The Fake Battle for HTML5

Facebook has gone native on iOS. Their ‘app’ used HTML5 masquerading as a native app by using a native wrapper for the web view. That didn’t work out so well. Bye bye HTML.

The “native” camp says it’s a win and the “web” camp has gone on the defensive. The thing is, it’s not a win and the “web” camp shouldn’t care.

There are plenty of great examples of good web stack based iOS apps out there. So it is not a case of HTML not being suitable. Both have their shortcomings and both have advantages. If your product evolves over time it may mean that your product may best be served by moving from one to the other. From one religion to another.

Facebook effectively admits that it tried too hard to make their HTML5 stack work on Mobile, ironically the choices they made left them no other choice then to go native on mobile. If that really is the case then it sounds like that either the designers and or developers made mistakes overreached or that the business resisted the move away from their core technology. Either way they had to do something and it looks like this latest move is working out well for them.

The one thing that’s been consistent since the advent of the web browser has been the struggle with web technology and what to do with it because the reality is that we want it to be more than what it is; a content platform.

The prevalence of great design in the App Store is evidence that fragmented and inconsistent browser technology has made UX innovation difficult and therefore in most cases not worth the effort. It’s important to remember that HTML5 wasn’t intended to inspire designers but to enable developers to create desktop class applications on the web. With all of HTML5’s tempting potential is easy to overreach.

HTML5 is an open technology and like Open Source it is a movement that is championed by developers for developers. Native mobile applications lean toward enabling designers to create better user experience and HTML5 encourages developers to create better ways of interacting with content. It’s a subtle difference and in many cases it may not matter but for Facebook it looks like it did matter.