It’s time to have a serious talk about #!. If you’re a sharp-eyed Web user, it will not have escaped your attention that, for many Web sites (Twitter among them), the characters #! have started to appear in the address bar when visiting certain pages. Try it now. Go to my page on Twitter but check the URL I’m sending you to first – it should be “”. Now – when you visit that link, check the address bar at the top of the page. Abracadabra, a mysterious #! (pronounced “hash bang” in geek-parlance, and we are firmly in geek territory here) has interposed itself between the and the torgo bits of the URL. The appearance of #! is an artefact of a certain approach to Web application architecture. Many in the Web community have decried this approach (see more detail in Jeni Tennison’s blog entry), but to cut a long story short, the argument against using #! has been painted as largely academic by many Web application developers. This morning, I woke up and found my (very) local paper, the Archer, had been slipped through my mail slot. Something drew my eye to a box at the bottom of the page. “The Archer is now on twitter,” it pronounces. “Follow us on!/TheArcherN2.” Ok, #!. Now, it’s personal. I’m not pointing fingers at the good folks at the Archer, by the way. They just did what Twitter told them to do. In good faith, they copied and pasted the URL that appeared at the top …

#!: This Time It’s Personal Read more »

Interesting post over at Mashable today about the failure of many social network sites to take down personal images even after the user has explicitly “deleted” them. The issue of data take-down is one we’ve started discussing in the W3C Social Web Incubator Group. The example of deleting images you’ve placed online is a simple one, but what about all the other digital traces we leave on the Web? In a world where more and more of our identity is expressed online, should data take-down be a universal human right? We’re collecting user stories that illustrate concepts like this in order to provoke some thought, both about what the future of a more social Web should look like and what technical underpinnings need to be in place to make this happen.

W3C are producing an online training course for mobile Web developers: “An Introduction to W3C’s Mobile Web Best Practices” which will run from May 26 to June 20 2008. This will be a great chance to get more information on mobile Web development practices from the experts — highly recommended for any Web developers out there who are interested in getting into mobile. W3C is organizing an online course to introduce Web developers and designers to W3C’s Mobile Web Best Practices. In this course you will: * learn about the specific promises and challenges of the mobile platform * learn how to use W3C’s Mobile Web Best Practices to design mobile-friendly Web content and to mobilize existing content * discover the relevant W3C resources for mobile Web design Participants will have access to lectures and assignments providing hands-on practical experience with using W3C’s mobile Web Best Practices. They will have direct access to W3C experts on this topic who are the instructors for this course. Participants will also be able to discuss and share experiences with their peers who are faced with the challenges of mobile Web design. More information at Register now at

I was very lucky this past week to have been invited to Seoul (along with the other members of the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices, Device Descriptions and Ubiquitous Web working groups) to participate in something that came to be know as Mobile Web Week. The week of W3C working group meetings was punctuated by a day-long open workshop which we named W3C Mobile Wednesday. (Yes, my intention is to mobilize every day of the week – already we have had Mobile Monday and Mobile Sunday. Now Wednesday has fallen. Can Thursday be far behind?) Mobile Wednesday was actually a unique opportunity to hear from people working in Korea on the sharp end of the Mobile Web and to do a little bit of a sales job about the work we’ve been doing in the W3C Mobile Web Initiative and why it might be relevant there. One factor that greatly helped create a feeling of open dialog was the presence of simultaneous translation during the whole event. It’s a luxury I almost never get to experience, but it really can help to facilitate discussion when someone else is worrying about the burden of translation. The translators were a wonder – deftly dealing with sometimes very thick technical discussion, especially during the panel sessions. Besides Mobile Wednesday, I also had the pleasure of speaking to many Koreans living and breathing the Mobile Web, including representatives of the Mobile Web 2.0 Forum, the Korean W3C office, ETRI, and of the Korean companies involved in W3C activities, such as …

Reflections on the Mobile Web in Korea Read more »

