Browsers on the Move: The Year in Review, the Year Ahead

Michael Smith from the W3C is talking about the changing browser landscape. Just in the last year we’ve had the release of the iPhone with WebKit, the Beta of IE8 and just yesterday, Opera’s Dragonfly technology.

In the mobile browser space, the great thing about the iPhone is that it has the same WebKit engine as Safari on the desktop. Opera Mini 4 — the proxy browser — is getting a lot better too. It even supports CSS3 selectors. Mozilla, having previously expressed no interest in Mobile, have started a project called Fennec. Then there’s Android which will use WebKit as the rendering engine for browsers.

Looking at the DOM/CSS space, there have been some interesting developments. The discovery of IE’s interesting quirk with generated elements was one. The support by other browsers for lots of CSS3 selectors is quite exciting. The selectors API is gaining ground. Michael says he’s not fond of using CSS syntax for DOM traversal but he’s definitely in the minority — this is a godsend.

Now for an interlude to look at Web developer tools in browsers. Firebug really started a trend. IE8 has copied it almost verbatim. WekKit has its pretty Web Inspector and now Opera has Dragonfly. Dragonfly has a remote debugging feature, like Fiddler, which Michael is very excited by.

On the Ajax front, things are looking up in HTML5 for cross-site requests. He pimps Anne’s talk tomorrow. Then there’s Doug’s proposal for JSONrequest. Browser vendors haven’t shown too much interest in that. Meanwhile, Microsoft comes out with XDR, its own implementation that nobody is happy about. The other exciting thing in HTML5 is the offline storage stuff which works like Google Gears.

XSLT is supported very well on the client side now. But apart from Michael, who cares? Give me the selectors API any day. SVG is still strong in Mozilla and Opera.

ARIA is the one I’m happiest with. It’s supported across the board now.

The HTML5 video element is supported in WebKit nightlies and in Mozilla. There’s an experimental Opera build and, of course, no IE support. The biggest issues seem to be around licensing and deciding on a royalty-free format for video. Sun has some ideas for that.

Ah, here comes the version targetting “innovation”. The good news, as Micheal notes, is that is defaults now to the latest version. Damn straight!

Here are some Acid 3 measurements so that we can figure out which browser has the biggest willy.

Finally, look at all the CSS innovations that Dave Hyatt is putting in WebKit (and correctly prefixing with webkit-).

Looking to the year ahead, you’ll see more CSS innovations and HTML5 movement. Michael is rushing through this part because he’s running out of time. In fact, he’s out of time.

The slides are up at w3.org/2008/Talks/05-07-smith-xtech/slides.pdf.

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