Mobile platform strategist Peter-Paul Koch has written an article entitled The iPhone monoculture. Within, he links to people concerned about the WebKit monoculture they say is occurring, and which was partly behind a recent spat over CSS vendor prefixes. Koch believes such sentiments are not helpful and are in fact clouding a bigger and more dangerous problem when it comes to mobile web design.
Koch told us people are misconstructing the problem, which is in fact that many designers and developers only test mobile sites on the iPhone, rather than WebKit having any kind of de-facto monopoly in that space. "But before we can solve the problem, we have to understand what it actually is, and how leading web dev thinkers have – quite unwittingly – helped create the problem by focusing far too much of their attention on the iPhone," he said.
According to Koch, the argument about a WebKit 'monoculture' existing is dangerous because it "creates an enemy where there is none". He said that he's recently found Google devs becoming defensive because they're seen as part of the problem while, in fact, they're just doing their job, which is to create a great browser. Additionally, they faithfully implement vendor prefixes as W3C prescribes. "Of course, it's not really about Google but about Apple. Still, since Apple never talks to anyone at all. The Googlers have to bear the brunt right now, which is just wrong."
We asked Koch what developers can do to break out of this line of thinking. He recommended downloading Opera Mini to your iPhone or Android and to start testing in it seriously. "Really, it's that simple. It's not the entire solution, but it's a start." And although freelancers and tiny studios might baulk at testing across multiple devices – and therefore having to buy them – Koch argued this should be seen as a straightforward business expense: "It's just like your laptop or your software. You buy something because it'll help you make more money off of your clients. Simple." As a start, he reckons you should "allocate about £100 per month, which will allow you to buy two devices a year," and also find others with similar problems, so you can swap devices with them and test on an increasingly diverse range of platforms.