21 Comments

Summary:

If recent news from Twitter, Pandora, Google and Amazon is any indication, it seems that a set of technologies collectively known as HTML5 are finally starting to gain a lot of momentum, and to me, that’s a good thing — especially for the mainstream users.

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Sometimes I can’t help myself. After spending years in the trenches as a reporter, anytime I see three or more information blurbs about a technology or a company, I immediately think of it as a trend. And this time, I’m making a somewhat obvious observation — well obvious for most of our readers, at the very least — that a set of technologies collectively known as HTML5 is finally starting to gain a lot momentum, and to me, that’s a good thing.

In last month or so, we’ve seen some major services re-launch their websites for the iPhone, iPad and other tablets based on HTML5 and are bringing them to the mainstream users — so much so that even giants like Microsoft are ready to cast aside their own technologies in favor of HTML5.

There’s Google of course, whose apps keep getting better and better. It’s clearly leading the HTML5 charge. And if that wasn’t enough, in July 2011, Pandora re-launched its website for tablets. Earlier this month, Twitter launched an HTML5-based web client that’s as fantastic as the dedicated app itself.

Today, Amazon launched Kindle Cloud Reader, which is so good, writes our Darrell Etherington, that “you’d be hard-pressed to tell that you aren’t using a native app, especially if you place a shortcut to the web app on your iPad’s home screen.” Walmart-owned Vudu launched an HTML5 version of its web-app. And as we had previously noted, “more than 2.1 billion mobile devices will have HTML5 browsers by 2016, up from just 109 million in 2010, according to a new report by ABI Research.”

I find it ironic that when the iPhone first launched in 2007, the whole idea was that mobile would help reinvent the web, but those web apps never really materialized. Four years later, that very same idea could become a drain on Apple’s booming app business as companies deploy web apps to avoid Apple’s 30-percent revenue cut for apps and content.

That said, I don’t think HTML 5 and dedicated apps are mutually exclusive. Websites have to come to realization that they need to be tablet-ready for a seamless experience for their customers. What’s more, the closer they can bring the app and browser-based experience to each other, the better it is. Pandora and Twitter have done a good job of providing a somewhat consistent experience across different browsers and apps. Hopefully, this is going to get easier and more commonplace.

In a post, Why HTML5 web apps are going to rock your world, Simon Mackie said:

As technologies like HTML5, CSS3, SVG and WebGL start to become more mainstream, not only will the web apps we already use become more useful, but we should also see developers building web apps that do things that previously could have only been done by desktop applications. It’s an exciting time to be working on the web, both for the developers of web apps, who have a plethora of new technologies and techniques to experiment with, and for users of those apps.

With Facebook set to launch an HTML5-based Project Spartan, many of us would be able to see this first hand.

  1. There are still some very significant areas where web apps will not fulfill needs. Notifications most significantly. Unless there’s something I’m missing, as of now, background notifications are not possible via web apps. Granted, these are not needs that every application will have, but it does create a fairly large barrier for web apps becoming the norm. Web apps will take over for very simple app ideas, but for more complicated apps, native is the way to go, for performance, reliability, and features.

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    1. Q

      I think the argument is for great web-presence that helps you behave like an app via html5 is going to be increasingly important going forward/

      The background notifications and all that stuff is apparently goig to show up soon enough.

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      1. Notifications for Web App need to be email driven.

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    2. Notifications for web apps are best done in a feed style. See the numerous demo’s of Chatter with its integration with salesforce.com CRM and 3rd party systems alike.

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    3. I suppose you could have your web app, then do notifications thru something like BoxCar.

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    4. Hmm, I would say we have notifications in form of email for web apps for decades. It just that its been before us for so long we do not see it anymore.

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  2. FYI: I just learned Google’s HTML5 Web App hackaton presentation will be streamed live tomorrow – http://twitter.com/#!/ChromiumDev/status/101353283184111616

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  3. I don’t know html5 reminds me of asm. Yes one could write a GUI app in asm, which might have been faster. But what’s the point.

    Yes one can write a look a like in html5. But what’s the point if the native app also provides universal data access?

    In the end we will have data manipulating data, not text manipulating data since it requires a translation. But from a content providers view that might be different.

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  4. Matthew Carlson Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Building a single decent web-based experience that can work across all platforms seems much more sustainable than developing separate native apps for every relevant platform/device that arrives on the market. Imagine if all those minds that are currently chasing development in iOS, webOS, Android, Honeycomb etc. were just putting all of their energy and passion to improving, innovating and stabilizing html5.

    Of course games or apps requiring rapid and fluid interaction make most sense as native apps, but for content/data consumption and social networking html5 makes the most sense.

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  5. If you take HTML5 and wrap it with a native wrapper outside the browser you may get more. E.g. PhoneGap, etc.

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    1. Definitely an opportunity there and Titanium’s Appcelerator (and other providers) already enable this. It provides cross-platform mobile dev from a single code base. What will be more interesting will be to see if a provider comes along with an “app middleware” that hooks to the browser SDK and enables access to other core device functionality.

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  6. I couldn’t agree more Om. Living in the video space, I saw HTML 5 explode into the industry (largely because the most tactile feature of HTML 5 was the video tag). And then HTML 5 applications starting coming out. I’ve done a lot of thinking and writing about HTML vs. native apps but it wasn’t until Amazon’s announcement that I really swung into the web-app camp. My ultimate argument was regarding the “contained experience” that apps promised. You could control every part of the UI/UE. Not true with a website tweaked for mobile. But Amazon has shown that you can create a contained app experience in the browser that mimic much the same functionality as a native app. And given that Kindle Cloud has local storage, there’s not much reason to build a native app if there’s no need to interact with core device functionality (like a camera). I think this portends some very interesting ramifications for all appstores. If lots of developers miffed by the Apple terms change follow Amazon’s suit, there could be a host of apps falling out of the app store. Will the next “app store” actually be a mobile website? Will someone develop middleware that hooks to the browser SDKs and enables some sort of bridge to core device capabilities? Lots of interesting turns this could take but I don’t think you are wrong in identifying this as a trend early on.

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    1. I think HTML5 is going the way where it will be able to access Camera, accelerometer and other device systems with system “allow” dialog. Some browsers already do it for location/GPS. Same will happen with other things with time.
      Actually Flash has “allowed” access to Camera, Microphone, Accelerometers, Location and local file system file loading and saving(not local storage as with it other apps can use it too, or you can load photo,music videos etc from your file system in to the app).
      So I think that with time HTML5 will get it all too, I already seen JavaScript demos that load MP3 from your hard drive, decode and play trough HTML5 sound APIs for example(trough upload dialog).

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  7. forget html5 now, we will see that what will be happen by the time.

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  8. Stephen Bennett Thursday, August 11, 2011

    And what about the formats issue HTML5 has exasperated? To provide full HTML5 support for the range of devices and web browsers out there HTML5 is currently forcing data duplication into media management systems. This should be a big issue for any organization who is media centric.

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  9. Tomas Eriksson Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Everything is named HTML5 these days and its confusing because people often mean a mix of technologies that is far from standard in browsers. Developers naming their experimental stuff as HTML5 but only work in this or that browser. It have been such app hype and everyone tries to put their sites in an app and realise that a “web service” is better using same technology. You don’t need to be Einstein to understand that. Use the right tool for the job and don’t jump on all bandwagons.

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  10. I believe this writing has been on the wall for sometime now? If you take a look forward, and see with what languages Microsoft is building their Windows 8 OS with, and how their Mobile phone is being planned….the writing is on the wall.

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