Analysis: when will HTML5 deliver on its promise?

By Peter Gothard
13 Dec 2012 View Comments

After Facebook’s botched IPO, CEO Mark Zuckerburg said the company’s “biggest mistake” was “betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native because it just wasn’t there,” before declaring that a native iOS app had already doubled Facebook’s user base.

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These words chimed with a growing disregard in the industry for the fifth iteration of Tim Berners-Lee’s internet lingo. Zuckerburg was right to a point; going native can work wonders for an app such as Facebook’s that has separate, platform-specific user bases.

But companies that specialise in multiplatform coding solutions remain convinced that HTML5 has huge potential.

“There’s huge hype around HTML5 right now, and for good reason,” says David Akka, managing director of Magic Software.

“A lot of companies, especially outsourcers, will take any application and convert it to any format for you. But that’s not really the point of what HTML5 is supposed to do. It’s supposed to be one service that works across every platform. But it doesn’t really deliver on that yet.”

Compliance, believes Akka, is both a strength and weakness when it comes to unlocking HTML5’s potential, especially across mobile platforms. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is struggling to keep developers to a standard at a time when platform fragmentation is tearing compatibility apart. In recent weeks, it has delayed the requested deadline for its standards until late 2014.

“Even in the latest Android 4.2, there is still inconsistency with the W3C standard,” says Akka. “For the vendors, it’s very good to be different, but also it’s good to meet the standard. I think Microsoft demonstrated very well with HTML4 that compliance is a benefit when you capture your developers into an established framework.”

But, suggests Akka, Microsoft’s current strategy could be helping to hold back HTML5. “Microsoft, because they’re late to the [tablet] market, came up with the HTML5 solution,” says Akka. “So rather than letting developers fall into the iOS or Android paradigms, they tried to discuss a generic standard.”

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