Why Facebook is taking the long view on HTML5 mobile development

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might have made headlines Tuesday calling the company’s focus on HTML5 the “biggest mistake we made,” but on Thursday, Facebook developers were clear: HTML5 isn’t even close to being dead. In fact, it’s playing a huge part in getting Facebook where it wants to go.

In his first public post-IPO appearance on Thursday at San Francisco’s TechCrunch Disrupt, Zuckerberg called the company’s early decision to focus the bulk of its efforts on HTML5 over iOS a mistake for the company. Facebook’s iOS app was notoriously slow and difficult to use, and August’s iOS update was heralded as a much-needed makeover to the popular app.

As Zuckerberg noted Tuesday, users are now consuming twice as much information from the newsfeed after the update, and Facebook officials said the app’s popularity has almost doubled in the App Store, going from about 2 stars to 4 stars since the update.

But at a round-table discussion for journalists at Facebook headquarters Thursday, the company’s developers emphasized that HTML5 and the technology behind the mobile web version of Facebook isn’t going away — in fact, it’s playing a huge role in keeping Facebook in people’s lives around the world.

“We focused on scale and we got to scale,” said product manager Mick Johnson, pointing out that users access the site from more than 7,000 different types of mobile devices, and that using HTML5 allowed Facebook to push out updates to the site more quickly over time. He said the mobile web is still an incredibly valuable platform, and Zuckerberg’s comments do not “in any way shape or form, change that.”

And with Zuckerberg wanting Facebook to reach “everyone in the world,” the company said it’s not going to be native iOS apps or a speedy, HTML5 web app — it will have to be both.

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