Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg knocks HTML5 in favor of native apps

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg knocks HTML5 in favor of native apps

Summary: Mark Zuckerberg didn't hold back in acknowledging Facebook's mistakes, citing a focus on HTML5 as the biggest one.


SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012 on Tuesday afternoon in his first post-IPO public interview amid a very crowded hall of press, analysts, startup entrepreneurs and developers.

See also: Salesforce CEO gets candid about Google, Facebook and Yammer

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington cut right to the chase during a fireside chat, asking Zuckerberg about the tumultuous period following going public on the NASDAQ this summer.

Zuckerberg admitted immediately, "The performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing."

"Facebook has not been an uncontroversial company in the past," Zuckerberg defended. "It's not like this is the first up and down we've ever had."

But what might have been a bigger revelation was what Zuckerberg identified as Facebook's biggest strategic mistake in the last few years.

"The biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5 rather than native," Zuckerberg said. A large portion of the audience seemed to be in accord with Zuckerberg on this one (or at least fans of native apps) as his ensuing explanation garnered a bit of applause.

So if investors and analysts want some reassurance about how the world's largest social network is going to grow revenue from here, look to your smartphones and tablets.

"Over the next three to five years, the biggest question on everyone's minds is really how we will do with mobile," Zuckerberg predicted.

Zuckerberg further explained that there are more people accessing Facebook on mobile devices, and there are also higher levels of engagement as users are spending more time.

For instance, Zuckerberg cited that mobile users are more likely to access Facebook at least six out of seven days each week.

Essentially, Zuckerberg posited that more users on mobile means that Facebook can make a lot more money through mobile over desktop.

Right now, Zuckerberg asserted that the recently upgraded iOS app is in good shape, adding that "hopefully the Android one will be soon" too. As for the HTML5 version, Zuckerberg said that is still being worked on an integrated on the side, but the focus now is native.

"On iOS and Android, you can do so much better by doing native work, and we need to just do that," Zuckerberg argued.

Yet despite all of this focus on mobile, don't expect Facebook to release a phone of its own as it has been rumored countless times before.

"It's so clearly the wrong strategy for us," Zuckerberg laughed, admitting that it "sounds juicy" but that "it doesn't move the needle for us."

Topics: Tech Industry, Apps, Mobile OS, Mobility, Social Enterprise

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  • Mobile Users Want Their Apps

    With all the ballyhoo over HTML5, sure, the Web still has its place. But given the choice between a Website and a native app, it seems users prefer to have an app. And more than that, they want an app that fits in seamlessly to their mobile platform and takes advantage of its standard capabilities, rather than looking like a bag hung on the side.

    IOS developers looking to branch out to Android should take note of that last point.
  • Can't Disagree With Mr. Z

    But, the point is that mobile is new and there are two wildly successful platforms. There's a third, which might move into the wildly successful group, from an ally who has made Facebook interaction a zero-screen experience. (That'd be Windows, as I understand WP7 and WP8 Facebook integration.)

    I still prefer using my browser on my computer to the Facebook app on my iPhone. But then, html5, like many things, is better when more resources are available. Oh, the native Facebook iPhone app is better than the html5 one it replaced.

    I find the focus on the stock price so soon after the IPO a bit off the point. So the turn-it-over get-rich-quick folks got a bit burned at the expense of the investors who got in before the company went public. Sometimes folks don't know as much as they think they do and patience is a virtue worth having.

    In five years, if Facebook solves monetizing mobile and we see revenue growth in excess of slowing user growth, then it was a good investment on day 1 and a better investment today when the stock price is lower.
  • Interesting

    Twitter is doing exactly the opposite, trying to force people onto the web.
    A Grain of Salt
  • This is a HUGE blow to Apple

    Apple has been pushing HTML 5 big time, trying to force their proprietary implementation through the standards committee. They've just been told that their efforts suck.

    Kudos Mr. Zuckerberg.
    • A SHOCKING blow to Apple

      I mean, they would hate for anyone to have to use their AppStore to get native apps.
      A Grain of Salt
      • Exactly

        They dissed Flash, then they got Adobe to kill off Flash. A little bit of distortion field and Apple successfully sniped the competition and screwed it's users into it's walled garden.

        Apple wins again at the cost of innovation and fair competition.
        • They got them to stop using flash by what?

          Showing everyone that they didn't need it on their phone?
          Michael Alan Goff
  • Everything has its place

    Despite this being a sacred cow for some other ZDNet bloggers (Rachel was fair in this article), HTML 5 just isn't a magic bullet.

    Sometimes HTML 5 is the better choice, and sometimes native is the better choice.

    It's not a religion. It's a tool. Use what works best.
    • HTML5's place

      Is websites not apps. If you want to interact with the OS, you need an app. If you want people to get notifications, you need an app. If you want to use GPS or have any kind of real time interaction, you need an app.

      HTML5 is for things that people are already using their browsers for. It's primary benefit is playing embedded video without using flash or relying on some poor browser media player integration.
  • A desktop app?

    So if he prefers native apps to HTML 5, will we get a desktop app for Facebook? And I mean, desktop, not Metro which I'm sure is in development.
    • Unlikely

      It's unlikely we'll see a desktop app. HTML works fine on the desktop, and people aren't scrambling for a desktop app.

      I think the problem with HTML on mobile is that it's too limited. Mobile is far more sandboxed and slower than native or desktop, and mobile has to deal with connection issues.