Blood, Ink or HTML5: What are apps dipping into?

By : |May 25, 2016 0
The fonts of progress from web apps to mobile apps to native apps seem to have a cursive touch. But the pages they dot are not exactly a calligrapher’s delight. Wondering why?

Pratima H

INDIA: Do you speak Pidgin? If not, you better not talk to someone who relies on this ingenious way of conversation between people who speak different languages. You go back and learn his/her native language instead.

Do you speak Boontling at least? If not, never venture around the coastal mountains of Anderson Valley. The tiny town of Boonville near San Francisco gossips in its very-own invented vernacular that only natives can understand.

But you may ask, why bother about languages and native stuff when you live in the town of technology? Who needs a Pidgin or a Boontling when endless genies and tooth-fairies of apps are under your thumb (literally)? Not even when the country called ‘today’s web’ looks exotic and strange or the language-walls between those who speak web and those who speak mobile seem to stretch high and wide?

The world out there has changed from waffles to spaghettis before you could adjust your bibs. Time you got your heads around languages that matter. In other words, HTML5 (and of course, its nemesis that we will soon introduce). The new, glossy, magnetic, rich and smooth-as-butter (supposedly) markup language that the world has started tapping for writing and presenting content on the World Wide Web, a.k.a. HTML5 is here.

This new (fifth, to be precise) version of the HTML standard is strutting way ahead when it comes to cementing together the modern-age look and feel of web applications. It is something that the current and future world of apps desperately needed, and are tapping with never-before frenzy.

But like any other language, the word ‘native’ haunts here as well. Yes, yes, we will get into that in a bit. First, some pom-poms for HTML5. And just in case, you still haven’t got a whiff of this language yet, here are some handy breadcrumbs.

New Dictionaries: More Traction

No points for guessing why. With its dynamic web content, intuitive capabilities advanced streaming video/audio, integration of device-oriented tools, visual gravity etc being its second nature; HTML5 has grabbed the catbird seat in no time.

Some attribute this to its massive help in crunching time and effort for an app to get to the market; some lauded it at very initial stages for its amazing discoverability and low-maintenance needs, and some like it for being all flexed with easy upgrades.

The apps, thus produced, work instantly on browsers across all devices, without the need to be submitted to an app store; so what more can developers ask for? Its quintessential cross-platform and open flavor, its ability to land smoothly on a multiple options of hardware, devices and operating systems; add to the muscle all the more.

What makes its abs more high definition are platforms like Node.js that allow full-stack, client-to-server use as well as easy reuse of the same code for mobile or desktop UX.

In future, mobile web based on HTML5 will start dominating mobile apps for most of information based categories.: Akash Sureka, Persistent Systems

In future, mobile web based on HTML5 will start dominating mobile apps for most of information based categories.: Akash Sureka, Persistent Systems

In short, HTML 5 makes it possible to not having to cobble together apps for different devices or software as it floats easily across many categories with consistency, SEO-friendliness, agility and grace.

That should explain why Google is moving fiercely towards an HTML5-only Web, chopping Flash, arming Chrome etc as it clears the bushes on the way.

For instance, Flash has already been announced to be disabled by default in imminent quarters with plug-ins expected to be receiving similar response soon.

Twitch’s switching to HTML5 streaming or VMware coming out with vSphere and vCenter updates for HTML 5 host management interfaces and the Chromium project’s ‘HTML5 by default’ features are reminders of HTML5’s toehold turning into a foothold.

So everyone is babbling in HTML5 speak?

Not really. Like in case of most languages, the view from the trenches may show new borders and boundaries.

Grammar Police

Languages flourish as far as people do.

Let’s zoom in on the ‘developer’ part of people here. With HTML5, there have been questions around speed of performance, when data and screen elements have to be pulled down on every page. There are concerns around storage/cache space for both online-offline retrieval of elements; and the inability to access device-side features like bar-code reader, GPS, NFC and camera etc with the constraints of UI.

These issues surface because cross-platform can mean great biceps but they do break into a sweat when one faces multiple input methods and peculiarities of different devices, something that can easily make an app crumble at the final moment.

