Developers defecting from App Store to HTML5

Developers defecting from App Store to HTML5

Summary: There's a movement afoot by developers to HTML5-based Web apps, instead of iPhone native apps. Look ma! No review process!

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Developers dissatisfied with waiting three weeks (or longer) to have their apps and updates available on the App Store are turning their attention to the Web and flocking to HTML5.

For the uninitiated, HTML5 is the new standard from the W3C that allows supporting browsers like Mobile Safari (after iPhone update 2.1) and Safari 4 on the desktop to display inline audio and video (like that this) without having to use a plug-in like Flash. Firefox has promised support HTML5 in future releases.

HTML5 also features an offline application cache that allows you to archive or star a message in Gmail - even when there’s no Internet connection. Google's Alex Nicolaou explained some of the nuances of how HTML5 and WebKit pave the way for mobile web applications:

Having the ability to store your data and actions offline isn't much good if you can't start the application while offline. So besides making use of the database API, we needed a way to get the application itself loaded without an internet connection. The HTML5 specification comes to the rescue here, with an application cache that is capable of storing all resources in your web app so that the browser can load them while offline.

Robert Scoble interviewed Carl Sjogreen from Nextstop, a Web site for sharing cool things to do near you. In it they discuss why Nextstop rolled out its service as an HTML5 Web app, instead of an iPhone native-app.

Some reasons Nextstop likes HTML5:

  1. Rapid iteration. If they code a new feature tonight, you get it tonight. No waiting three weeks for you to get their latest.
  2. It prepares their systems for building a native app. Why? Because apps can include a Safari browser instance inside, so all of this work is reusable, even if they do a native app.
  3. It’s easier to build and debug because you don’t need to do a lot of specialized coding to make the native app work properly.
  4. It fits into the greater web easier for users. In an iPhone app it can be jarring to take users out to a web browser, but if they already are in the browser they are used to going to other pages and back again using Safari’s navigation.

Another benefit to HTML5 that Sjogreen is politely omitting is that his app will also run on millions of other smartphones out there, like the Droid and the Pre - instead of just on the iPhone.

What's your take on Web apps versus native iPhone apps?

Tip: Scobelizer

Topics: Software Development, Apple, Browser, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Operating Systems, Smartphones

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47 comments
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  • Web apps all the way!

    That's what open standards are for.
    CapitalismAteItself
  • HTML5 not a standard quite yet. Give it a couple years...

    Implementors should be aware that this specification is not stable. Implementors who are not taking part in the discussions are likely to find the specification changing out from under them in incompatible ways. Vendors interested in implementing this specification before it eventually reaches the Candidate Recommendation stage should join the aforementioned mailing lists and take part in the discussions. The publication of this document by the W3C as a W3C Working Draft does not imply that all of the participants in the W3C HTML working group endorse the contents of the specification. Indeed, for any section of the specification, one can usually find many members of the working group or of the W3C as a whole who object strongly to the current text, the existence of the section at all, or the idea that the working group should even spend time discussing the concept of that section.
    Johnny Vegas
    • More like a decade...

      HTML5 is a huge, gargantuan, monolithic spec. It will take more than a "couple years" to get two compatible implementations of each part of the spec, and a full test suite.

      They would be much better off splitting it into smaller segments that can go through the recommendation process at their own pace. Some parts would be pretty close today while others need a lot of work.
      PB_z
      • Yeah, it's not an instant thing.

        On the other hand, there is no absolutely
        requirement for a full, 100% compliant HTML5
        browser in order to deliver applications based
        on HTML5. Case in point: Palm's WebOS, already
        doing just this, based on Javascript and their
        take on enough HTML 5 features to make apps
        possible.

        There are a couple of critical bits here. One
        is local storage, which is a rather trivial
        part of HTML5 to implement. The other is the
        applications cache.. the way you can store the
        app locally, rather than require net access for
        every program. There are management issues not
        even addressed in HTML5 itself, but this is
        also a very basic function very easily
        implemented.

        And of course, something Apple could not
        implement or remove, if they really want to
        thwart the use of web apps on the iPhone. Given
        all the web compromises they've made already,
        in the interest of building a hard dependency
        on the iTunes store, these will be relatively
        minor things.
        Hazydave
  • Looks like Apple was right...

    sort of. When the first iPhone came out they wanted app's to be web based (NOT HTML5), and it now appears the developers have come full circle :)
    mrlinux
    • Pluses and Minuses

      It certainly was the best thing going at the time. All the Cocoa folks in
      the audience groaned because they were itching to leverage their
      advantage in having worked with the frameworks. But, I buy the
      speculation that in the late months of 2006, Apple changed its mind
      about how to get applications onto the iPhone.

      On the app store side, you have a market where buyers are looking for
      sellers. You still have to find a way to get mindshare outside of the
      store. Still, as barely organized and swamped by numbers it is, there
      are for greater numbers of web applications out there on the world
      wide web and Google or Bing are the imperfect channels for people to
      discover what is available to meet their needs.

