back to article HTML5 vs native: Harry Coder and the mudblood mobile app princes

HTML5 has offered salvation from the tyranny of apps for years, yet most mobile developers resolutely refuse to embrace the web. Despite HTML’s familiarity and promise of cross-device compatibility, native’s superior tooling and performance have convinced a generation of developers to go all in on native. If only this were …

  1. Philip Storry

    An odd change of focus in the article...

    I get that this is about web technologies being used outside of the web browser. (And that's not new - on Windows, embedding IE into an app to cheekily render content has been going on for at least a decade. Hell, I've seen installers that did it, let alone the actual programs.)

    But I find it odd that Apple are being lauded for finally improving their lamentable embedded browser, and there's no mention of Google unbundling their WebView component from the OS in Android 5 (Lollipop). - scroll down to "Chromium Webview".

    It seems to me that's much more relevant than Google flagging websites as mobile friendly in their search results. In fact, it's pretty much Google doing in Android 5 exactly what Apple did in iOS 8, surely?

    1. Irongut

      Re: An odd change of focus in the article...

      "embedding IE into an app to cheekily render content has been going on for at least a decade"

      Try since IE4. That was about 1998 IIRC.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: An odd change of focus in the article...

        Would it not be the case that Apple pushing for HTML5 may influence more applications to be developed in HTML5? If that's the case then they may be more easily ported to and from iOS/Android or whatever a user is running.

        So, surly that's a smart move for Apple, with their smaller market share. It should mean that a lot more Android applications will either run on iOS or will be easier to migrate thus keeping the iOS application store full of the latest fashion item applications.

      2. marc 9

        Re: An odd change of focus in the article...

        Yes the Windows 98 Explorer sidebar was written in HTML. Active Desktop was all about embedded IE.

  2. Irongut

    What a load of toss.

    An app on iOS that happens to use HTML is not the mobile web. It requires the purchase of specific hardware to run and must be obtained from iTunes. Even if there are versions for other platforms it is still not the mobile web beacuse all those versions also require specific hardware and installation from a specific app store. They will also be different apps because even though they share the HTML/JS code the rest of the app and the binary format are different.

    Websites that work well on all mobile devices from the same URL are the mobile web.

    As usual, an article by Matt Asay is more about the buzzword bingo than the given topic.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      As usual, an article by Matt Asay is more about the buzzword bingo than the given topic.

      Nice work though, if you can get it. VP Mobile Ecstasy or whatever for Adobe.

  3. thx1138v2

    "Control the access points and you control the network or, in this case, the web."

    Control the medium of distribution and you control the content. Censorship is another word for it. Consider that in the context of Google and governments in bed together.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd be more enthusiastic about HTML5 if it didn't mean having to deal with bloody javascript for application development. Yuck.

    1. Jabberwocky906

      Never understood why devvies are so enthusiastic about JavaScript. It just happens to be the only option to develop inside a web browser, but that doesn't make it "good". Astounded to hear its being used for back end development on nodeJs or is considered a suitable tool for complex applicaiton development. Java - yes; JavaScript - surely kidding me. I suspect this is being driven from the recommendations of devvies who have done JavaScript in the browser early in their career and so respond enthusiastically to the idea they can use it elsewhere. A kid with a hammer thinks everything is a nail.

      I dream of the day when browsers support scripting engines not just one scripting engine. But then we are back to plugins... Perhaps Google Native Client is what I'm waiting for.

  5. Lusty

    I'm all for page ranking using mobile

    BUT the first thing I do when presented with a crippled mobile version of a website is look for the desktop site link. I completely agree that apps should be html based whether that be 5 or otherwise, but make sure that on my perfectly capable modern mobile browser with a large screen the very top link is desktop site so I can use that large screen and browser to its full potential.

    So yes, use mobile as a page ranking, but possibly to lower those crappy mobile experiences...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hell no!

      This is stupid! Mobile "friendly" sites should be punished in the rankings, because it is being used for stupid purposes.

      Stupid purpose one: I want to make a super bandwidth wasteful site, but I recognize no one will want to use it if they're on cellular, so I need to make a lower bandwidth mobile version for them. But I won't care how hard it is use, or when there are always broken links on it because I ignore it since I spend 99% of my effort on my bloated desktop site.

      Stupid purpose two: I like using mouse over events for stuff like menus, so I need a mobile site that uses non brain-damaged menus.

      Stupid purpose three: I'm still living in 2004, and think Flash is awesome, and I use it liberally on my site. I need a mobile site without it for iPhones and newer Androids that don't do flash, but mostly it just doesn't have the content that uses flash because I don't care that the world has moved on.

