When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg complained about the use of HTML5 for its mobile app, HTML5 tools provider Sencha took offense and set out to prove HTML5’s mettle.
In December 2012, Sencha engineers Jamie Avins and Jacky Nguyen posted a description of a Facebook mobile app they built with HTML5. That post, entitled “The Making of Fastbook: An HTML5 Love Story,” provides details and demonstrations of the Sencha Fastbook app.
“We thought to ourselves: HTML5 can’t really be the reason that Facebook’s mobile application was slow,” the post read. “In any event, we knew HTML5 was, in fact, ready, and we wanted to prove it. So we took it upon ourselves to rebuild the challenging parts of the Facebook mobile application in HTML5 in our spare time. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Sencha Fastbook, a technology proof of concept that shows how fast HTML5 can be, and demonstrates how readily HTML5 can be used to handle the toughest app challenges.”
That was six months ago, now Sencha’s CEO Michael Mullany is talking to eWEEK about HTML5 demand, tooling and the future of the technology.
Mullany said demand for HTML5 is growing for four primary reasons. “I think it’s a combination of a few factors,” he said. “First, every major browser now has support for what we like to call HTML5.0–all the fundamental HTML5 features for styling, graphics, media, animation and content. Second, HTML5 browsers have reached a critical mass of installed base, on mobile in particular. Third, developers are genuinely excited by the kinds of experiences that it’s possible to develop with these features. And finally, particularly within the enterprise, people have realized that putting a huge amount of engineering investment into native application development isn’t a super smart move given the market share volatility among mobile devices in the last few years. HTML5 is looking really to them as the future-proof investment.”
Meanwhile, Mullany said he believes HTML5 tooling has made major strides over the last three years. Browsers now expose really fine-grained details on internals, he said. Chrome, for example, now shows you what parts of the screen are being repainted, and what’s being GPU accelerated. But there’s still work to be done: for example, measuring frame rates on animations is very challenging. There is little to no insight into memory consumption, and debuggers don’t differentiate between framework code and user code–as just a few examples, he said.
Sencha CEO: HTML5 Poised for Big Things
“On the visual tooling front, we were first to market with HTML5 tooling and we’re still only at version 2.1 of our Sencha Architect visual builder,” Mullany said. “Adobe has just released the first versions of their HTML5 content tools. There’s easily a decade of innovation to go before we have all the tools we need and they work together well to make development as fast as possible. It’s a hugely exciting area to develop products in.”
Mullany also made observations about some of the big players in the market, including Microsoft.
“Adobe is doing some great things for content designers who want to add HTML5 features to their sites, and they’ve been leading the way on some of the technologies like CSS Custom Filters that bring Flash-like capabilities to Web content,” Mullany said.
Adobe was one of the original champions of SVG vector graphics in the ’90s and it is great to see first class SVG support finally appear in every browser over the last two years, Mullany added. They provide powerful tools for responsive content design in the works. “On the other hand, we don’t see them addressing business application needs,” he said. “In fact, the shutdown of Flex was sort of an explicit step way from business app development. So that definitely opens a space for companies like Sencha to come in and support those developers as they move to HTML5.”
However, Microsoft is a special case, he said. “It has moved from one of the most market-engaged ecosystems to one of the most closed ecosystems over the last 15 years. It’s now a continent unto itself. If you live there, you care very much what’s happening.”
Mullany and Sencha officials maintain that on the mobile front, the main competition for Sencha’s HTML5 tools are native iOS and Android development.