Jon von Tetzchner is the chief executive of the Norwegian browser company Opera. (Download for Windows and Mac.) Although Opera first became known for its desktop product, the company has also become well known for its Opera Mini handset-based Web browser.
Opera has become heavily involved in the development of standards for widgets--the lightweight, Web-based applications that are starting to become prevalent on new handsets. It has also been working hard on the development of HTML 5, which has more built-in rich media functionality than the current version of the Web standard.
ZDNet UK caught up with von Tetzchner at the Wireless '09 event in London on Wednesday to discuss standards processes and how Flash may soon become unnecessary.
Q: Tell us about the work Opera has been doing with widget standards. Von Tetzchner: We work mostly through the W3C, which is where the widget standard per se is being worked on. The widget standard (as far as it has been established) is more about the packaging--on the relation of how you connect to the underlying device, it hasn't been standardized fully. Bondi is trying to standardize that, and we have engaged with Bondi and with (the Joint Innovation Labs). (Editors' note: Bondi is a Web/widget specification endorsed by the LiMo Foundation.)
There are already quite a few initiatives, and there is a risk of fragmentation, and obviously our goal is always to try to make things migrate...to a single standard. Sometimes, on the way, people are eager to get started, but we try to engage as much as possible to make sure that this gets standardized in a way that works for everyone.
What does Opera gain from these widget standards bodies? Von Tetzchner: I don't want to say this is a philosophical thing for us, but we do believe the Internet is too important to be limited. There is a significant risk of the fragmentation of technology. It'll be like on the PC: you'll write an application for a platform, and it will only run on that platform. We're already seeing some of this (in widget development), where Web technologies may be in the mix. But you're mixing all those things in, and suddenly you have to write for the platform instead of for the technology.
Our goal is to try and make this work because we believe that's the right thing to do. We've seen the benefits of this from the PC side, where there are differences between the different operating systems, but you can still run all the applications. That's the benefit of having things standardized.
We have a lot of people that know how to write standards, how to implement standards and how to engage in the standards bodies. We have the biggest active group in the W3C to do just that. Considering that our competitors tend to be a lot bigger than us, that shows our commitment to this. … Read more