HTML5 versus native apps. It’s a debate as old as — well, at least three years ago. And pretty much since the beginning of that debate, there has been a general underlying current among the geek community that HTML5 is good and native is bad. Native is what we have to deal with as we wait for HTML5 to prevail.
But what if that never happens?
Let’s be honest: right now, most HTML-based mobile apps are a joke when compared to their native counterparts. It’s not even remotely close. In fact, you could argue that the discrepancy isn’t much smaller than it was three years ago. And considering that the App Store was only on the verge of launching at that point, in many ways, the discrepancy is even bigger. Just look at mobile games now, for example.
Developers often state their love of HTML5 and their commitment to it going forward. But many have no choice. Native app development is not only difficult, it’s expensive.
These days, if you’re going to do native apps, you at least have to support iOS and Android. That means at least two developers for each different language, and preferably more. And if your startup is big enough or hot enough (like Foursquare, for example), you’ll probably want to have apps for Windows Phone, Blackberry, and webOS as well (which, to be fair is largely HTML-based).
Talking to developers, this is the single biggest pain point on the mobile side of things. And many talk about HTML5 as the remedy. A number now choose to build an iOS app then settle on a web app for Android at first. Others do both iPhone and Android but only offer rudimentary sites for the other platforms.
But the fact that very few, if any, choose to go HTML5-only is telling. If we were anywhere close to the language being a unifier and savior, at least some would. We’re not close.
Let’s look at the debate from the perspective of the three hottest technology companies right now: Apple, Google, and Facebook.
Apple is basically all-in on native apps. Google is half-in on native apps, half-in on HTML5. Facebook is seemingly all-in on HTML5 (at least going forward).
Apple is very interesting in this regard. When the iPhone launched in 2007, the only native apps were the ones made by them. Developers were told to build web apps in order to get on the device. Who knows if Apple planned third-party native apps all along or if they pivoted when they saw the opportunity, but a year later, we had the App Store.
It’s the single reason there’s any debate right now.
Apple is now obviously native app all the way. But it’s on their own terms. When a developer makes an app that Apple doesn’t like in some way, they recommend that they make an HTML5 app to bring it to one of their devices.
It’s more or less a “my way or the highway” approach — it’s just a nice way of putting it. Apple is using the hype around HTML5 to their advantage here. They know that those apps can’t compete with their native apps, but so many people are so bullish about the future of the technology (and, to be fair, Apple seems to be as well at least on the Safari side of things) that Apple is able to play that to their advantage.
Read the complete article at TechCrunch.com.