Ben posts about some developments on this front:
Om Malik and Michael Arrington are pondering Dave Winer’s move towards mobile-enabling the blogosphere. Specifically, his product OPML Editor will allow users to view content they’ve subscribed to on their mobile phone. This is definitely a useful feature; I certainly spend a fair amount of time viewing my Gmail on my phone (in lieu of a Blackberry or similar device), and the ability to subscribe to content and take it with you is brilliant. Similarly, Winer’s Yomoblog.com service for posting to weblogs by phone looks like it could be great.
As Om Malik says, 'there are a lot of tools out there' that enable (or attempt to enable) our mobile lives. On a list of things I've played with and found useful, I'd include Litefeeds and Delicious Mona. On the blogging front, TypePad has just announced TypePad Mobile for posting to your TypePad blog from a mobile device (though there's this route, too). And Gmail on the phone (link) is something I also use a lot.
Ben goes on to recommend Opera Mini, 'an excellent browser that goes through Opera’s proxy server which automatically provides content-squeezing functionality'. I agree: it's very good.
Google has its own functionality for mobile search and reading websites, of course, which currently comes, *I think*, in these forms:
- Google Mobile Web Search (access your phone's mobile web browser, type http://www.google.com in the URL field, type your search query and select Mobile Web); for UK users, www.google.co.uk is another option.
- www.google.com/wml (see here: 'offers Web Search and Mobile search. Mobile search restricts your search to the mobile index which contains sites that are specifically written to fit your mobile screen').
- Google's own mobile proxy (where you enter any URL and get a stripped-down version of the page — with the option of having images or not).
I can't speak for the following, not having made much use of them yet, but here they are:
- Google personalised homepage for your mobile: set it up on your PC — US link here, UK here.
- Google Local XHTML — US here, UK here.
And there's the Gmail-for-mobiles that I mentioned above.
Google seems to advertise (ha) its specifically mobile services very little and I may have missed some obvious ones or have got some of the above wrong (it's a bit of a rabbit warren to investigate). Please add/amend accordingly.
Concerning mobile access of websites, I take to heart Chris Heathcote's view that 'well-written sites win' (link — ppt: slide 27). We don't need separate mobile sites and, although I use the Opera and Google proxy services, I wish sites didn't "have" to be re-purposed. As The Man said, web pages ought to be designed to be read across platforms, across browsers and across devices:
The Web is designed as a universal space. … The Web must operate independently of the hardware, software or network used to access it, of the perceived quality or appropriateness of the information on it, and of the culture, and language, and physical capabilities of those who access it. Hardware and network independence in particular have been crucial to the growth of the Web. In the past, network independence has been assured largely by the Internet architecture. The Internet connects all devices without regard to the type or size or band of device, nor with regard to the wireless or wired or optical infrastructure used. This is its great strength. … For a time, many Web site designers did not see the necessity for such device independence, and indicated that their site was "best viewed using screen set to 800x600". Those Web sites now look terrible on a phone or, for that matter, on a much larger screen. By contrast, many Web sites which use style sheets appropriately can look very good on a very wide range of screen sizes. Tim Berners-Lee
That's from a document Sir Tim wrote about the .mobi TLD proposal. He concluded: 'Dividing the Web into information destined for different devices, or different classes of user, or different classes of information, breaks the Web in a fundamental way'. The road ahead in teaching, with staff and pupils using their own mobile devices and their own desktops/docking stations, depends upon the web keeping this integrity:
The Web works by reference. As an information space, it is defined by the relationship between a URI and what one gets on using that URI. The URI is passed around, written, spoken, buried in links, bookmarked, traded while Instant Messaging and through email. People look up URIs in all sorts of conditions. It is fundamentally useful to be able to quote the URI for some information and then look up that URI in an entirely different context. ibid.
It's quite clear that teachers will need to be on top of the developing options for mobile viewing (and understand the arguments about web integrity). Is there a site (wiki) which collates and maintains links like these, preferably along with comments and reviews about user experience? If not, we ought to get together and create one.
Update (31 August). For the sake of something like Google-completeness, I should perhaps add here:
- Google SMS (not currently available in the UK).
- Google Maps for mobile: 'To download, visit www.google.com/gmm on your mobile phone's web browser' ('currently available in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US').
- Google for iMode.