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OpenDeviceLab.com tracks communal device labs

A big problem with the explosion of web-enabled devices is testing. The industry has moved far from the notion of any kind of fixed and largely ‘standard’ canvas, and new smartphones and tablets arrive daily, while other devices become web-enabled, such as televisions and games consoles. “How do you possibly own or test on all of them—you can’t,” said front-end developer Anna Debenham to .net recently. “So how do you compromise?”

Debenham at the time recommended founding or finding a local open device lab of some kind, providing the means to test your sites across devices and platforms without having to own them all. Now, OpenDeviceLab.com has risen to the challenge of assisting web designers and developers in locating and testing on a broad range of devices by serving three major goals:

  • Help people to locate the right Open Device Lab (ODL) for the job;
  • Explain and promote the ODL movement—and make ODLs more visible;
  • Attract contributors and sponsors to help and donate to ODLs.

Founder Andre Jay Meissner recently explained on his blog that the number of ODLs is rapidly growing. When first attempting to compile a global directory in July 2012, he knew of eight such labs, all in Europe. Having subsequently lobbied and raised awareness, the site now tracks 37 labs in 18 countries, offering access to 500 devices. 15 further labs are preparing to become established soon.

One existing lab is in Clearleft’s Brighton office, and developer Jeremy Keith wrote about his excitement in throwing open the doors. “I really, really like the way that communal device labs have taken off. It’s like a physical manifestation of the sharing and openness that has imbued the practice of web design and development right from the start,” he said, adding that if you can’t find a local lab, you should “think about setting one up”.

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