Facebook bins HTML5 and goes native for its iOS app

James has a passion for how technologies influence business and has several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Facebook’s iOS app has been completely rehauled, going native instead of the original scaled up HTML5 to ensure a quicker app experience for users.

But as another story about Facebook targeting the mobile arena breaks – is this the right decision?

“One of the biggest advantages we’ve gained from building on native iOS has been the ability to make the app fast,” says Facebook developer Jonathan Dann in an engineers’ blog post.

User experience (UX) appears to be the most prominent reason for Facebook building their app in hybrid.

But given the prevalence and potential of HTML5 – as can be noted when DeveloperTech spoke to W3C’s Ian Jacobs – is this move short sighted? The Financial Times, most famously, has successfully gone to HTML5, ditching its previous native iOS app.

The argument against this, of course, is that while the “write once, deploy everywhere” style of HTML5 is convenient, isn’t writing for a specific OS always going to be quicker?

This debate is going to run and run.

HTML5 certainly had a role to play in creating the original Facebook mobile, being leveraged as an effective way to “keep the Facebook mobile experience current and widely available”.

Its versatility also allowed similar code to be utilised on Android, iOS and the mobile web. The open web standard had been “instrumental in getting [Facebook] to where we are today,” Dann continues.

“Building on native iOS gives us a major opportunity to keep making the app faster, more reliable and feature-rich”, Facebook notes.

According to a post from Mobfest’s Dirk de Kok back in May, the reason for the pedestrian speed of the HTML5-based iOS app was mainly due to the app downloading the entire timeline HTML every time the app is used.

If any company has a New Year’s resolution, Facebook’s this year was certainly to improve their mobile strategy. This news again would appear to come into it.

Any doubts concerning Facebook’s mobile strategy can be dismissed here: “We truly believe mobile is the best platform for Facebook, and the new Facebook for iOS is just one of our steps to ensure you have best Facebook experience anytime, anywhere”.

So Facebook’s mobilisation platform isn’t in question. But is going for speed and ditching HTML5 going to be a good plan in the long run?

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