, Multimedia

Adobe Releases Its Own HTML5 Video Player

Adobe has released an embeddable video player that plays HTML5 native video in browsers that support it, and falls back to Flash in browsers that don’t.

It’s cross-browser and cross-platform, so it works on iPhones, iPads and other devices that don’t support Flash. Using Adobe’s new player, these devices can show videos in web pages without the Flash plug-in.

There are already several players out there that use the HTML5-with-Flash-fallback method, such as Vimeo’s new player and the slick one from Brightcove that can handle video ads. All of these players, like Adobe’s, are based on open web technologies and can be customized with CSS and JavaScript. But this newest one, being from Adobe, is sure to be a bigger deal.

The company has come under fire in the past year over concerns about the stability and performance issues related to its Flash Player browser plug-in, and Flash technology itself. Apple’s iPad ships without support for Flash, and Apple initially disallowed apps created in Flash from being sold in its app store. Apple rescinded after a few months, but the damage was already done — Google began pushing HTML5 video over Flash by releasing WebM, a new open video format, and developers got busy looking at HTML5 as a replacement for Flash, at least when it came to embedding videos.

With its new player, Adobe is responding to their developers’ wishes for solutions that play well on the open web. It comes on the heels of last week’s release from Adobe, which lets artists using Illustrator export their drawings as HTML5 Canvas, and its earlier pack of HTML5 tools for Dreamweaver.

HTML5 video adoption among browsers has gone tremendously so far — Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera all support native video, and baked-in support is coming to Internet Explorer 9 next year. But it’s still a bit of a mess, with different browsers supporting different formats. So developers posting HTML5 video still need to encode their files in at least two of the three major formats — the widely-used H.264, the newer WebM, or the older Ogg Theora — to guarantee all HTML5 capable browsers will be able to see their videos.

With the proper file formats in place, Adobe’s new player will play native web video in all the newest browsers, and will switch to Flash playback mode for all your poor visitors stuck with IE6 or something equally stone-aged.

The new HTML5 video player is incorporated into the workflow of Dreamweaver Creative Suite 5, so if you’re already using Adobe’s tools to build your site, you can drop in a player using Dreamweaver’s “Customize Widget” function.

If you’re not a Dreamweaver person, you can still generate all the code you need using Adobe’s free Widget Browser app. One caveat — the Widget Browser is an AIR app, so you’ll need to have Adobe’s Flash-based runtime to use it, though AIR apps will install AIR for you if you’re lacking.

To develop its video player widget, Adobe used open source code from Kaltura, repurposing a popular library that’s found at the heart of several HTML5 video players.

See also:

Is the iPad Sending Design Back to the Dark Ages?

Jeffrey Zeldman thinks so. In his essay, “iPad As the New Flash,” the author and standards guru argues that designers are now coding up device-centric user experiences at the expense of web standards, accessibility and the advancement of open web technologies.

Everything we’ve learned in the past decade about preferring open standards to proprietary platforms and user-focused interfaces to masturbatory ones is forgotten as designers and publishers once again scramble to create novelty interfaces no one but them cares about.

While some of this will lead to useful innovation, particularly in the area of gestural interfaces, that same innovation can just as readily be accomplished on websites built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—and the advantage of creating websites instead of iPad apps is that websites work for everyone, on browsers and devices at all price points. That, after all, is the point of the web. It’s the point of web standards and progressive enhancement.

He takes issue not with apps in general, but with the design choices being made by popular magazines as they rush to embrace the new shiny. His ultimate conclusion: “Masturbatory novelty is not a business strategy.”

The comments are enlightening, too. A few make the point that web standards like JavaScript and CSS can now be used to develop experiences that can be delivered both natively and through a browser. Another suggests this is just the Old World struggling to understand a new platform.

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File Under: HTML5, Mobile, Web Apps

Yahoo Mail Switches to HTML5 on the iPad

Yahoo recently revamped its webmail site to deliver a richer, HTML5-powered experience to iPhone users, and now the company has done the same for iPad users.

Go to the Yahoo Mail website on your iPad and you’ll see the new, fully juiced-up HTML5 version instead of the older mobile version.

Yahoo mail the world’s largest webmail site — it has over 275 million users — but the site lags behind second-runner-up Gmail when it comes to innovation with HTML5 on the iPad and other touchy-swipey browsing devices.

Still, the new Yahoo Mail looks pretty slick. Scrollable photo previews now appear inside e-mail messages, and it supports offline local cache so you can keep working even when you’re out of range.