Deepfish: Microsoft Unveils New Mobile Web Browser to Bring Desktop-Like Browsing to Mobile Devices
Today at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (eTech), Microsoft unveiled a new mobile technology, called Deepfish, designed to offer mobile users quick and convenient Web browsing that more closely resembles the experience of browsing the Web on desktop computers.
Microsoft is making a limited technology preview available to the public on a first-come basis.
To learn more Deepfish technology and how it will improve Web browsing for mobile users, PressPass spoke with Dr. Gary William Flake, a Microsoft Technical Fellow and the founder and director of Microsoft Live Labs.
PressPass: Microsoft introduced a new technology today at eTech called Deepfish. What is Deepfish technology and how does this approach help people?
Gary William Flake: Think about your mobile browsing experience today. It’s often less than intuitive, the pages don’t look like what you’ve come to expect on the desktop, and it takes a long time for a page to load. Deepfish aims to solve that problem. With the Deepfish technology, we capture the full layout of the page and deliver it to the mobile device, resulting in an experience similar to that on the desktop.
Deepfish provides users with a full “as-designed” view of virtually any Web site on their mobile device and looks as you would expect it to on your desktop, allowing much more of the Web to be easily viewed on a mobile device than is possible today. The interface lets users zoom in and out on the parts of a Web page that interest them in an intuitive way, making it easy to use these large-screen formatted pages on a mobile device. On current mobile browsers, it can typically take up to a minute or more for a Web page to render, however the Deepfish architecture only loads the user-specified portion of the page, providing much quicker page-load times, as detailed information is only retrieved as needed or in the background.
PressPass: How is it different than what is already available to mobile users?
Flake: Originally, mobile browsers required content to be specifically tailored to the mobile device, often losing a great deal of the value in today’s rich page layouts. It also required developers and designers to do additional work that they were not able to fully justify because of the limited user base of mobile browsers. It was a classic cold-start problem. To combat this limitation, the majority of today’s browsers use a single-column format which dynamically reformats existing pages by repositioning the content to fit in the limited screen size. This essentially “crushes” the page to fit the small screen. This approach, while an improvement in some cases, generally results in a difficult-to-view page that requires excessive scrolling in order to use the portions of the page the person is trying to reach. And when you see the page, it isn’t presented in the way the Web designer intended. Deepfish’s interface addresses this problem by providing users with a simple way to zoom in and out on the part of the Web page that interests them, while presenting the information as it was intended. All of this adds up to an easier and faster way to navigate through a page.
PressPass: Is Deepfish available to the general public to use and how is Microsoft thinking of taking this to market?
Flake: To download the Deepfish technology preview and get updates from the Deepfish team blog go to, http://labs.live.com/deepfish/. We are providing limited access to the preview on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once the limit is reached, we will close access. We are providing access because customer feedback is an important way we improve our technology, so we encourage you to give it a try and let us know what you think.
At this time, Deepfish is currently a prototype technology, and we are not announcing any specific plans for making the product more widely available. The goal of Live Labs is to improve and accelerate the evolution of Microsoft’s Internet products and services through applied research, and providing these early prototypes for public testing and feedback is an important part of that ongoing pursuit.
PressPass: We’ve seen technologies including Photosynth and Deepfish come out of Microsoft’s Live Labs. Can you explain the group’s charter?
Flake: Live Labs is an applied research organization focused on the incubation of innovative Internet-centric technologies. Through rapid prototyping of emerging technologies and incubation of entirely new inventions, Live Labs aims to advance the state of the art of Internet technologies in general and to improve and accelerate the evolution of Microsoft’s internet products and services. Live Labs also believes that collaboration with other groups at Microsoft, government and academic research labs, industry labs and pioneers, and others is key to fulfilling its mission, and works to build strong relationships with these groups. Live Labs incubations such as Photosynth and now Deepfish are an example of the rapid innovation happening within Live Labs and the influence it is having on Microsoft’s products.
PressPass: How is the Deepfish technology related to the announcement Microsoft made this week about the launch of Zenzui, an independent company using Microsoft technologies to bring advanced information visualization techniques out of the research lab and onto mobile phones?
Flake: Mobility offers great opportunity for innovation, and this is clearly an area where Microsoft wants to bring the latest technologies to the customer. These announcements underscore the exciting progress being made in mobility and reinforce our commitment to innovation in this space in various ways. Microsoft constantly experiments in advanced user interfaces and Live Labs is about showing what’s possible today through demonstrable examples such as Deepfish.
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