iPad-friendly sites are a reminder of mobile-friendly web sites.
In January I wrote about how the iPad could be bad for domainers because it will change the way some people navigate the web. Today news of a different sort regarding the iPad and web sites has surfaced: NPR and The Wall Street Journal will show different versions of their web sites to iPad users.
At issue here is the iPad’s lack of support for flash, which both NPR and WSJ apparently use heavily on their sites.
When mobile web browsing picked up, the web split in two as sites were made for mobile or desktop browsing. Hence the idea of .mobi, a top level domain name that would only contain web content optimized for small screens. Web enthusiasts screamed that the idea fragments the web, and instead the focus should be on creating web sites that work well on both small and large screens.
Many years later its apparent that .mobi wasn’t needed because of device and browser recognition. If I visit an optimized site with my phone, it will serve up a mobile version of the site. I don’t need .mobi.
That’s the approach NPR and WSJ are taking. Do we need a .ipad domain? Of course not. Web sites can just serve a different page to someone visiting from an iPad.
It’s still not ideal — web designers shouldn’t need to optimize for several devices. And ‘app’ on the iPad will be like creating new web site for a different platform. Yet the hindsight of what happened with .mobi and the mobile web helps us see the path forward.