Opera: Single-minded about widget development

Summary:The browser company believes that a single standard for widgets will stop web users from being locked into one product, according to chief executive Jon von Tetzchner

...you are almost restarting [with each version], and they are not totally compatible. XHTML has not really been used very much, which is sad, but that's the way it is.

For a while there, we actually worked outside, together with Mozilla and Apple, in the WHAT [Web Hypertext Applications Technology] working group. This is a group where we were basically looking at web standards. This was done because there was no other forum to do this. A fair amount of the work that we did there has then gone in to the W3C and is now part of HTML 5, then changed because there have been more people, including Microsoft, having input on that.

That's the way we like it — you like the competitors to be in there. You also have the browser vendors, you have the people who are actually writing the content and you have people [with] input who clearly think it is important to promote their different causes.

In your presentation earlier, you were talking about what HTML 5 can do as a replacement for Flash.
I think you can do most things with the web standards today. In some ways, you may say you don't need Flash. On the other hand, I like Adobe — they're a nice company. I hope they flourish and do well, so this is not about killing Flash. I think Flash will be around for a very, very long time, but I think it's natural that web standards also evolve to be richer. You can then choose whether you'd like to do it through web standards or whether you'd like to use Flash.

What we definitely don't need is more proprietary technology — that's the main thing. We have Flash. It's there — fine. Let's not get anything more.

Are you talking about Flash becoming more niche?
It's more of a choice of what you like doing.

Where's the line between what web standards can do and what Flash can do?
You can do everything, I believe, through web standards — you don't need to use something else. But there might be something where you believe Flash is better; then you choose to use Flash.

When Vodafone announced this month that it was going to launch a cross-platform app store, analysts noted it may be time for a switch back from native widgets to web-based widgets. Where do you see web-based widgets working better than native apps and vice versa?
For most things, web is better. As you're seeing the browser getting more powerful and better at executing, I think you'll find that someone can maybe code a more efficient piece of code in machine language than they can in a more high-level language. But it becomes very difficult, and you need a really good programmer to make the most of it.

The benefits of doing it web-based are just so much bigger, especially the fact that you can get something that runs across all the different platforms. Now, if you really, really want to make the most of the device, and you need to code at the lowest, lowest level, then nothing beats native, right? But it will mean that [the application] will only run on that device, and it's not very portable. So it's not a scalable model, which is why everything has moved to the web on the PC.

Palm have said their new WebOS widgets will be built on web standards such as JavaScript, HTML and CSS, but will run natively. Are they doing it the right way?
I need to look closer at it. It is a question of how pure it is. As soon as you start doing a combination of native and web, it becomes difficult. This is why it's important to standardise on those elements as well, because if you do a combination of web and native and you end up having something that is proprietary, you lose the benefit of the portability.

You can implement web solutions incorrectly. You will have a time — and this is not about Palm; they may be doing it right — where we will see a little bit of fragmentation. We're already seeing that with the iPhone and the like. I think people will move towards the centre point again, because the benefits are just too big. You want to reach everyone. The iPhone may be cool, but if it's one or two percent of the market, that still leaves a lot of people that you're not reaching.

Topics: Networking


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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