The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), backed by a group of online leaders, has released a document recommending best practices for developing webpages that can be displayed properly on small mobile devices.

Companies including Nokia, Google, Microsoft, AT&T, Vodafone and France Telecom helped create the document which is now available for developers to test out and offer feedback.

The recommendations range from simple to complex. For example, designers are advised to place navigation links primarily at the top of the page and to place each navigation link on a single line. But recommendations also include more sophisticated information such as advice on how to use caching mechanisms to improve the experience for end users. The document also specifies that the idea is to create a single web, not a separate one designed specifically for mobile devices.

That's an important point in a mobile internet industry that some say has been hampered by the existence of essentially a separate web designed for mobile devices. "WAP and the web are two very different things," said Eskil Sivertsen, a spokesman for Opera, one of the companies involved in the development of the recommendations.

WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) is a technology that was developed to enable mobile users to access online content but it requires developers to create new sites specifically for mobile users using a special language.

Sivertsen said that the W3C effort should be more effective than historical efforts to unify the mobile internet experience because it's not a proprietary effort made by a commercial company. Instead, the initiative was developed by 30 companies across the industry and is backed by the international web standardisation group.

It's the first set of recommendations and more advanced details will follow, he said. "It's a nice beginning to prepare for a web that is more mobile friendly," he said.

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