HTML5 Has Place In App World

Where does HTML5 fit in an app world? That’s the question raised in a new NPD Group report examining the role of the mobile Web, specifically HTML5 technology, in a mobile ecosystem dominated by applications.

The study suggests that mobile Web proponents should focus on showcasing compelling use cases for HTML5 and building “hybrid apps,” to move the ball forward.

Linda Barrabee, research director of NPD’s Connected Intelligence service and author of “This is an App’s World: Can HTML5 Rejuvenate the Mobile Web?” points out the Web programming language has long been heralded as a way to overcome the fragmentation inherent in mobile technology. But “the technology is not quite ready for prime time and mainstream adoption,” she stated in a blog post.

This is underscored by companies like Facebook and LinkedIn that are ditching HTML5 in favor of native code for their mobile apps to improve performance and offer a better user experience. That’s why apps have typically been the default option for media companies, retailers and brands to extend their content and drive commerce on mobile devices.

Mobile users still spend the vast majority of their time with apps. Data from Nielsen’s latest cross-platform report showed that smartphone owners devoted 87% of their time to apps versus 13% on the mobile Web, while iPad users spent 76% of their time with apps, compared to 24% surfing online.

Still, the NPD report indicates there are areas where people opt for the mobile Web over apps, such as checking the news and visiting retail sites. Web and app use are also about even when it comes to mobile banking. Apps have only a slight lead over mobile Web sites in search and social networking.

By contrast, apps are heavily favored for playing mobile games because they enable a more immersive experience. Creating branded apps, of course, can be costly and laborious with no guarantee that a new title will gain traction among the nearly one million apps available in Apple’s App Store alone. That’s why the promise of HTML5 has been so appealing to publishers and brands.

To fulfill that promise, Barrabee says those embracing HTML5 need to establish and deliver on specifications for the technology to increase its adoption. A step toward that goal is the creation of hybrid apps that embed Web technologies like HTML5 and JavaScript within a native app container. The idea is to combine flexibility with performance.

“But regardless of platform, companies need to focus on not just building cost-effective and compelling mobile solutions to meet consumer needs, but also on retention and stickiness for their mobile products, particularly in light of how much time, money, and effort they are spending on their mobile touch points,” she wrote. 

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  1. Anthony Ellertson from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, June 24, 2013 at 9:29 a.m.

    The solution which the article is hoping for is simply not possible with the current Web stack of technologies. When HTML5 burst out on the scene it was heralded as this new panacea for solving almost everything. But anyone familiar with working these technologies could tell you that it was not going to be capable of meeting the needs of companies and consumers because:

    1. Javascript is the main programming language for the Web and it is not up to the task of enterprise level production. It is not an object oriented language, making it difficult for large scale work. Google and Microsoft have both sought to replace it with solutions like Dart and Typescript, but since money issues are involved nobody can agree on a solution that works and these efforts are not getting much traction.

    2. When you look at the business model of the Web it does not match the business model of mobile. The open source movement works when everyone can agree on a limited use model. That was the brower. It appeared as the one accepted gateway into the Web and operated on a pull model where the user went to a terminal to pull information from it.

    The mobile world is a push model where location, device, and use case all come into play. The mobile model matches the physical surroundings of the user,fracturing the browser model. Smart phone, tablet, smart watch, Google Glasses, these are just some of the developing interaction gateways that push information out to users based on factors like physical location, object recognition, and consumer use habits.

    Browsers are simply not capable of handling these solutions. The speed with which new devices now appear on the market makes standardization very difficult. Device manufacturers consiously try to make their devices different to meet emerging user needs and niche markets and they are coming out with new products every few months. The open source nature of the Web moves at a snails pace in comparison.

    The real story here is how tech journalism failed to see this coming. When HTML5 broke out with all of the hoopla it came on the heals of Steve Job's attack on Flash. For all of its short comings, Flash was the one Web technology that could have solved the problems which HTML5 can not. It already had an OOP language, an integrated development environment, and a large body of developers used to multi-media solutions. All of this is not to say that it would have been the ultimate solution, but it was of one of the Web's best hopes and tech journalism helped Jobs kill it. And why, not for facts but instead for the purient nature of the fight. Tech journalists became the willing tools of corporate interests. You held up a techology as the shining solution because a corporation told you it was, even though Apple itself prefers native over HTML5. You did not dig into the facts behind the situation and now, when you see the true nature of what you supported you lament it and ask for more.

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