There was a link in my Google Reader this past Monday to an article by the folks at Sencha (via Chris Coyier at CSS-tricks) revealing a Facebook application they developed in HTML5 using their Sencha Touch toolkit. The article is a must read for anyone interested in mobile application development, whether native or web-based. Read it here.
Besides pointing out the mistakes in Facebook’s HTML5 app development, the article illustrates how a web-based app can achieve the same performance as a native app. We’ve confirmed their findings through our own testing on their fastbook app (fb.html5isready.com). The News Feed loads fast with no noticeable lag when scrolling. Touch events are smooth, and the UI feels just like a native application. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to tell you’re not in a native application.
As a strong proponent of mobile web applications, it confirms something I’ve known for quite some time – HTML5 is ready for primetime.
In a day and age where nearly all of the work on our computers is done through the browser, why do we insist on doing things differently on mobile devices?
Sure there are some apps that benefit from being native, just as with the desktop, but these should be the exception and not the rule. Look at it this way, I don’t download or purchase a Facebook app to access the service on my desktop, so why do I have to do that on mobile?
The conspiracy theorist in me would contend that the constant refrain of native apps being better than web apps is propaganda pushed by the platform owners (Apple, Google and Microsoft) in order to lock users into their mobile operating system. In other words, it’s not in the customers’ best interest for native apps to win out over the web. It’s in the best interest of the companies building the mobile platforms.
I applaud the folks at Sencha for investing in the effort to prove Facebook wrong. It shows that mobile web applications are not second class products when done right. Simply put, consumers should not have to settle for poor performance and a poor user experience when using the internet on their phone.
Fastbook is not an anomaly. Be prepared for the rise of the web-based mobile app in 2013.