HTML5: Are We There Yet?

August 10th, 2011 by

HTML5 - Are we there yet?On Monday, a few of us from Trilibis attended the “HTML5: The next trend for mobile” event hosted by the Silicon Valley’s chapter of Mobile Monday (@momosv). The event kicked off with three of the panelists showing demos of their slick HTML5 apps – a magazine app, a movie recommendation portal and accounting software for small businesses. All three demos were delivered mostly without a glitch – very impressive, considering that the full HTML5 specification is far from fully baked. At the same time, all three demos showed products that utilized HTML5 within a native iOS wrapper, gently understating that HTML5 does not yet accommodate the full range of features these developer needed.

Unlike the revolutionary Financial Times app, which is accessed and rendered by a mobile browser bypassing the App store completely, these demo apps were really not web apps at their core. Instead, they leveraged iOS codebase for various things, such as navigation or UI rendering, and they relied on the App Store for distribution.

While HTML5 is a hot buzzword alluding to a rosy future of “write once, run everywhere”, the reality is that this highly anticipated breed of roses comes with plenty of thorns. This was very clear when the panelists were asked their opinion on HTML5 as a unifying standard for mobile development. One of the panelists, without hesitation, said, “It’s a myth.” Another one dubbed it a “write once, run twice” technology, adding that today’s HTML5 apps run well only on iPhones and iPads. Yes, these statements might sound a bit grim, but they reflect today’s reality.

With the W3C targeting to release their HTML5 recommendations in 2014, we are a few years away from consistent support across mobile browsers and OS’s. Development tools are still in their infancy, with Apple leading the pack and others trailing far behind. Testing tools leave much to be desired, as well. As a result, your HTML5 user experience might function great on an iPhone, but will degrade on the high-end Android devices, and most likely completely break on the cheaper Androids sold through pre-paid carriers. You can probably deduce what would happen on Windows and WebOS handsets or on a Firefox mobile browser (whichever version that might be)… This leaves HTML5 developers with the same question that many of us in mobile have tried tackling over the past 10 years — how do I support a multitude of devices in a scalable manner?

But not all is doom and gloom with HTML5. The W3C has managed to generate tremendous buzz among developers and there are online forums, best practices, development frameworks and testing tools starting to emerge. To echo this sentiment, all the panelists at Mobile Monday encouraged gradual experimentation with HTML5 and associated technologies. So you’d better start dipping your toes early and figure out important nuances such as device detection, Javascript, CSS3 and mobile-centric UI design.

Because the HTML5 future will get here… Eventually.

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2 Responses to “HTML5: Are We There Yet?”

  1. [...] more manageable still remains to be seen, but things finally seem to be on the right track. HTML5, although not in its current state, has promised to make the development world a bit easier with its theoretical right-once, [...]

  2. [...] at Trilibis, we are equally excited, albeit a bit hesitant, about where mobile web development is headed with the likes of HTML5. At any rate, we thought [...]