Apple recently updated its iOS software for iPhones, iPods and iPads. While there were plenty of new features for users (which you can read about on Gadget Lab), the updated version of Mobile Safari has quite a few nice new tricks for web developers.
Mobile Safari has long been at the front of the mobile pack when it comes to HTML5 support, and the latest version adds several more welcome new features. We now get support for WebSockets, better @font-face handling, better HTML5 forms and even support for the bleeding edge DeviceOrientation API — that’s the API that lets you access the accelerometer from inside the browser.
So far it doesn’t appear that Apple has fully documented the new features, but Maximiliano Firtman, the author of Programming the Mobile Web, has been testing the latest version of Mobile Safari and offers a nice overview of what’s new in iOS 4.2.
If you’re developing mobile-optimized site, or just want to play with next generation HTML features like WebSockets, check out Firtman’s overview of what Mobile Safari can and can’t do. If you’d like to see what Android 2.2 is capable of, Firtman has a similar overview of Froyo’s support for HTML5 and its related APIs.
Developing a website that works well in all web browser isn’t easy, particularly if you’re using newer elements in HTML5. Even among modern, standards-compliant browsers, HTML5 support varies, and figuring out how and when to fall back on other solutions means a lot of cross-browser testing.
Thanks to virtual machines, testing across web browsers has become much easier. But if you’re looking for an even easier way to see what you site looks like in, say, Internet Explorer 6, check out Browserling, a new cross-browser testing tool that embeds any another browser inside your browser.
Browserling relies on Amazon-hosted virtual machines to do the embedding. The result is a real-time, fully interactive look at your site in virtually any Windows web browser, (Yep, it only works in Windows). It’s a step up from other web-based browser tests which just offer screenshots of what your site looks like in other browsers.
Unfortunately, as cool as the concept is, Browserling has a few drawbacks. The worst part of the service is that, for now anyway, you’ll be waiting in the queue for some time. To keep resources under control, Browserling severely limits the number of users connecting to the service at any one time. You’re also limited to how long you can use Browserlings VMs — 90 seconds is all you’ll get without creating an account. If you sign up you’ll have five minutes, which gives you a better chance to check out your website, but is hardly enough time for real testing.
The site advertises paid plans, which promise to let you ditch the queue and time limits, but at the moment the paid option isn’t actually available.
Our other main gripe is that while Internet Explorer is well represented — you can test in versions 5.5 all the way up to IE9 Beta — older versions of other browsers are scarce. While it’s true IE is probably what most developers are interested in, it would be nice to see older versions of Firefox, Safari and Opera supported as well.
While it would be premature to delete your own virtual machines, Browserling has potential. If Browserling can work out the kinks — we experienced numerous errors, crashing VMs and other problems, but it’s probably just getting smothered by hugs — it may eventually help take some of the pain out of cross-browser testing.
Opera software has released the first beta of the upcoming Opera 11 browser.
New in Tuesday’s release is an innovative feature called “Tab Stacking,” which gives you the ability to stack and group your tabs together to better organize the pages you’re viewing.
An alpha release of Opera arrived earlier this autumn, and it gave us a taste of some other new features, like lightweight browser add-ons and some hardware acceleration features new to version 11. Those features have been refined and are included here along with the new tab tricks.
Tab Stacking is the standout feature in this release. It is ingeniously simple and works a little bit like the way you create folders of apps on the iPhone’s home screen. You group related tabs by dragging them on top of each other. Your “stack” then collapses down into a single tab. To access the tabs in a stack, you simply mouse over the group and it expands, or you can click the arrow to the right of the grouped tab, which has the same effect.
The idea of grouping tabs is nothing new. Firefox 4 will also introduce a new interface for grouping tabs when it is finalized in a few months.
Only a slim one or two percent of the desktop browser market uses Opera daily. Still, the company is known for building innovative user interfaces into its browsers ahead of its larger, more widely-used competitors. Things like mouse gestures, or the page that shows thumbnails of your favorite sites when opening a new tab were first introduced in Opera. So it’s a change of script to see the company in the position of playing catch-up to the big names when it comes to grouping tabs and supporting lightweight add-ons.
However, Firefox 4’s current implementation (also still in beta) suddenly looks awkward and primitive next to Opera’s take on the same idea. It more elegant, and it plays on a behavior many users — those with iPhones or iPads — are already familiar with.
The best way to understand Tab Stacking is to see it in action:
Opera’s mouse gestures have been improved in this release, though there’s still not much support for gesture-based trackpads. In my testing, gestures like pinching zoomed in and out, but other options like three or four-finger swipes aren’t supported.