      Stupid purpose four: I don't understand that people using any modern smartphone can view full desktop sites (so long as I don't do the previously mentioned stupid stuff) so I'm forcing them onto a poorly designed mobile site. They can hunt for the 'desktop site' link in order to actually use my site.

      Mobile friendly sites should be dropped in the rankings not bumped up, and if the desktop version violates one of the above rules they should be completely buried on page 7852 of the search rankings.

      1. Nathan Askew

        Re: Hell no!

        I think you are missing the point. If you are on mobile and you search for some content, would you not prefer to view it on a mobile optimised view?

        1. solo

          Revenge of the HTML devs

          @Nathan, I think you are missing the point. HTML since the has advocated fluid designs (tables for layout, anyone?).

          I feel, it's just the greedy browser competition that they couldn't agree on a consistent rendering of simple things from the start (scrolling banners, etc...).

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Revenge of the HTML devs

            But sometimes, even fluid designs have solid elements, like a logo or some other fixed UI element. Plus computers normally use landscape displays while most mobiles are used portrait, so aspect ratio has to be considered, too. As for viewing the full desktop version, that can be a stretch. Not all "modern" mobiles have the needed resolution. I recently picked up a cheap Android phone that's relatively recent (made late 2013), but because it's cheap, its resolution is only 320x480.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Saying any native app that uses HTML component to render information to the end users is automatically an HTML5 app is dubious at best. From a developer standpoint, it is all about not re-inventing the wheel by leveraging HTML for what it was meant for.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What???

      Most of the native app that use HTML component, do that for the main content. i.e. for a book reading app, the indices may be native, but, the book rendering and annotations, highlighting etc... are preferred to be using HTML.

      So, they are using the web technologies but not making it available on web. Crap.

      1. marc 9

        Re: What???

        Agreed, it's a UI layer. Downloading files asynchronously, decompressing them etc. would be native.

  7. Tim 11

    Meaningless graph

    Asking mobile app developers whether they use HTML5 is only part of the story.

    A lot of the mobile experience comes from people accessing web apps on their phone, but the developers don't see those as a separate app, and don't see themselves as mobile developers; they are web app developers who include mobile amongst their target devices.

  8. Deltics

    HTML isn't the Web, that would be HTTP

    Oooh, it's HTML and JS... must be WEBBY. No, it's just technology.

    HTML is just a file format and a markup language that happens to result in content being rendered in a particular way. JavaScript is just a scripting language. Rendering and scripting have been part of native app development even before there was any distinction between "native" and web. i.e. before the web even existed. The only difference was that they tended to be proprietary systems.

    HTML and JS have standardised things somewhat and since they are prevalent technologies in other environments - the WWW - which can be adapted for use in different contexts, it of course makes sense to use them in those other contexts instead of "re-inventing the wheel" (I hate that phrase because wheels are never re-invented. Good luck avoiding "re-invention" by taking a wheel from a tractor and putting it on your compact SUV. You just use the right wheel for the job and if there isn't one suitable/desirable, you go ahead and design a new one. But that's not re-invention).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Claiming the web is dying because some people are developing native apps is like claiming desktops are dying because some people are buying tablets. It's far far to simplistic a view of the world but I suppose that's what most journalists want.

    From my (developer) point of view the only reason native apps even exist is because the powers that be have taken so damn long getting around to producing HTML 5. Developers have been crying out for a decent set of web development tools to make interactive web sites for years but for the most part we're still stuck with a collection of languages that were designed for something else. It's certainly a lot better than it was but when you compare the ease of development and testing of a native app to a similar web app it's still night and day.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's about perception

    First of all, phone app developer deserve to fail. App is yet another concept to hide how things works. Promoters of HTML EVERYWHERE just don't care how things works. Not all software developer are into this mobile blink douche-development environment. And by definition, mobile does not mean phone. Heck, the phone don't really care about the user even if it's licensed under GPL since the hardware can be manipulated by the company and is insecured with "secrets" backdoors by default, so it's a closed environment at the end of the road designed as container just like the cloud environment.

    Remember, the whole world runs because of back-end with codes everywhere built YEARS ago, not the front-end.

  11. Yorkshen

    HTML5 nightmare

    HTML5.. the worst thing which could ever happened to WEB. It is offering 8 main things :

    1) Bad Performance.

    2) Low Possibilities.

    3) Ugly Look.

    4) Hard to prevent advertisements.

    5) Ambiguous code.

    6) High CPU / Memory consumption without justified reason.

    7) Awkward coding.

    8) Killing creativity.

    The peoples which advocating this "great mistake" is usually someone with very low knowledge and real programming understand but big salary wishes.

    HTML5 is nothing, but the biggest obstacle ever created in the modern history of programming.

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