As much as many try to disregard the iPhone as being as important as it was to the mobile industry, how many of you actually remember what it was like to browse a website before the iPhone was launched. Apple touted the iPhone as being an internet communicator when it was announced, and a lot of that success came from the browser it announced in 2007. Today almost every mobile browser uses WebKit, which was the engine that powered mobile Safari, and which Apple was kind enough to open-source to the world, and one of its creators has decided to talk about his experience.
Francisco Tolmasky was barely 20 years old when he was hired by Apple in 2006, straight out of college. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Tolmasky tells the story behind mobile Safari, the iOS keyboard we know today, and even Steve Jobs. Here are some of the quotes:
On Safari: “Mr. Jobs was taking a monthlong vacation, so Mr. Tolmasky had to wait for him to return to give his personal blessing for the hiring. “He was super guarded about the project, and he was probably suspicious of some random 20-year-old,” Mr. Tolmasky said. “I remember being very frustrated. This was, like, an impossible task.”
On the keyboard: “The keyboard, he said, was the result of a sort of hackathon run by Mr. Jobs. The chief executive had been unhappy with the keyboard prototypes for the iPhone, so he assigned everyone on the team to work only on keyboards for an entire week. An engineer on Mr. Tolmasky’s team won the contest, and from then on his full-time job was to work on the iPhone keyboard”
On Maps: “Within a week he had something that was working, and in two weeks he had something to show at Macworld that we were showing,” Mr. Tolmasky said. “That was the kind of effect Steve could have on you: This is important, this needs to happen, and you do it.”
On working with Steve Jobs: “Mr. Jobs was notorious for throwing his weight around however he could. One person on the iPhone design team was also named Steve, which caused some confusion in meetings. Mr. Jobs sought to change this.“At some point Steve Jobs got really frustrated with this and said ‘Guess what, you’re Margaret from now on,’” Mr. Tolmasky said. From there on, members of the team would always address the designer Steve as Margaret.”
Today the mobile Internet is a very different world, and it all started with a team of very crazy people. Let’s hope the future products we see from Apple are this bold, and can give us a better experience to look forward to.