Apps vs. HTML5

“Apps are bullshit,” said Jason Baptiste, CEO of Onswipe. They are costly to build. Consumers usually demand several version of it for different mobile OS. They are also a hassle for the user to download and update.

There’s recently been talk of how HTML5 has the potential to unseat apps in the mobile market. Mozilla’s WebAPI want to replace native apps with HTML5. Walmart, Amazon, and the Financial Times have all built web apps as their main mobile services. HTML5 holds the key to increased revenue and freedom. By cutting out the middle man (in many cases, Apple), developers are able to retain 100% of the revenues and also don’t have to subject themselves to approval.

However, HTML5 still lags behind in a couple of key areas. For one, there is no native integration with camera, address book, or Bluetooth. Until mobile data speeds standardize to Verizon’s 4G LTE levels, it’s hard to imagine how mobile browsing can become accessible to users on the go. The native app also has a strong home-court advantage – it can run in the background to pre-load content and further engage users with push notifications.

Despite its strong support for HTML5 from the get-go, even Google is on fence on this one:

Aren’t they supposed to be the main torchbearers of the HTML5 movement? Yes. But they’ve also been hedging their bet this entire time. That’s exactly why development of both Android and Chrome OS has continued totally separate from one another.

Chrome OS, an operating system built entirely around HTML5 is still very much in beta mode. Android, an operating system built entirely around native apps is exploding with growth. Which would you back right now?

I’ve recently discovered Raven.io, a mac browser that allows me to access the website I use the most as web apps. Raven attempts to make the browsing experience more app-like with its “Smart Bar”, while still accessing the same webpages that a regular browser would. While promising, the “Smart Bar” is currently nothing more than a more streamlined navigation tool, much like the navigation buttons in a mobile app.

Raven is essentially making two broad statements about the future of web browsing. The first is that web users really only use their browsers to access a handful of sites, at most. I think that the average user will probably spend at least 80% of her time on a few specific websites, such as Twitter and Facebook. The second is a statement on user experience. It’s interesting to see a desktop app trying to be more like mobile. With today’s tweens using mobile as their primary platform, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more of these mobile-like services permeate traditional desktop environments.  

Apps vs. HTML5

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