The founder of Brightcove, a company that helps publishers distribute video and app content, blasted the tech industry’s recent turn to proprietary development systems for mobile and called for a more standardized approach.
“Mark Zuckerberg was dead wrong, and it was shameful for him to throw HTML5 under the bus because Facebook had an outdated and poorly written hybrid app,” Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire wrote in an open letter to tech and media leaders that calls for an end to the “religious wars” on mobile platforms.
Allaire’s gripe is that companies like Facebook and Apple are abandoning support for hybrid apps which are built with much of the same code used to display a website in mobile browsers. With the hybrid approach, publishers can rely on universal HTML5 code to get their apps out quickly on multiple platforms and devices while also using some native code for features that count.
Facebook recently eschewed the hybrid approach, claiming it offers a sub-par user experience. Allaire suggests that this is a smokescreen, and that Facebook and Apple have undercut the viability of HTML5 in order to develop their own private eco-systems.
Some might accuse Allaire of sour grapes since a turn to proprietary platforms threatens Brightcove’s App Cloud service which relies heavily on HTML5. But that doesn’t make his point his less valid.
The larger issue here is about standardization. Recall that for much of the 19th century, there were no standards for everyday items like screws or lightbulb threading. Imagine if a carpenter needed a special, proprietary screwdriver for every job site? Allaire makes the same point for the app economy:
Since 1994, our industry has created millions of jobs in the web development industry. Proprietary native platforms are limiting the available labor in the app economy, hurting our productivity. [...] Every institution on the planet wants to invest in reaching users through apps on consumer devices, but we have a deep deep labor shortage because of these religious wars.
Allaire concludes by calling for an “ecumenical” approach to end the current sectarian approach to development. His letter also points to a Brightcove blog post that sets out a longer version of his thoughts.
Update: In response to a reader request below, here is the full text of the letter:
Subject: Ending the Religious Wars over Mobile Platforms – an open industry letterDate: November 15, 2012 3:47:48 AM PSTTo: undisclosed-recipients:;
All of us are blessed to be participants in this marvelous and dynamic internet tech and app economy. But we’re also cursed with internal strife and religious wars over mobile platform technology that are hurting our economy. Since 1994, our industry has created millions of jobs in the web development industry. Proprietary native platforms are limiting the available labor in the app economy, hurting our productivity.
Mark Zuckerberg was dead wrong, and it was shameful for him to throw HTML5 under the bus because Facebook had an outdated and poorly written hybrid app.
Hybrid apps as a bi-partisan solution to the religious mobile platform wars are too important to our economy. Every institution on the planet wants to invest in reaching users through apps on consumer devices, but we have a deep deep labor shortage because of these religious wars.
Steve Jobs, god bless his soul, was also wrong — well, perhaps, just deceptive — with his Thoughts on Flash and public flogging of Adobe. Killing support for Flash on iOS was not a benevolent move to save consumers from slow and crash-prone software, nor a resounding vote for open, HTML5 based content apps. No, it was merely a flanking maneuver to protect Apple’s proprietary native app development model. While Apple has gone on to deeply enhance the iOS native APIs, they’ve barely moved the needle on support for HTML5 inside of native apps.
Again, hybrid apps are essential to getting the technical economy highly productive, and that’s essential to getting the global economy more productive.
Adobe smartly acquired PhoneGap — a hybrid app development platform — to answer this corporate and industry need, but since then the technology has gone stagnant, with little innovation.
The industry needs better hybrid app platforms, and that’s what we’re doing.
On my blog, I have a lot more to say about all of this, how we got here, and what the industry and Brightcove is doing about it. Take a look, it’s a quick read.
The industry needs all of us to make this happen.
Founder and CEO, Brightcove
(Image by WilleeCole via Shutterstock)