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Why Facebook and HTML5 doesn't change a thing

by Nitesh Patel | 6月 17, 2011

Yesterday, Facebook had the world buzzing that the era of the native app was nearing an end. But before we write a eulogy for the native app it is important to understand how Facebook's already well known interest in HTML5 really impacts the market.

1. If Facebook succeeds it doesn't create a blueprint for others. Facebook has nearly 700 million users today (more than 200 million mobile) and initiatives in the emerging world are bringing the brand to billions of potential new users. So, if Facebook succeeds it does it because it need not overcome two major challenges other HTML5 apps will face.

a. Discoverability. Facebook need not worry about being discovered. It is a known commodity the world over and does not need an app store to help merchandise it.

b. Billing. Facebook is free so users are not forced to enter a new billing relationship with either Facebook or a billing aggregator to download the app.

2. Facebook doesn't need advanced platform APIs to provide value. Some apps/services will not need to take advantage of the many APIs a phone offers. So, Facebook and others (such as publishers) can release HTML5 apps because they need not keep up with all the APIs a platform offers. Instead they can rely on location and gyroscope (for turning from landscape to portrait) to serve their user base which are already covered in the HTML5 specification. Other companies seeking an edge by leveraging and keeping up to date with new technology however cannot rely on HTML5 to keep up with native app API access.

3. Facebook has a history of availability on multiple platforms. Facebook has a mobile website, was one of the first companies with a native iOS and Android app, launched Facebook Zero to give users access to Facebook without data plans or extensive browser capability. With such a long history Facebook can use that experience to create HTML5 based offerings that overcome challenges other companies may not have even imagined they will face.

To be clear, Facebook has and will be successful with an HTML5 "app". But this success does not mean anything for the broader market. The app store serves as a combination of distribution, marketing, billing, and merchandising and simply transitioning to a new technology only overcomes the albeit huge fragmentation issue native apps create. Another issue to consider is UI integration such as Apple did with Twitter in the forthcoming iOS5. Integration in to other apps will play a critical role in sharing content in the future and in order to win platform support services may need a native app presence on the platform providing additional incentive to continue a native app and HTML5 app world. The future is that of both native and HTML5 apps living harmoniously side by side.

UPDATE: Now comes word that Facebook is finally launching an official iPad app within weeks. This goes to show that native apps are still a necessary component of Facebook's strategy.

 

Related reports:

HTML5 versus Native Apps

When Publishers Attack, Apple Defends

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