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AppCircus Conversations: The future of Web is on HTML5

March 31st, 2011

This is a guest post in our “AppCircus Conversations” series: views and opinions by industry experts on platforms, technologies and business insights on the App Economy . We encourage to participate to the discussion and share your ideas and experiences on the topics we’ll feature. If you have a great developer story, insight or case study you’d like to share with our community, please contact us.

The future of Web is on HTML5

It´s no coincidence that all of the big mobile manufacturers and internet players are investing and pushing a lot of HTML5 technology. We are talking about Google, Apple, Mozilla, Facebook, Microsoft, Opera, Nokia, RIM, Samsung and several other players that are moving to support and leverage HTML5. What’s happening? Essentially we are seeing a new chapter in the Internet history. The mobile web environment is changing user behavior and requirements. The traditional PC, where users used to go for web surfing, to use and organize their documents, to play games and applications is no longer the center of the computing experience. By 2013 it’s expected that mobile phones will overtake PCs as the device of choice for surfing the web and that is the primary reason that technology leaders are now focusing their interests in HTML5 technologies.

From now on the center of the computing experience will be mobile devices; which include smartphones, tablets, TVs, cars, appliances and several other devices. This huge growth of mobile web access will require user files, games and applications to be readily available anywhere and anytime. In a nutshell, the new user experience is leading towards mobile cloud computing. A very interesting post about mobile cloud computing growth expectations has a lot to say on the topic. Soon your apps and contents will all be in the cloud and you can get, use or play anywhere, anytime. This is where HTML5 comes in! This new web standard allows for the creation of a richer user experience and far more powerful applications on the web than we previously have had. With HTML5 developers have access to resources that were once available only for native applications.

What’s HTML5? Abstract reflections on the HTML5 began in late 2003. In the 2004 Web Consortium (W3C) expressed interest in the draft of HTML5, developed by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). As a result, in 2007, the development of HTML5 specifications was formed by the W3C HTML Working Group. It´s expected that HTML5 will reach the status of W3C Candidate Recommendation in 2012, even though most of the browsers already have partial support for HTML5 specifications. The main benefits of HTML5 already supported by browser today are:

  • Offline Support — The AppCache and Database make it possible for mobile developers to store data locally on the device and now interruptions in connectivity will not affect the ability for someone to get their work done.
  • Canvas and Video — These two features are designed to make it easy to add graphics and video to a page without worrying about plugins.
  • GeoLocation and Accelerometer APIs — This is actually not part of HTML5, but is a separate specification. That said, it is often bundled together because the mobile phones that are including HTML5 are generally supporting the GeoLocation and Accelerometer APIs.
  • Advanced Forms — Improvements in HTML5 for forms help make life easier for mobile applications.

Take a look at the recent Google I/O session “HTML5 status update” to see what is coming in the near future (camera access, voice recognition, microphone access, positional audio, WebGL, etc).

With the recent HTML5 hype there is plenty of debate about whether to develop in HTML 5 vs. a native app. There are a lot of great HTML5 apps already available, but the user experience is still generally better with native applications. In light of this the playing field is changing and we are seeing better and more advanced applications. Hardware, browsers and technology are evolving rapidly, and HTML5 applications will soon be on par with native applications. Devices like the iPad2 and all the new dual core tablets are already breaking ground with advanced graphics acceleration, faster Javascript engines and high performing processors.

Even though today’s distribution of applications is highly concentrated in Apple App Store, with time this advantage will be reduced and there will be a variety of strong contenders with the ability to distribute and monetize apps. According to research Ovum Mobile Application Download Forecast, the Apple App Store share on app distribution will be reduced from 67% in 2009 to 22% in 2015. In this context, the HTML5 apps will leverage the web eco-system for distribution, discovery and monetization. It has already begun with Zeewe, a HTML5 App Store operated by Movile, where it is already possible to have Push Notification, In-App Billing and Social Discovery. There’s been a tremendous growth with HTML5 Mobile Web Apps that use those resources. That’s why top players like Mozilla (https://apps.mozillalabs.com/) and Google (Google Chrome) have also entered the fold and are helping to build the future of mobile application development.

Flávio Stecca
CTO of Movile. Developed one of the pioneer HTML5 environment and app store, www.Zeewe.com.

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