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Today's iPhone isn't a reading device

Saturday, June 30, 2007 by Dave Winer.

Here's how the browser on my desktop works. Permalink to this paragraph

I click on a link and immediately start reading the text on the screen. Permalink to this paragraph

When I click on a link in Safari on the iPhone, before I can read anything, I have to futz with the display resolution of the browser to make the text visible. This may not sound like a problem, but what a distraction, when following a link, before getting the idea, your mind has to take a detour into managing the device. In reading as in the movies, suspension of disbelief is broken when your mind has to exit the space of ideas and manage the projection device. It's wrong for the device to ask you this, even as a setup issue it should be usable out of the box, but it's unacceptable that it make the user configure the browser every time it displays a new page.  Permalink to this paragraph

Today's iPhone isn't a reading device. It wouldn't take much to configure the browser to be an excellent reading device, but Apple will have to give up the idea that the browser should work the same as the desktop browsers do. The iPhone is nowhere near as capable as a desktop display. Wishing it were so, and shifting the burden to the user to make it so, is not an acceptable solution. Permalink to this paragraph

I thought I could overcome this by creating a special version of a site just for the iPhone that crammed all the text into a narrow column, thinking that the browser wouldn't see any need to make the text small because it would have all the necessary horizontal screen real estate to display every character at a fully visible resolution.  Permalink to this paragraph

Nope. It still displays the text in an unreadably small font.  Permalink to this paragraph

Here's a photo of the iPhone displaying a test page.  Permalink to this paragraph

It's behaving like no web browser I've ever seen, and it's behaving badly. It's breaking an implicit agreement between all platforms that co-exist on the web. We create sites that assume nothing about the device they're being rendered on, and browsers should take care to make our text readable for users of their device. The iPhone web browser doesn't keep that promise.  Permalink to this paragraph

© Copyright 1994-2007 Dave Winer Mailto icon.

Last update: 6/30/2007; 10:17:00 PM Pacific. "It's even worse than it appears."

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