Facebook and HTML5: Mobile Should be About the User Experience
At Appcelerator, we fundamentally believe that the true opportunity of mobility is transformation. The foundation of this transformation is user experience – specifically, experiences that leverage the full capabilities of the device and operating system to deliver entirely new and better ways of doing things. We see this in our favorite apps today – apps like Flipboard, Path, Uber and Cherry. These apps are transforming how we consume information, interact and share, hail a cab and get a car wash, and at the heart of each of these apps is an amazing user experience. Empowering our developers to transform the world through their apps is what keeps us up at night, ignites our employees and motivates us to create the greatest mobile technologies on the planet.
One of the questions that many developers and companies grapple with is: what is the best way to deliver these user experiences? There are two camps: HTML5 and native. The HTML5 camp believes that open standards should and will prevail, and that the user experience today is “good enough”. They also believe that it’s just a matter of time before HTML5 catches up to native.
The reality, however, is that the HTML5 user experience is not good enough. Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, recently stated that the company’s investment in HTML5 was its the biggest mistake. He went on to say that: “good enough is not good enough”, and those of us who used their HTML5-based app would absolutely agree. The point is that if Facebook, with their extensive mobile experience and world-class engineering team, cannot make it work, it’s unlikely that anyone else can.
The other reality is that HTML5 is not catching up. It’s absolutely improving, but the native operating systems are innovating at a much faster rate. Apple and Google continue to release new versions of their operating systems, each with hundreds of new capabilities. The bottom line is that the user experience bar is only getting higher, and a standard like HTML5 simply cannot keep up with the rapid pace of innovation that is happening in mobile.
The HTML vs. native debate also ignores the most important constituent – the user. It’s largely a philosophical technology debate, but the promise and opportunity of mobility is not about technology, it’s about people, and how we can dramatically change and improve how we work, play and interact. Facebook’s shift back to native is recognition of this fact – they realized that the foundation of mobile success is delivering an exceptional user experience.
Of course, there is a place for HTML5 – it’s not an either/or decision. Companies need to deliver great mobile web experiences, and there will be cases where “good enough” is sufficient, but we should not be confused – “good enough” will never be transformative.
As an open source company, we value open standards and technologies. As a mobile technology company, we care deeply about enabling our developers to build user experiences that can deliver on the promise of mobile transformation. It’s these two sets of values that drive us. We firmly believe that it’s possible to use open technologies to deliver amazing user experiences – the best of both worlds, and we are 100% dedicated to and passionate about enabling and empowering you to change the world.
Nolan Wright is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Appcelerator.