Tag: HTML5

The Slow Death of the Mobile App Told With Humor

You’ll enjoy reading this very funny piece voiced through the mind of a custom smartphone app that has fallen into disuse. The author makes some good points along the way about why Web sites built with responsive design (RD) will eventually replace most if not all custom mobile apps built for a specific platform.

HTML5 rocks, but it definitely doesn’t yet rule. It is only a matter of time however. Just as Flash has been strangled by the realities of the mobile world, so, too, will apps built for a narrow (albeit relatively large) user base once RD-based HTML5 sites become instantly deployable. I was talking to a colleague this morning who had just finished a mobile “app” that he wrote entirely in HTML5 for a client. He was able to bring it in for 20% of the budget and in 1/3 the time that had been bid by an experienced standalone app developer.

(Part of the problem is that the tools most app developers use are not very good and are particularly difficult to use for creating cross-platform apps. My partner Chipp Walters tells me that he has been able to build reasonably sophisticated smartphone apps for iOS and Android with one code base in a couple of days using LiveCode, so that might prolong the life of smartphone apps a while longer.)

HuffPost’s Problem With the iPad: Aggregator Beware!

I love-love-love the Huffington Post. It has become my second favorite source of online news (behind one of the best-kept secrets in America, The Week). When they upgraded their iPad app recently, I downloaded it to give it a try. Earlier versions of the app had been…sort of ok but not exciting.

The new version is much better. I like it a lot. But it continues to suffer from one problem HuffPost can't help because by its very nature as a content aggregator, it is stuck with stupid decisions made by its sources. This means that very often a video re-published by HuffPost ends up a blank spot on my iPad. A quick random sample this morning suggests that less than 20% of the videos they share are usable on iOS. Which makes me wonder about whether their sources are ignoring HTML5 or using some proprietary player-required format in a misguided effort to protect their IP.

Whichever it is, the whole thing makes HuffPost much less enjoyable on the iPad. Which in turn dramatically limits the number of hours I spend on the site each week.

Yahoo Clouds Web App Development With “Cocktails”

It's not bad enough that we developers have to make tough choices between native-platform app development and HTML5-based Web app development, now Yahoo comes along with a binge drink with which to confuse us even further.

The fading search giant has cobbled together a fairly ugly looking combination of technologies in what it calls "Cocktails". This guest column at CNET provides a glossing-over of what Cocktails is, without trying to be sufficiently specific to allow any real examination. The most salient fact we can derive from the puff piece is that Cocktails will combine HTTP, HTML5, Cascading Style Sheets, and JavaScript into some sort of development platform that they'd like us to think is really new. But wait a second. What does "HTML5" mean? While the label gets bandied about fairly frivolously, most developers who've taken a few minutes to look into it know that HTML5 is the next major development in HTML5 that will enable the design of richer application-style interfaces and interactions including multimedia.

Anyone developing Web apps using the loosely defined HTML5 technology suite would surely be using HTML, CSS and JavaScript, so what exactly is new in Cocktails?

In the CNET piece, Yahoo's Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz,  the technical lead for Cocktails, says, without, apparently, any sense of irony, "Our platform combines basic ingredients that exist on the Web already, including HTTP and HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for formatting and animation effects, and JavaScript for more sophisticated programming (both on a Web server and on individual devices)."

So, what exactly is new here again? 

If you go beyond today's CNET piece, you can find out that the major differentiator claimed for Cocktails is the use of server-side JavaScript (SSJS). Hardly new. Check out this piece from SitePoint that's almost exactly three years old predicting SSJS would become as popular and widespread as PHP. That hasn't apparently happened yet but SSJS is hardly new. At best, then, it appears Cocktails is an incremental improvement on lots of platform-agnostic Web app development platforms that allows the developer to take better advantage of SSJS. 

Yahoo has released two cocktails so far: Mojito, yet another environment-agnostic JavaScript Web application framework, and Yahoo! Manhattan, a hosted platform for Mojito-based applications. 

