HTML 5 pushback in San Francisco? Best mobile app designers say yes

The new Path? The one that won a Crunchie last night for great design? It’s not done in HTML 5.
This morning I saw something new coming soon from Storify. Not done in HTML 5.
This morning I visited Foodspotting, which just shipped hot new apps on iOS, Android, and Blackberry. Not done in HTML 5.

More and more I’m hearing that designers and developers are ignoring HTML 5, especially for the high end of apps.


Well, Path’s founders told me it just isn’t possible to build a great user interface, the way they did it in HTML 5.

Storify’s founder told me it isn’t possible to build smooth drag-and-drop elements.

Foodspotting’s founder told me it isn’t possible to make things smoothly zoom and collapse or scroll in HTML 5.

Is this the beginning of pushback from San Francisco’s best app builders? I think so.

In any case, check out the new Foodspotting:

40 Replies to “HTML 5 pushback in San Francisco? Best mobile app designers say yes”

  1. I think that it is important to note that the benefits of HTML5 don’t always fit certain apps, and that like any good technology, it will be used when it is required and provides possibilities over other technologies. At this time, other technologies are still quite prevalent. 

    1. Jeremy makes the real point here.  I don’t think this is “pushback” just more “Its not ready for us yet, so we’ll continue using Native APIs.”

      These application makers have simply hit the limits of what HTML5 can do on today’s devices.  Once devices and the HTML5 specs improve, we’ll be seeing more “HTML5” because it will make things much much easier on developers.

      1. HTML doesn’t really make your life that much easier.  While you may be able to write once for two platforms, it will take you longer so it comes out to close to a wash to just building the thing natively twice.  JavaScript alone is a major productivity killer.  Throw in the random bug fixing, performance headaches, and far worse tooling and I think web dev is about 2 times as expensive (assuming you have mastered both stacks). 

      2. I don’t believe that is necessarily true.  You can easily debug HTML5 applications using Chrome’s web development tools, and there is always random bug fixing and performance headaches, regardless of what technology you are using.

        Albeit, performance headaches are *currently* more existent in HTML5 products, this is clearly reflected in my argument that HTML5 isn’t quite ready yet on devices.  We don’t have a good rendering system for HTML5 yet, with proper hardware acceleration & al.

        Developing using JavaScript and HTML should take approximately the same time as making something natively, provided you have a decent library.

      3. It is much more expensive in my experience.  Especially factoring in maintenance. Also the more complex the application the more JS shows its warts. YMMV.

    2. And to add directly from Facebook’s CTO Bret Taylor:

      “The end goal is that we’ll be able to develop one version of Facebook for mobile devices, that runs on all different kinds of mobile phones. That’s really where our focus is now.”

      “With all these mobile devices, there’s a huge amount of platform diversity now. When we update the Facebook product we have to update about seven different versions. We have to update the website that runs on your PC, the iPhone app, the Android app, the Blackberry app, the mobile site and a number of other device-specific versions of Facebook.”

    3. Jeremy hits the nail on the head here – HTML5 is a technology and it’s appropriate in some situations. When a designer of a mobile app decides to go strictly native, they’re saying that this technology won’t assist them in their goals for the design and experience today. Will this improve over time? Certainly. 

      Will the OS vendors continue to push more native functionality, so as to ensure developer loyalty and adoption? Absolutely. 

      A more useful conversation would be focused on: what can HTML5 be deployed for, today, in order to help developers and designers in their tasks? For example: HTML5 is very useful in being responsive to user needs. Why? Because when you develop for iOS and are completely focused on native, updates to your app require pushing an update to the iTunes store and waiting on Apple for approval. 

  2. I think that it is important to note that the benefits of HTML5 don’t always fit certain apps, and that like any good technology, it will be used when it is required and provides possibilities over other technologies. At this time, other technologies are still quite prevalent. 

      1. But as I’ve written earlier, that’s just the current state of things.  You have to be forward thinking.  While native is faster at the current, that’s simply because our HTML rendering engines aren’t up to snuff yet.

        Hopefully, for the betterment of the web in general, that will change.  Though it may take awhile, I certainly wouldn’t think of using the currently better technology as “pushback.”

        Just my two cents :p

  3. We are about to launch a couple of apps next week that hopefully showcase some of the neater interfaces that can be done with HTML5 and hybrid apps. I disagree with some of the design comments you’ve heard, for sure.Also we are a team of 18 web developers, but only 2 are proficient in iOS so we have gone from a mobile team of 2, to a mobile team of 18 (across all mobile platforms). Native is where we started, but it’s restrictive for a client-facing business. For a single product, probably not a consideration at all, if you’re hiring for 1 app.

  4. I spent a lot of time trying to create a native-feeling iOS app experience in HTML5 (via Sencha Touch, jQuery Mobile, jQTouch) and ultimately reached similar conclusions to Path, Storify, and Foodspotting. In addition, the tools for building and debugging such apps aren’t nearly as advanced as those for native apps, so the idea that HTML5 will get you to market faster isn’t necessarily correct. I posted about this in more detail recently:

    1. The only way it will get you into the market faster is if your developer knows HTML5 backwards and forwards, yet is a rookie at C++ (or whatever the lang. is for native apps.)

