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Will The iPhone Be The Tipping Point For Mobile Ajax?

Ajax has largely been a desktop browser focused technology during its initial wave of interest. Apple's iPhone however may be the key to Ajax becoming a mobile "standard" as well. At WWDC Apple announced Web 2.0 as the SDK for iPhone applications:

...Developers can create Web 2.0 applications which look and behave just like the applications built into iPhone, and which can seamlessly access iPhone’s services, including making a phone call, sending an email and displaying a location in Google Maps. Third-party applications created using Web 2.0 standards can extend iPhone’s capabilities without compromising its reliability or security...

Initial specifications of the Safari browser on the phone as reported by Ajaxian include:


  • 10MB max html size for web page
  • Javascript limited to 5 seconds run time
  • Javascript allocations limited to 10MB
  • 8 documents maximum loaded on the iPhone due to page view limitations
  • Quicktime used for audio and video
  • No Java
  • No Flash
  • the page view feature lets you look at multiple websites and documents by scrolling thru them one after another
  • Full PDF support
  • double tap for zoom in
  • one finger as a mouse used to
  • two fingers as a mouse used to
  • new telephone links allows you to integrate phone calls directly from your webpage. remember this is only on safari.
  • built in google maps client for integrated mapping from your website

The week that has followed as already spawned a Google Groups mailing list for iPhone development and a directory of iPhone "ready" Ajax applications.  One would assume that other mobile devices with similar levels of CSS and Javascript support would be able to access many of the same applications.

Not all developers are happy with the direction however. Mac software developer Rogue Amoeba blogged on the subject:

Creating web apps to run on the iPhone will be a great solution for many tasks, but it is not a new solution, nor Apple hasn't done anything new for developers. This is what we had from the get-go, when Apple announced there'd be a full-fledged browser on the phone. Web apps on the iPhone will also be stuck with something of a second-class status compared to local apps, as they can't be accessed from the main menu, they can't be used offline, they can't access the local disk, and more...From FUD about bringing down networks and other security concerns to an already-obvious "SDK", Apple has bungled the developer relations for the iPhone. Nothing more, and nothing less. As a consumer, I'm still intrigued by the device. As a developer, I'm not terribly pleased with how things have gone.

Managability speculates on how Ajax will effect Google's mobile strategy:

...What about Google's mobile strategy? My original intuition was that they would move in the direction of J2ME. However, with the iPhone and the likelyhood that it'll accelerate inovation in the handset market, it is now not a remote possibility that javascript innovation on a mobile phone may outpace J2ME innovation. If this happens, then it's a toss up between J2ME and Javascript. Adding fuel to this possibility is the fact that Nokia's Web Browser software is also based on the same core as Safari...

Embracing this resurgence in mobile web development Opera has released a beta of Opera Mini 4. The browser runs on a wide variety of phones. It includes Javascript and CSS support as well as an iPhone like zoom in feature.

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