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Jun 01

I will lay off of Android WebView….. and instead hit Google Maps!

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It is easy to make fun of the Android WebView. Ben and I had a slide on that in our talk yesterday. Painful, but easy. It’s almost as though the Android wing of Google doesn’t want the Web to be a great platform :/

We have a big fight for maps and location going on too, and next week will give us more information. iOS 6 is expected to showcase some amazing home grown (via 3 acquisitions) maps, and Google is trying to jump in and show that they have some life too ;).

The cynic in you may understand that the Android platform would be wise to make Google Maps amazing and easy to work with (their mapping, driving, and local functionality is fantastic!) but maybe have it be harder to work with other foundations.

If I owned a platform and NOT a mapping property, I would create interfaces so the developer would loosely talk to the system, and they would have a way to get a handle to the lower level to do fancy things that a particular provider had. An API / SPI model.

What do we have with Android today?

“To create a Google Map, you must extend MapActivity and implement a MapView in the layout.”

Wait, a MapActivity? Not just a view/component that you can pop in?

“Only one MapActivity is supported per process. Multiple MapActivities running simultaneously are likely to interfere in unexpected and undesired ways.”

If you wanted to use another mapping platform you can of course. OSMDroid is one example. They even have a wrapper so you could plug and play on the MapView layer, but note that you still live within the MapActivity bounds.

This becomes an issue if you want to ship on a device that may be Android but isn’t certified with Google goodness. A platform such as the Kindle Fire for example, where you don’t have access to the Google APIs. Now you have the pain of having separate builds.

I compare this to our mWeb codebase where we can flip a bit and suddenly the maps change between Google or Bing.

With WWDC and Google I/O coming up soon and soon-ish, I can’t wait to see these things go away :)

What headline would you most like to see? I wouldn’t mind some of:

  • “Android SDK updated with ChromeWebView that enables amazing WebView support!”
  • “iOS 6 delivers fantastic Siri and Gesture SDK”

But hell, I wouldn’t mind the small things…. “In mobile safari if you use native scrolling you can still tap the top menu bar and scroll to the top”, “iOS 6 auto-updates apps and doesn’t download unused assets. Finally.” etc.

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