iPhone isn’t the new IE6

Peter-Paul Koch:

We’re doing exactly the same as ten years ago. We now say “iPhone” instead of “IE6,” but otherwise nothing’s changed.

No, wait, there’s one more change: the iPhone has far less mobile market share now than IE6 had desktop share back then.

ppk’s overly-bombastic text unfortunately distracts from his message, but he has an excellent point.

Regrettably he reaches for the almost-always-incorrect stupid/lazy/undiciplined argument, delivering only a cursory glance at the foundational issue:

Web developers should take a look at their sites on a Nokia and a BlackBerry and fix whatever’s wrong. It isn’t that hard to get your hands on a testing device. Just ask around or use PerfectoMobile. (I do not trust emulators, so I don’t recommend their use.)

To his credit, Koch directly acknowledges “Safari iPhone” as the best mobile browser.

It’s no surprise that we, in the profession, would like to carry and use the best. We live and breathe this stuff, and pick up on even the little niceties.

And there’s the rub regarding developing for the non-best mobile devices.

We don’t own them.

I have nine versions of four browsers installed on my machine. I keep a Windows VMware running with five instances of different browsers to test against.

I’m firmly in the cross-browser development+testing camp. I talk the progressive enhancement talk and walk the graceful degradation walk.

But I don’t develop for or test against Nokia and RIM devices because it’s more expensive hardware with expensive service plans.

(Plus, all those extra devices clutter the joint.)

Perhaps Koch would argue that as a professional, I should invest in the tools to ensure a great experience for all of my audience.

Well, that leads to the second part of my response: there’s a conspiracy underway.

OK, conspiracy is too strong a word. More like a semiconscious movement.

Mobile web developers, like most developers, are future-focused. We’d rather all mobile phones catch up with the iPhone we have in our pockets today, rather than bend over backwards to accommodate the current majority.

When Koch damns developers for professional hypocrisy and incompetence, I see a quiet revolution of mobile developers waiting for other phones to catch up to the iPhone.

Long-term, I begin moving towards Koch’s position: we do want a robust multi-vendor mobile web marketplace and we don’t just want to assume Safari like a previous generation assumed IE6. Progressive enhancement will serve mobile developers well again, in the future.

But short-term, I think mobile developers intuitively grasp that accommodating the insufficient software+hardware of non-iPhones out there will only prolong the status quo, extending needless suffering for developers and users alike.

ppk iphone webkit safari Feb 8 2010