Useful, yes. Exciting? World-changing? Don't think so.

Google Opening App Marketplace to HTML5

Google is announcing at an international conference that it will welcome HTML5 Web app developers to submit products to its online app store. This could be a major stride forward in the adoption of HTML5 as the de facto standard in Web — and particularly mobile — app development.

Today, one of the few major advantages native apps have over HTML5 versions is that they have focused and readily accessible central marketplaces. In particular, those who develop apps for Apple's iOS series of products know they can get a spot on the Apple App Store shelf and at least have a shot at being found and purchased (or downloaded free). It's quite easy and simple and it makes the distribution of such apps a no-brainer even as it provides no guarantee of real visibility in a vastly overcrowded store.

But there is no central marketplace for HTML5 apps. This is more of a problem for mobile phone owners for whom searching the whole Web to find useful tools and toys is a more challenging task than on a laptop or desktop system. Of  course, the store itself has to be a Web site/app but at least it will gather large numbers of these apps of the future into one place, which ought to facilitate more accessibility.

(There is one other budding HTML5 app marketplace called OpenAppMkt but it is in beta and has almost zero traffic or visibility yet (though it does come up #1 in Google search for HTML5 app marketplace, I'm sure that won't last long).

Occupy Flash? Huh?

Ran across the Occupy Flash site tonight. The site is trying to mount a national or global effort to get users to uninstall Adobe Flash Player from their (primarily) desktop machines. The idea being that as long as the player has its present ubiquity, developers will continue to throw resources at it as an app platform despite the availability, as part  of the rapidly dominating HTML5 standard, of open source approaches to multimedia apps.

Seems like kind of a weird idea to me. There's not a lot of HTML5 multimedia stuff out there yet; a great many sites are sticking to Flash while many are making a slow transition to the new standard. The move is premature. In a year or possibly less, such an undertaking will actually make sense without damaging the average user experience too much.

But it's a nice idea.

Amazon’s New Web App: Good, Bad, No Ugly

Amazon.com today released its HTML5 Web version of the Kindle reader and online store combination. Clearly a response to Apple's heavy-handed restrictions on allowing the sale of ancillary content from within apps sold through its App Store, the new Web solution is a welcome addition to my iPad and another strong indicator that HTML5 is a tidal wave that will, without question, ultimately replace proprietary technologies.

That's not to say there isn't some cruft in with the welcome news. The biggest issue for me: Highlighting of text is not supported. This is a very real problem for me; I use this feature constantly and I probably won't be able to switch to the Web app for my reading until this one's fixed.

First, the good stuff.
  • It's HTML5! Any time a new HTML5 solution emerges that provides the substantial look and feel of a desktop app, it's one more nail in the coffin of proprietary technologies that have never had a legitimate place on the Open Web.
  • The bookshelf experience is clean, familiar and reasonably responsive.
  • Books you want to use on your iPad or other browser reader are downloaded in the background quite seamlessly and efficiently.
  • The experience of the Kindle store is well-translated from app to browser.
Now, the not-so-good (aka bad) stuff.
  • While it's understandable that Amazon can't support browsers (like Firefox) that don't support offline features of HTML5 well or at all, there doesn't seem to be a good reason not to allow the app to run on Safari on iPhone. Yeah, the UI is clearly optimized for the iPad, but still….
  • The overall experience is clearly not as smooth as the native app (and couldn't be).
  • App switching is quite slow because each time you switch from one app back to the browser-based app, it appears to re-load the entire page. Not sure why they're not doing a better job of caching here, but it could be an HTML5-on-Safari limitation.
  • Another problem with app-switching arises if you install the Web app as a desktop icon and switch from another app to that icon rather than to Safari (which runs the icon, of course). Safari remembers where you were before you switched out; the desktop icon/app doesn't. Weird.
  • The Kindle Store, while largely well done, has some UI problems. For example, if you go into your account and select a previously purchased item, then try to get it delivered to a specific device, you'll find it maddeningly difficult to tap in exactly the right place on the disclosure diamond next to the option, which then opens a dropdown list from which to make the choice. There are other places where screen real estate has been used unwisely.
  • "Sort recent" doesn't, at lest not for books in the cloud as they are initially placed in your bookshelf. My books were not sorted in any order I could determine.
  • Installing the app on the desktop went fine but produced what appeared to be a bogus error about installation problems. When I tapped on the inconspicuous error message at the bottom of the screen, it immediately disappeared and the install was clearly fine.
I'm sure I'll uncover other stuff as I use the app in coming days, though for now at least — until someone forces my hand — I'll keep using the standalone app as long as I can keep the seamless in-app purchase. I'm sure that at some point Apple will figure out a way to force me to upgrade. Meanwhile, I'll keep an eye on developments in the Web app. But I'm definitely glad to see it arrive.