Execution speed, along with browser-, API- or feature-fragmentation and diversity of form-factors, compatibility battles between various browsers make the kinks bigger.

Pan out to mobiles with their very different UI skin and constraints on processing power, the problems with the system web view tied to OS version; and we start getting a glimpse of why the word ‘native’ is a recurring motif for HTML5 at all. Mobile compatibility happens to be the biggest gripe for HTML5 developers when they struggle to optimize a web application for mobile or when the user wrestles to update the OS regularly for the web view to get new features and updates.

All that boils down to a very interesting App-off: between Native Apps and HTML 5.

Natives vs. Expats

Who wouldn’t want something native? These apps are organically delicious for a device or particular software. They, when wielded by enterprises, give them super-ordinary control over look and feel of what’s inside. When handled by a retailer or for that matter, a company hawking anything from socks to tax-saving bonds, they allow the company to have a fly-on-the-wall view of everything that the user does, thinks, eats, consumes or runs miles away from.

But, as always, good things have asterisks. Like scalability hand-cuffs or the cost of having that kind of control and insight into a user.

On these grounds, HTML 5 would pull no punches because it is definitely low-maintenance, has to support only for one code base and has better ‘speed to market’. There is, in addition, the charm of discoverability, better SEO strengths, powers of being agnostic etc. Also, HTML5 code can be replicated with not too much adjustment needed for a specific OS.

If we ask Vishwas Mudagal, CEO, Co-founder, GoodWorkLabs, he labels HTML5 to certainly have a strong future as technology keeps evolving faster. Frameworks such as Angular.JS, Ember.JS, etc. along with bootstrap / responsive frameworks have made it very easy to create rich and interactive interfaces.

HTML5 standard – as it gets more mature in terms of abstracting device hardware capabilities for apps, will blur more lines with native apps, reasons Akash Sureka – Vice President – Practice Head Mobility, Ux, Social & API at Persistent Systems as well.

But where native apps would particularly head for the nose is when HTML5 apps wobble using device-specific features of a smartphone, app-store access, consistency of UX, offline capabilities and on delivering a rich experience that a native app can do effortlessly.

Problems with external frameworks in compatibility zones add to the woes of developers.

Mudagal admits that native mobile apps have an edge when it comes to providing a personalised experience for users on their mobile phones. “The experience is superior because the underlying technology can deliver much more than just information, it can deliver an experience (both customer satisfaction or CX and UX) along with core business or utility tools.”

The winner though will change as per the battles drawn.

Like Sureka contends that HTML5 is even now getting enhanced as HTML6 which will be stronger and easier for app developers to extract device hardware capabilities. “Android Instant Apps, as just launched by Google in its I/O conference will give more rise to hybrid apps as well for easier discoverability. Mobile web (as opposed to hybrid apps though underlying experience is same) will become more prominent to save app developer from high cost of app download, user acquisition to download the app , user engagement to stay sticky with app.”

“On the other hand, cross platform app development tools such as Phonegap, Xamarin, Sencha, etc. are progressing quite fast. These apps save time and cost, but can’t deliver great finish and experience. Hence the key is to know where to use HTML5 and where to use native. Go for native whenever it’s a client facing app like a taxi app or an e-commerce app. Go for HTML5 for internal apps or simple information apps.” Mudagal reminds.

Mudagal only suggests native apps for any customer facing application be it B2C or B2B segments. “Native apps have superior look and feel with great finish, they are fast, scalable and can have great interactions (small animations that can enhance the customer experience). Also there is no lag when the server is responding on any query. But we see too much of a lag in the web apps (HTML5 or cross platform apps).”

 Deploying new apps requires significant resources to ensure proper and equal integration, management and security across platforms: Ritesh Chopra, Symantec

Deploying new apps requires significant resources to ensure proper and equal integration, management and security across platforms: Ritesh Chopra, Norton

Sureka though strongly believes that in future, mobile web based on HTML5 will start dominating mobile apps for most of information based app categories. “Very Few native apps like chat apps coupled with mobile web could become next potential mobile ecosystem in near future with proliferation of chat bot apps across the world!”

New battles, New winners; like we said.

And new chinks in those armors too? Languages have to watch out for expletives, but how?

Watch out for Part two.

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