Web access reaches broader range of devices

Web access reaches broader range of devices

The World Wide Web Consortium has announced a standard way to allow devices to communicate their configuration details and capabilities to servers, so content can be received more frequently in a usable format.

This will be possible through the new Composite Capability/Preference Profiles: Structure and Vocabularies 1.0 Recommendation system. This is used for expressing device capabilities and user preferences, using the Resource Description Framework. It is an extensible framework that can be used for communicating the delivery content (screen size, audio capabilities, bandwidth, etc.) from a device to a web server.

One of the W3C's primary goals is universal access. Users need to be able to use their choice of devices to access web content, in ways that are appropriate for their hardware capabilities, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical abilities.

There has been a long need for there to be a standard way that a cellphone or a personal digital assistant with web access can tell the server what kind of device it is and how the information should be formatted. For instance, if a cellphone cannot display a website as it is seen on a PC screen, then it needs to tell the system that it requires a list instead.

Rhys Lewis, Chair of the W3C Device Independence Working Group, where CC/PP is being developed, says that it plays a vital role in supporting the ability of people to access the Web from an increasingly diverse range of devices: "There is now a huge variation in capability between, on the one hand, the smallest, most portable, web-enabled devices and, on the other, the typical personal computers and workstations that we've traditionally used. Between these extremes are many other types of devices that can access the Web, including interactive television systems, personal digital assistants, smart phones and domestic appliances.

"By providing a stable framework for devices and Web servers to optimise content delivery, CC/PP provides a foundation for a device independent Web, and actual device empowerment. As CC/PP uses RDF for the actual descriptions, we can foresee ease in sharing existing profiles, and more easily combining and creating new ones as new devices appear on the market."

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