Towards Interoperable Pointer Events: Evolving Input Events for Multiple Devices

September 24th, 2012

Today, the W3C has accepted and published Microsoft’s member submission describing a new way for Web sites to support multiple pointing devices such as mouse, pen, and multi-touch. Our proposal for a new Pointer Events Web standard is based on the APIs available today in IE10 on Windows 8.

The Web is more exciting and interactive for users when sites enable experiences for multi-touch. It is even better when the same site continues to work if you switch to using a mouse or pen. We believe the Web should not be fragmented into sites designed for only one type of input. We designed Pointer Events to make it easier for developers to avoid this fragmentation by abstracting the differences of input devices while still allowing for device-specific enhancements when desired.

Our goal with this submission is to work with other browser vendors and the wider Web community to move to adopt a new approach to multi-touch input. In the future, we hope that Web developers will only need to write to one pointer input model no matter if their users are using mouse, pen, touch, or whatever comes next. The W3C noted, “This Submission comes at a time of significant developer concern about creating content that works well on multiple input modalities, and in light of some disadvantages to the touch event model currently under standardization.”

Other approaches to supporting multi-touch input require Web developers to write their code once for mouse input and again for touch, dealing with the sometimes complex interactions between the two models (for example, when touch events are mapped to mouse events for compatibility). Throughout the development of IE10, and thanks to your feedback, we designed the Pointer Events model to be more compatible with the existing Web and avoid these complexities.

We encourage you to review the proposal and share your thoughts. The specification is a starting point and calls out several open issues for discussion and we look forward to making improvements based on your feedback.

Update: On November 9th, 2012, the W3C announced the launch of the Pointer Events Working Group. The group intends to use Microsoft’s proposal, based on the APIs available today in IE10 on Windows 8, as the starting point for a Recommendation track specification, an important step towards interoperable support on the Web.


—Adrian Bateman and Jacob Rossi, Program Managers, Internet Explorer