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Thoughts from “Meet Safari for Spatial Computing”

I just watched Apple’s “Meet Safari for Spatial Computing” where they talk about how Safari works on the new visionOS and what you can do to make your web pages look great on Apple’s new device.

tl;dr just keeping doing what responsive web design and accessibility experts have advocated for years.

A few quick thoughts:

Lastly, let’s talk about :hover for a moment.

It’s interesting that :hover effects aren’t triggered on visionOS in Safari — unless you have bluetooth mouse/keyboard in use, then I believe they are?

In other words, Safari will ignore your CSS :hover rules in visionOS (proving, again, the powerful idea of thinking of your CSS as suggestions for the browser rather than instructions — something I first heard from Jeremy quoting Eric).

But, the idea of “hover” as an interaction paradigm is still present in the OS because of its usefulness as a feedback mechanism for eye position and navigation affordances.

So what does Safari do? It ignores developer-supplied hover rules and provides its own hover effects on top of web pages.

Screenshot from Apple’s presentation showing a visionOS Safari web view with a physical room in the background and a digital web page in the forefront, with one of the elements on the page being given a subtle background highlight to indicate it’s interactive.

From the presentation:

While you're looking at a link, Safari will give it a gentle highlight to help you confidently navigate.

But to do this, Safari needs to know where the user is looking and what constitutes an interactive target. So how does it do that?

By taking hints from your markup!

Safari (I should say Webkit) determines what constitutes an “interactive region” by looking for:

Here’s a screenshot from the presentation:

Screenshot from Apple’s presentation noting that “interactive regions” in Safari for visionOS are guessed at by markup elements like button, link, input, and form.

It’s 2023 and would you look at that: semantic, accessible HTML is still as important as ever. HTML isn’t just for old beige tower computers connected to cathode-ray tube monitors. It’s being relied on by the most technologically advanced AR/VR consumer device in 2023.

I feel like debugging “interactive regions” for Safari in the visionOS simulator is probably going to become a thing for developers soon — which ain’t so bad because most of the “fixes” will likely involve writing better HTML.

In this way, I appreciate how new platforms and devices which lean on standards become a kind of instant QA tool for finding non-standard implementations. They immediately surface overlooked problems on long-standing device experiences. Diversity breeds resilience.