Developers defecting from App Store to HTML5

There's a movement afoot by developers to HTML5-based Web apps, instead of iPhone native apps. Look ma! No review process!
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor on

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

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