Mozilla has jumped into the shark-infested debate about whether or not HTML5 can compete with platform native apps. Chris Heilmann, Mozilla’s Principal Evangelist for HTML5, has a new post on the Mozilla Hacks blog that challenges many “false assumptions” about HTML5.
Heilmann’s post is not so much about which you ought to use for your next app — right now that depends on what you’re building — rather it attempts to clear the air about just what HTML5 actually can and cannot do.
Among the things Heilmann covers are the myths that HTML5 has performance problems, that it can’t work offline and that developers can’t make money building HTML5 apps.
Along the way Heilmann also acknowledges where platform-native apps have the lead, namely, access to device APIs. It’s not a shortcoming of HTML5 that iOS and Android both prevent web apps from accessing many APIs native apps can use, but it is a practical reality that keeps many developers building native apps for the time being. As Heilmann writes, “in essence HTML5 is a Formula 1 car that has to drive on a dirt road whilst dragging a lot of extra payload given to it by the operating system without a chance to work around that — for now.”
The qualifier, “for now,” is the key part of that analogy. Not only are platforms slowly adding more HTML5 support to their native browsers, we’ve also seen increased support for accessing device capabilities — like GPS or the camera — through web apps. And of course Mozilla is building its own mobile OS which will consist exclusively of HTML5 apps.
It may be some time before app developers start favoring the web over platform-specific apps, but as Heilmann points out this is hardly the first time the web has taken over from a closed system: “historically, closed platforms came and went and the web is still going strong.”