Mozilla

Discussion of Mobile Goals — Sept. 17 2008

September 22nd, 2008

On Wednesday, September 17 a group of 10 or 15 people had a discussion about the proposed 2010 “mobile” goal. The notes of that meeting are below. I’ve also incorporated additional comments from the newsgroup. Asa, Atul, and Nanda are interested in facilitating future discussions of these topics. (I’m interested too, but not always around. And in any case the whole goal is to build many connections, with many set of discussions.) Each of them may initiate discussions, 1 or 2 people, maybe groups. If you’re interested in discussing this feel free to contact any of us in addition to commenting here (contact info is at the end.)

I’ve put an outline first, for brevity.

Effective Product in the mobile market means:

  • mindshare
  • marketshare
  • momentum
  • Reference Implementation for the Generative Web
  • Platform issues ongoing (is this an execution issue, or is there a value piece here as well?

One, unified web, including mobile means:

  • Mobile specific presentation, not mobile specific content
  • The Web as SDK
  • General Web standards and APIs, not mobile specific

Effective Product Discussion
Part one of the mobile goal says “have an effective product in the mobile market.”  What do we mean by an “Effective Product”?

  • First, the three “M”s:  mindshare, marketshare, momentum
  • Asa asked if there is there an cross-platform value here as there is on the desktop. We didn’t reach a conclusion on this. (In any case portability as a technical requirement is high.)
  • Reference Implementation for the Generative Web. We also ended up thinking an important goal might well be to make our mobile product a reference implementation for the generative web. In other words, an effective product is one that demonstrates how much innovation and improvement in user experience is possible through openness. We’re looking at a range of products that are (a) tightly controlled up and down the entire stack; and which (2) promote development of applications that aren’t web applications, but are built on closed technologies. We could define an effective product is one that demonstrates this closed, non-web approach is not necessary and is limiting. The exact phrase is mine. I like it because we have long thought of Firefox on the desktop as a “reference implementation for web standards” as well as a great end user product. I like the symmetry here, but even so the phrase itself is not important.
  • Zak asks if an effective product is one which people can use to *author* content, we haven’t talked about this yet.

One Web Discussion
The second part of the proposed mobile goal says “demonstrate that ‘mobile’ is part of one, unified, open web.”

  • We spend a bunch of time talking about mobile specific sites, content and presentation. It’s pretty clear that the size and input mechanisms of mobile devices mean that simply presenting the full website exactly as we see it on the desktop doesn’t always result in the best experience. Our hope is that the tuning for mobile is in *presentation* via CSS and other web-centric techniques. Tuning for presentation can be something good for users. We hope not too see to many mobile-specific sites or very much mobile specific content. That content lives in silos, is not sharable with the web, and ends up promoting the different closed gardens of information and communities that the web has done so much to alleviate. We need to make sure that the web mechanisms available (CSS, etc.) are adequate to the task.
  • Our current label for this idea is: “the Web as SDK.” Build mobile content using web technologies and standards, accessible across devices, and vary the presentation to fit the device.

  • Standards and APIs. We want to avoid mobile-specific standards and APIs. That also encourages fragmentation of content and access. Our goal is to expand the web to be a good mobile platform. This means developing APIs (like geolocation) as part of the web standards so they can be used across the range of devices from mobile to desktop. (We noted that this is not a simple or easy goal. Security is always a concern, as is the multitude of devices.

Broader picture.
Two areas were raised where we weren’t sure how a Mozilla product could help, they seem to have an advocacy or policy basis. We wanted to capture them as areas to look at again, see if the Mozilla Foundation’s programs might address these or there are others working on this who have ideas for which Mozilla is particularly qualified to participate.

  • What about bringing the mobile web to the billions of people in the developing countries / emerging markets?
  • access to the web via mobile devices is very expensive, in both developed and emerging markets.

Future Discussions.
Three of the people in this gathering — Asa (asa at mozilla dot org), Atul (avarma at mozilla dot com) and Nanda (kishore dot nanda at gmail.com) are interesting in facilitating future discussions of these topics. (I’m interested too, but not always around. And in any case the whole goal is to build many connections, with many set of discussions.) Each of them may initiatite discussions, 1 or 2 people, maybe groups. If you’re interested in discussing this feel free to contact any of us, or of course to comment here.

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