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W3C may push wireless Web specs

After years of issuing Web standards for mobile devices, the group may try to get people to actually adopt them.

Tech Industry
After years of issuing Web standards for mobile devices, the W3C may try to get people to actually use them.

Representatives of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) will descend on Barcelona on Thursday and Friday to plot a potential "Mobile Web Initiative" that would try to stimulate adoption of and conformance to the standards group's various mobile device-oriented recommendations.

"We've been asked to look into this area to help the mobile Web to work better than it does today," said Philipp Hoschka, the W3C's interaction domain leader. "Today a lot of people have problems."

The Barcelona workshop will coincide with a meeting by the Open Mobile Alliance, with which the W3C in August announced a memorandum of understanding for sharing technical information on mobile standards.

The problem the W3C and the OMA are trying to solve is the difficulty of getting pages and applications designed for networked desktop computers to work on small wireless devices like cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants).

The W3C has issued numerous standards, or versions of standards, tailored for the mobile Web. These include XHTML Basic, SMIL Basic and SVG Tiny.

But educating Web authors and application developers about these standards, and keeping them honest about their code once they implement them, is another task altogether, and the idea behind the proposed initiative.

"This will be more than a working group," Hoschka said. "It will be several groups that will do things a bit differently than what working groups typically do. They will talk about best practices; there will be a marketing and training component, which is something that we've never done. Potentially we will also do conformance testing and validation. We would like to start getting stricter about standards conformance."

While the W3C already offers tools that let authors check the validity of their XHTML or XML code, the consortium doesn't exert much authority when it comes to the "W3C compliant" tags that appear on many Web pages. One potential role of the initiative would be to crack down on the fraudulent use of those tags, Hoschka said.

W3C members Hewlett-Packard, Orange, Vodafone and Volantis are sponsoring this week's meeting. Companies including Adobe Systems, Canon, France Telecom, HP, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Openwave Systems, Opera, Oracle, Orange, PalmSource, Research In Motion, Sony Ericsson, Sun Microsystems, T-Mobile, Vodafone Group Services and Yahoo submitted position papers.

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