iWebKit makes mobile app development easier

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The Apple iPhone OS platform has become increasingly popular target for new development. This is the OS that powers the iPod touch, iPad and of course, the iPhone.

There are two kinds of apps that one can create for these devices. The first is a native application, usually written in Objective-C and published through Apple’s App Store. Not only is this kind of app harder to write, but developers may not like their hard work blocked by the whims of Apple.

Because these devices all have at least WiFi access to the internet, it is possible to design web applications tailored to these mobile devices. These “cloud” apps run like normal web applications but must constrain their UI a bit.

iWebKit (ignore the malware site warning if you see it) [download] makes this significantly easier to do. This project is a set of CSS and Javascript files that can give your web app the standard look and feel of other web apps for the iPhone.

There are a few conventions that iWebKit imposes, but these will be familiar to most XHTML developers anyway. In the space of a few hours using this project, I was able to produce a iPhone version of the Feed Bag. If you are using the Safari browser or Google’s Chrome, that page will appear much as it would on an iPhone.

While this application is very simple, it does look like a native app. This makes me very happy.