Opera: Choose web standards for web apps #mwc12

The debate over the use of web standards for web apps, and how developers explore deeper integration for such apps, has been covered throughout Mobile World Congress this week. Developer Tech met up with Andreas Bovens, Head of International Developer Relations at Opera Software, who believes that web standards are the sensible way to go.

With 160 million users worldwide, Opera is one of the main players in mobile web-browsing. It’s popularity is significant in emerging markets, where Opera Mini is often the only thing that will work on lower-grade feature phones as a result of its celever data compressing that cuts data use by up to two thirds.

“Our main message to developers is to use web standards to develop web apps,” says Bovens. “Don’t use proprietory technologies. Only use flash if you have to, for instance. Or if you can develop a web application then go for that route rather than developing a native application.”

There’s a shift taking place in the sophistication of APIs available that allow deeper integration for browser-based apps, he says.

“We try to tell the story about web standards, not just because it’s good for us, we believe it’s good for everybody,” he adds.

“We don’t lock in developers, we try to nurture them for the wider ecosystem; websites, because that’s typically where the web goes. Open formats beats closed formats in the long run every time.”

With the majority of the developer market based around Silicon Valley, this tends to be the epicentre of where things happen. People in those climes are centred around their iPhones and their Android phones, which are all web kit based; leading some at Opera believe that for these people, 'mobile web' might come to simply mean, 'Webkit'.

“Because they code for the specifiticies of Webkit, and also for some of the propriatory extensions and ways things are implemented, they tend to pick up other browsers,” says Bovens. “I think Firefox mobile suffers from that, Windows Phone, and Opera as well.”

The organisation is listening, it’s watching; and if your website doesn’t work on its browser, Opera will not only let you know, it will offer you a fix too.

“We have to do this because we’re a smaller player on the desktop market than the other browser vendors,” he says. “On mobile, we have a significant market share, but American and European developers are not always aware of this, so reaching out to developers is necessary there too.”

So Opera is on a mission to raise awareness of this issue. The service has 160m users, we’re not talking peanuts here.

“Don’t forget about developing, and testing at least in Opera,” says Bovens. “It’s totally possible to build a site that works well, on Webkit, on Opera and on other browsers. You just have to do that little bit extra.”

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