      Native interfaces can be more responsive so they have that going for
      them. Web apps using HTML5 are mobile and pc friendly. Except you-
      know-who is notably adamant about being the one person with the
      browser that kinda does web standards, has a different request
      object, uses a different DOM, and is explicitly sitting on their hands
      about HTML5. Sadly, as a web developer, you have to do extra work
      (read spend extra money) to not cut off the 60% of the customers who
      use that browser (assuming your web application appeals to a
      demographic that is a perfect slice of the world.)
      DannyO_0x98
  • RE: Developers defecting from App Store to HTML5

    I hate web apps and have never seen one that provided a superior
    experience to a native app. Not a single one. But because Apple
    demands control of every thing we load on our iPhones developers
    are going to do an end run an we'll have more crappy web apps
    instead of great native apps. Thanks again apple. The google
    phone is looking better daily.
    txscott
    • then buy one

      and stop whining. If enough people agree with you, Apple will change
      their practice.
      frgough
    • Re: Quality over quantity

      The whole noise about the app store process is really media driven. And ZDNet
      is unfortunately fully backing up this trend.

      Fueled by the media and some high-profile developer comments, the whole
      thing has been blown far, far out of proportion.

      In all honesty, and I am talking out of experience (I am a published,
      professional iPhone developer), the review process is neither that monstrous
      nor that slow.

      And despite that the whole of the modern computer journalism is dead-set on
      trying to convince the public that web apps offer the same experience as
      desktop apps, the fact is that they do not.

      And you know what? Consumers know that, as well. Try to convince the
      millions of satisfied iPhone users to replace their beautiful native user
      experience with clunky, slow, not-quite-there web apps.

      The web is a great platform. The web is here to stay. But the web is just a piece
      of the puzzle of modern IT and not the end-all, be-all of it.

      Please, ZDNet try to be more objective and less sensationalist.
      cookeecut
  • More ZDNet nonsense

    The headline says "Developers [plural] defecting from app store...."

    First, they only cite one developer. Second, that developer was never on
    the App Store in the first place, so how could they defect?

    Apple offers both html and app store as a way to create web apps. Why is
    it a big deal that one developer chose one of the approved methods over
    the other (especially since html was the FIRST method offered by Apple
    and the preferred one for many years)?
    jragosta
  • Apples prejudice against flash so unfair

    They are killing flash wherever they can, I think. If microsoft
    behaved the way they are, people would be up in arms. And
    this obvious development makes a joke out of the
    justification that flash needs to be stopped because it is a
    way around the app store. It just means that the apps using
    HTML won't have quite the slickness and usability that could
    be acheived with flash - users lose.
    paulaaa2
    • I agree. They really should be opening up Flash, not forsakening it.

      And, yeah, if MS acted that way then people would be up in arms.

      Is Flash truly an insecure platform?! With ActionScript? Not that I currently know of...
      HypnoToad72
      • Flash has a horrible history of security vulnerabilities, not to mention

        lock ups, crashes, cpu hogging. If apple had allowed flash or java we'd have already huge pwnd botnets and millions of users locked out of their phones or off the net. Yeah the app store sucks but at least it's better than that...
        Johnny Vegas
    • But..... Flash sucks

      HTML 5 will do more things than flash and it will do them without some
      hokey plugin. I hate flash, I hate flash applications, I hate the fact that
      adobe has not thrown it into the open yet. HTML 5 rocks!
      aplman
  • There are millions of non-iPhone smartphone

    browsers that can handle HTML5? Really?
    frgough
    • Apple users are so myopic

      First of all, there is no such standard as HTML5 so to talk of HTML5 support is at least 3 years premature.

      However, fully functional mobile platforms like Windows Mobile actually allow you to use both server based browsers and client browsers with different layout engines, both of which open up Windows Mobile at least to HTML 5 support. And yes, there are many tens of millions Windows Mobile phones out there so yes, there are millions of non-iPhone smartphone browsers that can handle HTML 5. In fact, many of the browsers available on other platforms, like Opera Mobile and Skyfire, make mobile Safari look like a big steaming pile of... well... you know. :)
      NonZealot
      • Nonsense - You just like to hear yourself type! - NT

        NT
        raycote
      • Damn good job MS doesn't have a server monopoly.

        Though rest assured that "server based browsers" will be their next "weapon" in attempting their twisted dream of every computer device in the world being closed source, expensive, unreliable and ... well ... merely Microsoft.
        CapitalismAteItself
        • RE:Damn good job MS doesn't have a server monopoly

          Dude if you don't like Windows don't buy it and quite your whining! Nobody is twisting your arm and Nobody wants to hear it.
          ICUR12
      • Are you kidding?

        You are correct in so far as that there are fully functional mobile platforms that can render modern web content just as good as the iPhone. They are all running the same WebKit, such as Android, S60, etc.

        But Windows Mobile is NOT one of them, it has by far the worst support for modern web tech out there.

        And how you can say that Mobile Safari is better than Mobile Safari withough laughing, is beyond me. Have you even tried them both? (Watching screenshots do not count)
        PeyloW