As smartphone and tablet consumers are increasingly accessing information, games and videos via browsers, mobile sites and apps, there has been a solid trend toward using HTML5 as a standard for both mobile and desktop platforms. Often considered as way to target all consumers in a fragmented mobile market, as well as a way to bypass some rules in place with app store operators, HTML5 can offer a cross browser solution that provides advanced interactivity directly in the browser.
But, the specification is not yet complete and has many limitations; brand marketers cannot rely on HTML5 to be a catchall solution for their development strategy. As a web developer, I’ve seen a number of misconceptions about HTML5 and I’d like to set the record straight.
1. HTML5 is not the answer to mobile.
Mark Zuckerberg made tech headlines when he admitted at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference that “the biggest mistake [Facebook] made as a company was betting too much on HTML instead of native….”
When Facebook initially developed their mobile web experience and their apps for both iOS and Android, they embraced HTML5 seeing it as an easy way to develop for multiple platforms and screens at the same time. This perspective unfortunately did not account for the lack of stability and speed – HTML5 is eight times slower on mobile than desktop whereas using native code doesn’t produce such a drastically slower experience for the user.
2. Do not be mistaken: With HTML5, you still need plug-ins like Flash or Silverlight.
There’s no doubt strides have been made with animation in the browser but it’s still extremely difficult to match the quality of animation that Flash allows. The Flash animation engine has been refined over the last 16 years and was developed from the ground up with animation in mind.
With the latest release, Flash has the ability to deliver console-quality 3D gaming within a browser, microphone input, and can stream copyright-protected video content. HTML5 includes <video> and <audio> tags but they’re still not as robust as Flash capabilities and browser support varies.
3. You cannot rely on HTML5 to work on any browser.
Currently all browsers support bits and pieces of the HTML5 spec, but they’re not the same bits and pieces and many are implemented differently.
The video tag is a great example of how inconsistently browsers implement the spec. Most common browsers support the video tag, but Firefox for example doesn’t support video encoded in MP4 (H.264) format and Internet Explorer doesn’t support OGG or WebM encoded video. So, developers are forced to encode video in multiple formats to support various users.
Complexities like these will eventually be remedied with further validation and W3C (a standards-making organization for web-based technology) recommendation targeted for 2014 as well as further maturation of browser platforms. But for now this misconception often pushes web developers to use hacks to work around the many platform differences in order to support the broadest audience.
HTML5 is poised to solve many cross platform development challenges, but it has a long way to go before it matures into an all-encompassing solution. The lesson? Until the spec is complete, HTML5 is not a silver bullet and brands need to carefully implement a mix of strategies to ensure they reach consumers across the Web, on mobile, desktop or tablet.