No. See? That was easy!

Oh, you need more background…I see.

The concept of browser fragmentation traces its origins back to the “browser wars” that have been a part of the Internet since it has become commercial. The potential runaway success of Netscape was put firmly in check by Microsoft which, because it owned the vast majority of desktops, was able to strongly encourage use of its browser, Internet Explorer.

This might not have been noteworthy except for the fact that IE and Netscape did not adhere to the same standards. The result was that the two browsers did things somewhat differently most of the time. Web page layouts rendered differently depending on which browser you were using. Early features like Javascript and Flash – and even the rendering of tables, upon which all pages depended at the time – were handled diferently between the two browsers.

It would be easy to drift off down the stream of “who was right” but we’re not going there because it ultimately shrouded the central point, which always should have been, “rely less on the pixel-perfect layout and more on a fluid but crystal clear communication of message.”

Which brings us to today’s mobile browsers.

The State Of Fragmentation: 2012
I have just finished reading a very worthy post on the Trilibis Mobile blog about fragmentation between the browsers of different smartphones. In the post the author Greg Palmer makes the following point:

In today’s mobile world, there are over ten thousand devices in use across the globe covering the simplest feature phones to the smartest of smartphones and tablets. The top 5 OEMs — Samsung, Apple, Motorola, HTC and Nokia — produce devices that run on more than five different operating systems — iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, Symbian, etc… And, as you can imagine, things like screen size, processor power, input method, and OS can range drastically across the board. So no wonder sometimes it feels as if there is an infinite number of combinations to worry about.

Factually accurate, for sure. But I believe this to be wrong-headed. Desiring 100% consistent implementation of anything online across all form factors is admirable. But it’s expensive and (most importantly) distracting from the central mission, which is to provide the best user experience possible within the context of the user’s environment, preferences, and your own desied outcome.

This means letting go of pixel perfection and no longer hinging success on complex functional requirements. It means focusing on the message and the way the message becomes concentrated given a small amount of working area. All entrepreneurs are advised to work up the 30-second elevator spiel as a way to win a chance to present the 175-slide PPT deck. Think about the degradation of content into a mobile presence the same way.

We will explore how this manifests itself in the development process – what you should tell your development team – in the next installment. Stay tuned.