Today Microsoft announced that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has “accepted and published” its ‘Pointer Events’ specification.
No, this isn’t the sexiest of news, but even if it won’t get your blood pumping it certainly may make your life a lot easier in the coming years. Here’s what it does: the specification allows for multiple forms of input to generate the same event type. Naturally, the specification supports multi-touch input as well.
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Put another way, no matter if you use your fingers, a stylus, a cursor, or something else, it will have the same effect on the website that you are interacting with. This reduces confusion, and deslops the user experience of the Internet across devices. From the specification:
To reduce the cost of coding to multiple input types and also to help with the above described ambiguity with Mouse Events, this specifications defines a more abstract form of input, called a pointer. A pointer can be any point of contact on the screen made by a mouse cursor, pen, touch (including multi-touch), or other pointing input device. This model makes it easy to write sites and applications that work well no matter what hardware the user has.
Computing and the Internet are increasingly mobile propositions, giving rise to the use of Internet technology on form-factors that generate a variety of user inputs; Microsoft submission is a plan to unify their end point, helping users and developers alike.
In its blog post announcing the publishing of its proposed spec, Microsoft noted that it is “based on the APIs available today in IE10 on Windows 8.”
The W3C seems bullish on the idea that Microsoft has in mind:
This Submission comes at a time of significant developer concern about creating content that works well on multiple input modalities, and in light of some disadvantages to the touch event model currently under standardization. This Submission is therefore both timely and well-aligned with the consortium’s objectives and priorities, as well as technically sound, with known interest from a broad set of stakeholders, including implementers from the mobile and desktop spaces, script library authors, and content authors.
However, it remains at the moment a simple submission. As the spec document notes:
By publishing this document, W3C acknowledges that the Submitting Members have made a formal Submission request to W3C for discussion. Publication of this document by W3C indicates no endorsement of its content by W3C, nor that W3C has, is, or will be allocating any resources to the issues addressed by it.
That aside, this work by Microsoft does appear to solve a real problem that will become only more pressing as tablets reach popularity levels previously only commanded by more traditional computing form factors. That combined with the rise of smartphone ubiquity, and what is the ‘normal’ input method for the Internet becomes debatable.
Top Image Credit: Robert Scoble