Evergreen iPhone application? Unnecessary!

Posted on Mon 13 April 2009 in Libraries

This Easter weekend I had the opportunity to play with someone's iPod Touch. Of course, the only thing I tried was the Evergreen 1.4 catalogue interface. Lo and behold, it came up just fine on Safari in all of its heavily dynamic JavaScript and less-than-XHTML-compliant glory - even sporting several Dojo widgets. Nice. So we don't have to worry about writing an iPhone-specific application to access Evergreen; users of such devices can just use the normal dynamic catalogue with full functionality.

Evergreen doesn't fare quite as well with Microsoft's rather decrepit PocketExplorer browser on my HTC Touch smartphone (it's a Windows Mobile monstrosity, sigh), but it does work well with the Opera Mobile 9.5 beta browser. I eagerly anticipate the first good release of Fennec for Windows Mobile (coming soon!), as I'm confident that's going to improve my mobile Web browsing experience even further.

I predict that in another year or two the idea of building mobile-specific Web portals to complement your full-function Web site will be pretty passé. I already get really irritated when Web sites think they're being helpful by automatically redirecting my smartphone to an extremely limited interface; in most cases, the full site runs fine. Give me the option, sure, but don't force me down that path. As hardware costs continue to drop, and 3G networks expand, and more people upgrade to more capable mobile devices, one full-function Web site will be all we need--as long as that site is written in (X)HTML and CSS and JavaScript.

Those sites that decide to push core functionality into Flash or SilverLight, on the other hand, can go straight to hell, thankyouverymuch. I'm looking at you, PTOnTheNet. This is a site to which Lynn has been a paying customer for years. It recently announced that it was revising the Web site, which is all well and good. What's not so good is that they adopted SilverLight: not just for pretty effects here and there, but as a core technology. Problem: Lynn has been using Linux at home since I introduced her to it somewhere around eight years ago, and last year bought one of the early models of the Linux-based Asus EEE netbook. Not only did the site redesign destroy the personal training programs she had set up for her clients over the years (breaking site redesign rule #1: Thou shalt not destroy your clients' data), but it also renders her netbook useless for that site.

Even with the Moonlight plugin installed, it looks like the cretinous site developers are using detection scripts to prevent the plugin from even trying to render the content. With Linux-based netbooks on the rise--and with netbooks being the right form factor and price for personal trainers who want to throw them into their backpacks and not weep too bitterly if their netbook suffers the misfortune of being knocked around or sweated to death--this seems very much like a technology choice that was not based on the needs of the customers. Worst of all, they deliberately chose to exclude Linux, when a (X)HTML, CSS, and JavaScript platform would have supported almost any modern platform: not just Linux netbooks, but other mobile devices like the iPhone and smartphones that are so well-suited to the personal trainer. So, at least one customer is going to be walking away, and if there's a competing Web site out there that caters to a broader clientele, I bet there will be far more customers moving in that direction.