Also new in Opera 11 is a a visual interface that highlights mouse paths and makes it easier to understand and customize mouse gesture shortcuts. Check out Opera’s guide to mouse gestures for more details.
The beta release also sees the launch of a new website for publishing and searching Opera extensions. Thanks to Opera’s decision to base its extensions framework on the W3C Widget specification (which defines a “widget” as a downloadable and locally stored web application), it should be relatively easy to port existing Chrome and Safari extensions to Opera’s platform. So easy, in fact, that Opera reports developers are submitting between 10 and 20 new extensions each day and users have already downloaded some 500,000 add-ons.
Opera’s extensions framework also gains an automatic update system in this release, enabling add-on developers to push updates to users browsers. This means you’ll never need to worry about making sure you have the latest version of your favorite add-ons.
One thing you may not find in the new extensions store are Flash-blocking add-ons. Actually you probably will, but you don’t need them. Opera 11 can now be set to load plug-ins (like Flash or Silverlight) only on demand. Just head to the preferences menu, select the Advanced tab and then click Content. There, you’ll see a new option to only load plug-ins on demand. The feature is disabled by default.
Of course, all the new features would be less exciting if they slowed things down, but luckily they don’t. Opera hasn’t given any hard and fast numbers, but in our experience Opera 11 is faster than its predecessors and on par with Firefox 4 and Chrome 7.
Linux fans will be happy to hear that the platform has seen a bit of extra attention in this release. Opera claims that the beta is 15 to 20 percent faster on common benchmarks than Opera 10.63 for Linux.
Perhaps even more impressive, Opera 11 is actually 30 percent smaller than previous releases, saving you a bit of download time and disk space.
Other noteworthy features in the Opera beta include a revamped, simplified URL bar, which, like Google Chrome, dispenses with the “http://” bit at the front of URLs and highlights the security status of the current page. Unlike Chrome though, when you click inside the URL bar, Opera will reveal whether you’re connected using http or https.
Another trick borrowed from Google Chrome is support for Google search predictions. The feature works in both the search field and from the address bar when you start your query with the “g” shortcut.
With hardware acceleration, add-ons support and the innovative interface of Tab Stacking leading the way, Opera 11 is shaping up to be a great release both for Opera fans and those who use other browsers, which, if history is any guide, will soon be mimicking Opera’s lead.
As many prepare to trudge home for Thanksgiving, an old dread is in our hearts. Our poor, confused parents and their malfunctioning routers that need fixing. But maybe even scarier? Now they’re starting to embrace the same tech we do. More »
I like turkey: roasted after a good brine, injected with butter and cognac. What I don’t like are the factories that make some of the 45 million turkeys that will be cooked and eaten tomorrow. This extremely disturbing video shows why: More »
Posted by Eric Weigle, Software Engineer, and Abe Epton, Publisher Technical Specialist
News publishers and readers both benefit when journalists get proper credit for their work. That can be difficult, with news spreading so quickly and many websites syndicating articles to others. That’s why we’re experimenting with two new metatags for Google News: syndication-source and original-source. Each of these metatags addresses a different scenario, but for both the aim is to allow publishers to take credit for their work and give credit to other journalists. Here’s how to use these metatags:
syndication-source indicates the preferred URL for a syndicated article. If two versions of an article are exactly the same, or only very slightly modified, we’re asking publishers to use syndication-source to point us to the one they would like Google News to use. For example, if Publisher X syndicates stories to Publisher Y, both should put the following metatag on those articles: <meta name="syndication-source" content="http://www.publisherX.com/wire_story_1.html">
original-source indicates the URL of the first article to report on a story. We encourage publishers to use this metatag to give credit to the source that broke the story. We recognize that this can sometimes be tough to determine. But the intent of this tag is to reward hard work and journalistic enterprise. For example, to credit the publication that broke a story you could use a metatag like this: <meta name="original-source" content="http://www.example.com/burglary_at_watergate.html">
In both cases, it’s perfectly valid for a metatag to point to the current page URL. It’s also fine for there to be multiple original-source metatags on one page, to indicate a variety of original reporting leading up to the current article. If you’re not sure of the exact URL to provide in either case, just use the domain of the site that should be credited.
Although these metatags are already in use by our systems, you may not notice their impact right away. We’ll need some time to observe their use “in the wild” before we can make the best use of them. But we’re hopeful that this approach will help determine original authorship, and we encourage you to take advantage of them now.
To learn more about how these metatags work, and how you can implement them for your site, visit our Help Center article.