Is the world of mobile ready for HTML5 as a platform? #AppsWorld

By Eilian Roderick, Research Associate & Michael Speed, Programmer, CEMAS

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently criticised and promoted the use of HTML5 within mobile application development at a recent technology conference in San Francisco. During his speech Zuckerberg said that it was a big mistake trusting HTML5 for their foray in to mobile development stating, “The biggest mistake we’ve made as a company is betting on HTML5 over native.”

He went on to say that he could not engineer the framework he wanted, called “FaceWeb”, and that he should have jumped straight to native mobile development. There would be due course for concern within the HTML5 world over Zuckerberg’s comments had he not semi-rebuked the previous statement by saying that he was excited for the future of HTML, and that he was saying that at the time Facebook was not ready for the platform.

Zuckerberg’s comments invoke the question whether the mobile world is at last ready for HTML5 as a platform? It’s true that HTML5 has cross platform flexibility, however this just includes it as 3rd party. Apple has already taken strong strides to ban 3rd party applications from its platform such as blocking Adobe’s Flash platform. Even through all the techno wars, there are those who seem to believe that the world is ready for HTML5.

Jason Pontin, Editor in Chief and Publisher of MIT’s Technology Review announced in May that he was killing their application, and had decided to optimise their website for HTML5 enabled devices. However we saw a strong disagreement from Howard Mittman, Wired publisher stating to HTML5 enthusiasts “Get over it haters, apps really are the future” in a recent chat with Jeff Roberts of Paid Content. He also launched an attack on Pontin’s views on HTML5 saying that Pontin “chose a path that did not work”.

But whoever you agree with, some of the worlds big tech players are embracing the idea of HTML5 mobile development. Take Intel’s recent backing of HTML5, lukewarm and acknowledgeable of its deficiencies, their senior VP of software and services Renée James stated a belief that HTML5 was a true showing of “Transparent Computing” and thought HTML5 is overhyped.

We see Mozilla displaying greater belief in HTML5 via their BootToGecko mobile platform. In the recent ‘R2Bappy’ conference, Christian Heilmann, Mozilla’s technical evangelist gave an informative talk about HTML5 apps saying that “I have been a web developer for 16 years, I’ve always bet on the open web, and it’s always worked for me.”

At the World Mobile Congress in February, Telefonica showed willing to embrace Mozilla’s new technology, as they released the Open Web Devices (OWD) platform to be released with Mozilla which is launching in 2012. This perhaps will be a good early measuring for the platform‘s ideal, and we’re sure that some of the world’s big players in mobile manufacturing and development will be keeping an eye on its success.

But whatever the result of OWD’s efforts may be, it is quite certain that HTML5 will continue to play a big part in the mobile world. As the technology develops perhaps we may see Mr. Zuckerberg revisit his ‘FaceWeb’ framework. Personally we share Zuckerberg’s excitement for HTML5’s future, and would hope that HTML5 could and provide the mobile development world with truly ‘transparent computing.’

This article was contributed by Eilian Roderick (Research Associate) and Michael Speed (Programmer) from CEMAS. You can meet CEMAS in the free-to-attend exhibition taking place at Apps World on 2-3 October. Apps World is also hosting a full day of workshops around HTML5, view the full agenda here.

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