Pandora Jumps on HTML5 Bandwagon

According to EnGadget, one of the most popular Internet radio station/multimedia sites, Pandora, is ditching Adobe's Flash technology in favor of HTML5 as the new spec's bandwagon effect continues to pick up momentum.

Besides all the technical advantages going with the emerging standard gives Pandora, its developers also report that using HTML5 shaves seconds off page load times. On a site with millions of users opening tens of millions of streams, that represents real savings.

It just keeps getting brighter.

HTML5 Job Offerings Up 34%

According to The Inquirer, demand for HTML5 developers rose 34% in the last quarter. Citing statistics from the Freelancer site, the report indicated that there were 807 postings for developers familiar with the emerging standard in the second quarter compared to 604 in the first quarter.

Although the period gains were larger for HTML5, the number of openings is still dwarfed by the demand for 2,795 iOS and 1,702 Android developers in the same period. The only category of developer demand that showed a steep decline was Windows desktop work, which plummeted by 30%.

HTML5 Developers Need to Understand New Security Approaches

Steve Mansfield-Divine of the WebVivant blog has issued a warning to Web developers jumping on the HTML5 bandwagon to be cautious about properly implementing security in apps that use the emerging standard.

Focusing specifically on so-called "hybrid apps" — loosely referring to apps that split UI and data across the browser and the cloud — he points out that these "schizophrenic" apps (his term) pose new security concerns because they go beyond just a new set of tags. "The worry…is that developers will rush to exploit these great new features without fully understanding, let alone addressing, the security implications."

He cited a threat assessment report in which security software provider McAfee forecast potentially major disruptions in Web app security as HTML5 gains ground.

But, as Mansfield-Divine is quick to point out, the news isn't all bad. HTML5 implements some new security facilities that should make it harder for some kinds of site attacks — notably, e.g., those using iFrames — to exploit users and compromise their data.

Game Closure Tech Helps @LostDecadeGames Port to iOS With Ease

According to a piece in today's Washington Post, the guys at Lost Decade Games have made good use of a beta release of an HTML5 game platform from Game Closure to convert its award-winning "Onslaught! Arena" game from a Chrome browser-based offering to iOS. The developers, who were experiencing extremely sluggish sales through the Chrome App Store, said using the Game Closure tools saved them 75% of the forecast development time for the conversion.

HTML5 game development is still being hampered, at least in terms of cross-platform deployment, by the relatively cumbersome and poorly understood audio support in the emerging specification. The music-inspired Lost Decade offering was disappointing its developers as they began to consider moving it to non-Chrome platforms. It runs fine on the desktop and laptops but not on portable devices where HTML5 implementations lag and are fairly inconsistent in some key ways as far as games go.

This period of time during which HTML5 implementations vary is a great opportunity for companies like Game Closure to step in and not only help developers bridge the gaps but also make a handsome sum of money in the process. Every technology gap is someone's opportunity to shine!