I’m sitting in the Korean Airlines lounge in Narita (Tokyo) airport after an 11 hour flight from London, watching a seemingly endless succession of JAL 747s taking off. When I arrived, there were no promised uniformed agents showing me the way. All the doors marked “international connections” were closed. In the end, I had to find my way through a very forbidding looking corridor and I was sure I was going to be turned back and possibly detained, but the airport staff I eventually found were very helpful and guided me to the checkpoint I needed for my connection. So, here I sit, stealing WiFi from the Northwest lounge next door. In an hour I’ll be on another flight on my way to Seoul, South Korea. I don’t speak a word of Korean, I have no local currency and I’ve most likely packed the wrong plug adapters. But on Monday morning, I will convene the next face to face meeting of the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices working group. After that, I plan to participate in an event called W3C Mobile Wednesday, a kind of east-meets-west open conference-style event bringing together people working in mobile Web standardization and those working on the sharp end of the mobile Web in Korea: people from manufacturers and operators, yes, but also entrepreneuers, bloggers, developers. It’s all thanks to the Korean Mobile Web 2.0 Forum, ETRI, and the people at the W3C offfice in Korea. I’m very excited about this event and this whole week. Besides making some real progress …

Why am I Going to Korea? Read more »

In June 2005, I wrote in these pages about an issue I knew we were going to have to grapple with in the Mobile Web Best Practices group that we were then kicking off. What is the intersection of mobility and accessibility when it comes to Web content? In fact, the initial approach and early work of the group that set the foundations for the Mobile Web Best Practices and for MobileOK was based on the work of the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative, and specifically the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines document. This week, we have followed up the release of MobileOK with a new document that details exactly that: describe the relationship between Mobile Web Best Practices and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Why should you care? If you’re trying to provide a service on the Web, you need to care about both accessibility and mobility. Both of these topics require some investment in skills, tools, and development time, so understanding where the overlaps are should greatly help to reduce development costs and time to market. At the end of the day, it’s also about maximizing the potential audience for your service, regardless of a user’s disability or the device used to access that service.

I just spoke at Mobile Internet World here in Boston (as part of the W3C Mobile Web Standards track). Being part of this event brought me back to the first “Internet World” conference I ever attended in, wait for it, 1993 in New York City. I had been invited up there because my magazine, Quanta. At the time, the Web was a fringe at best. The event was meager, at best, but there was a definitely a sense that something important was happening. Mobile Internet World, in Boston in 2007, was considerably more impressive, but yet I had the same feeling of excitement. People were coming to this W3C session to learn about mobile Web standards and development. This crowd was not mobile industry people – I did not get the idea that I was preaching to the choir. I think that’s signifigant in the “mainstreaming” of the Mobile Internet. I’m interested to see if I get the same vibe at Future of Mobile tomorrow in London.

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” Well, thumb-surfers the world over took a step closer to being able to experience rich Mobile Web applications last week with the release of the Web Integration Compound Document (WICD — pronounced wicked). I wrote about WICD in InformIT almost two years ago. It’s taken that long to shake out the bugs in the specification. In the mean time, a lot has happened on the mobile Web front, but the WICD specification is more important than ever. Why? Because it promises a predictable environment for creating rich Web applications across browser implementations that integrate rich vector-based graphics and animations that can scale to different screen sizes and layouts. It’s like Ajax on SVG steroids. Opera already provides partial support in Opera Mobile (and has committed full support), but in order to truly deliver on that promise, it needs to be deployed across multiple browser platforms. Now that it has gone to “Candidate Recommendation” stage in the W3C, it will have that chance.

It’s 10:00 on Monday and Tim Berners-Lee has just delivered his keynote address. The key message: the Web is an open platform and an enabling technology layer and as the Web moves into the mobile platform (“convergence”), we need to keep the Web open. It’s a simple message, but it bears repeating, especially here at 3GSM where so much of the hype tends to be about vertical applications such as Mobile TV and music downloads. The Web’s openness is precisely what has fueled its success and allowed it to be such a global success story. I hope that message is received here at the conference. Side note: there is no free wireless network here! There is a “pay for” wireless network available — for €200! I don’t think so. Very unimpressed. Come on GSM Association — get someone to sponsor free Wifi. There’s sponsorship on everything else — it shouldn’t be so difficult. A so-called “back-channel” is becoming de regeur at events like this around the world. Especially as 3GSM embraces so-called Internet-Mobile convergence, it’s vital to activate that back-channel.