Half full or half empty? HTML5's mixed outlook

HTML5 faces an uncertain future, according to a new IDC report, and likely won't replace native mobile application development anytime soon

These are the best of times and the worst of times for HTML5. The markup language is a significant achievement, but has not yet met expectations, according to a newly released IDC report.

HTML5, positioned as enabling modern, standards-based Web applications, has enjoyed the backing of companies such as Apple and Microsoft in recent years. It's also diminished the need for proprietary plug-in technologies such as Adobe Flash. But IDC sees a mixed bag for how HTML5 has fared.

"It is fair to say that HTML5 as a set of technologies has not yet met its expectations as a development and target deployment platform for mobile applications," said IDC in its technology assessment report, entitled "The Evolving State of HTML5." The report was authored by analyst Al Hilwa. "It is also important to recognize that HTML5 has been a significant technological and political achievement that is seeing significant adoption in several areas.

"These are the best of times because the technology is moving faster than ever, and it has captured the world's attention," the report said. HTML5 features are being added or improved in browsers, and companies are working furiously to evolve HTML5. "These are also the worst of times for HTML5 because a number of high-profile efforts to develop important mobile applications in HTML5 have effectively failed (e.g., Facebook and LinkedIn), and as of today, few start-ups under pressure to succeed would risk implementing their important mobile applications in HTML5."

IDC argues that no technology can meet the unifying expectations placed on HTML5 in the current age of rapidly proliferating devices. In fact, IDC sees HTML5 and native mobile paradigms sharing the spotlight but gives the edge to native technologies. "HTML5 and native mobile will coexist, neither displacing the other. Native application platforms will remain the primary way mobile applications will be delivered and run," at least through 2017, IDC said. A hybrid HTML5-native approach will be the greatest use of HTML5 in mobile systems, IDC said. (In another recent report, tools vendor Appcelerator and IDC found mobile developers were losing interest in HTML5.)

HTML5 also faces challenges ranging from politics, where vendors have their own platforms to evolve, to issues around complexity, skills, device speed, device fragmentation, and security. "Even as HTML5 matures, it continues to suffer from a poverty of tooling and the shortage of advanced developer skills to support the full application development process. IDC does not expect an adequate developer skill set to evolve until the 2016 timeframe."

HTML5 is likely to make its biggest impact in specific application categories such as internal employee applications accessing enterprise resources. It is being used heavily on desktops, and mobile HTML5 is gaining a presence in casual gaming. IDC expects HTML5 to improve in the areas of WebGL and Web video in the 2014 timeframe. IDC defines HTML5 as referring to several technologies, including the markup language itself, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS3), Document Object Model (DOM), and capabilities surfaced through JavaScript APIs such as WebSocket, SVG, and Canvas.

This article, "Half full or half empty? HTML5's mixed outlook," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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