Famo.us CEO: Web and native dev are on equal ground

Native development is generally thought to be superior, but Web development has caught up, says Steve Newcomb

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While the debate over Web versus native development continues, Famo.us CEO Steve Newcomb expects the two methodologies to get married, so to speak, with Web development becoming more like its native counterpart, which is often considered superior.

Speaking at the DeveloperWeek conference in San Francisco this week, Newcomb argued that developers can compose and render equally well in the browser right now but it will take time for everyone to become cognizant of this. Newcomb demonstrated the Famo.us physics engine performing animations, calling the alternative CSS3 a "joke" when it comes to animation. "You have virtually no control over CSS3," he said, adding that Apple uses a 2D physics engine in its iOS platform.

Famo.us will roll out its Famo.us Mixed Mode technology, offering animation capabilities and featuring DOM, WebGL and widgets, for public consumption in June.

Native techniques and technologies are being embedded into the browser, according to Newcomb, so "you're going to actually see Web development become more and more like native development." As evidence, he pointed to trends like the virtual document object model and WebGL. The virtual model, he said, can be optimized for Web applications, while the Document Object Model is the wrong tool for Web apps because an app or game is not a document. "We're no longer hosting things into a Document Object Model and then appending or manipulating the DOM directly. We're posting to a virtual tree," and then posting into the browser, Newcomb said.

JavaScript, meanwhile, has become fast enough to be layout or animation engine, Newcomb argued during a demo featuring floating tiles onscreen. "This is pure JavaScript that you see here, and this is four years old."

Newcomb lauded WebGL, the Web version of OpenGL for high-fidelity graphics, for making the Web more like native interactions. "A big event happened recently in that GL got turned on in all browsers," he said. "It's really mind-boggling when people look at GL. It looks infinitely more powerful than DOM." 

Famo.us recently joined the jQuery Foundation, with Newcomb set to serve on its board of directors. He speculated that the jQuery JavaScript library would gain more-powerful, GL-like capabilities.