  5. So in what do they develop their web (desktop) version then – flash?

    By the way, thanks for blogging again. I despise g+ and RSS are HN are my only news sources.

  6. This post is right on! I’m happy that people stat realizing this facts.
    Actually users know it all the time, now the companies stat realizing it that it all ends up in their users hands.

  7. Not to raise the old HTML5 vs Flash argument, but as a flash developer with over 10 years experience trying to work with HTML5 has been frustrating overall. It’s cool it does what it does, but it just hasn’t matured yet. Every language has it’s issues, and nothing is ever as wonderful as it seems. Really it comes down to what tools you have in your toolbox that fits a particular experience best, and it’s time to stop trying to drive nails with your screwdriver…

  8. Non-web apps were made using something other than HTML5? How outrageous and unusual. Truly this can be called a pushback. Not just, you know, business as usual. Surely this will be the death of HTML, ushering an age of proprietary technology.

  9. getting HTML/hybrid apps to look as nice as iOS native apps is really time consuming, and the result will never be as good. For some business oriented apps this might be acceptable, but all the buzz around apps like Path and Band of the Day has a lot to do with their beautiful and responsive interfaces. Even the new Facebook app with the HTML timeline is mediocre in user experience.

  10. As mentioned by several above – to html5 or not depends on use-case. Just like on the PC – high-end apps are  often native vs html and if you really want to push the envelope with new design concepts then native gives you freedom that the “markup-sandbox” does not (canvas topic is for another day). 

    Having said that, the mobile web is more than sufficient for many/most mobile consumer/social services and has many advantages such as faster iteration, openness (not getting stuck and/or being jerked around by an arbitrary pick-your-platform reviewer), build upon broder-used technologies (js,css,html),etc. One of the biggest issues for mobile web is the high sensitivity to sub-par implementation; it is so easy to shoot oneself in the foot by loading too much heavy content upfront, excessive page reloads, underestimating latency, not leveraging local storage,etc. Some of the mobile frameworks (try to) address one/more of these but more work still needs to be done.

  11. I’d rather build an application in a standardized language than something proprietary, that’s the fault of the vendor if zooming is slow on their platform.

  12. HTML5 on desktop browsers in pretty much there.  It is fast, mostly interoperable and works well.  On mobile devices, the horsepower and support is spotty.  iOS finally decided to support position fixed (fixed header/footer) in version 5.  CSS3 transitions and such are very choppy in both iOS and Android.  The drag and drop interface on mobile devices is not really useful.  Some of the mobile frameworks help but the basic transition on mobile browsers is choppy, nothing can fix that except the OS developers.

  13. Google and Apple, while talking a big HTML5 game, actually want to differentiate their platforms and lock in developers.  So it isn’t always in their interest to keep their browsers at parity with the native APIs (not to mention the technical challenges of doing so).  The market is too big and stakes are too high risk commoditizing your mobile platform into a glorified browser.  

  14. Like any other language or platform, developers should understand the strengths and weaknesses of HTML5/CSS3/JS and play to the strengths. For media-rich apps (news, entertainment, etc.), HTML5 is absolutely viable and can save tons of time when developing for multiple devices (iOS, Android, etc.) and form factors (phone, tablet, TV).

  15. Of course, “it’s complicated.”

    But I find it interesting to think about how I was 20 years into my computing career when HTML first appeared, and now 20 years later where are we with HTML?  These problems shouldn’t be happening.  For one thing, we’re all caught in the crossfire of repeating power plays, which slows everything down.   I sometimes wonder how many millions of man-hours humans waste annually fighting with HTML’s anachronistic ways, which many cannot see.  The original job HTML was hired to do largely no longer exists.  No one would think of starting over.

    Well, let’s get back to work spending endless hours getting things to look right and learning to play complicated tricks to do simple things computer screens have been doing for decades.

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  17.  HTML5 is a language for structuring and presenting content for the World Wide Web and is a core technology of the internet, HTML5 introduction is consider not new to the internet but the only this is, nowadays it is the update version.

  18. Like others have said here, I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss HTML5. It’s a moving spec right now with device makers slowly implementing it and new API’s coming on board all the time. Once things smooth out, I think we’ll see some pretty amazing things with HTML5. I’ve moved most of my development to the platform and, I have to say, it’s pretty painless. Granted, I’m not developing apps like Path or anything like that, but it’s definitely got its place.

  19. I think that at the moment HTML5 is not completely up to the standards of modern high-end apps but I do think that it will get there. I backed my own little startup on HTML5 because it got me on the most devices.. and Infostripe is a little different, riding the line between app and website. It’s a fun project for me on the side.

  20. i always told so, but no one (from the marketing stuff) wanted to hear.
    i told them over and over again, html isnt that good. it doesnt provide the performance you want, its not one shot for all targets, but they didnt wanna hear.

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