Let's face it: HTML5 is no app dev panacea

Don't believe the hype: building serious applications still takes more than mere Web markup

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4. Building platform-specific HTML apps makes no sense
But let's say you don't care about targeting every device or platform. Let's say you're just building an app for iOS or for Windows 8 -- fine. But why on Earth would you pick HTML to build an application for a single platform? The whole point of HTML and its related technologies is that they are open, cross-platform standards.

What's more, both iOS and Windows already have SDKs that mitigate many of the drawbacks of building apps the HTML way. They do give you a standard set of widgets that allow you to build consistent UIs. They give you access to APIs that let you run algorithms at native processor speed. They allow you to integrate your app with core OS features, ones that aren't present on other platforms (which were presumably why customers chose those platforms to begin with). And you'd give all that up, why? Because coding Web apps is "easier"? Even if that were true, try putting it on your résumé.

5. Limiting developers to Web technologies is wrong
There's no surer way to start a catfight on a Web development forum than to ask what's the "best" programming language. Developers can be passionate about their tools, and there certainly is a wide range to choose from.

The Web narrows that range, however. Building Web apps means coding in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. We all learned them because we had to learn them. That doesn't mean we have to love them.

But because everybody knows HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, those languages have a huge installed base of developers. That's the real reason why vendors are so quick to claim that developing for their new platform is "as easy as coding in HTML5." By doing so, they get to assert there are millions of developers who already know how to work with their platform -- even though that's never strictly true, because every OS and platform has its own idiosyncrasies.

So vendors will continue to tout how much you can do with Web technologies, and they'll continue to bolt SDKs based on HTML and JavaScript to their existing operating systems -- because it's good marketing. I just wish they wouldn't. Such tools are almost never as powerful as they're cracked up to be, and they're never really popular with professional developers (as opposed to casual "HTML programmers"). In the end, they're merely a distraction from the many, many other tools that might be more powerful, more elegant, or better suited to the task at hand. Enough already!

This article, "Let's face it: HTML5 is no app dev panacea," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Neil McAllister's Fatal Exception blog and follow the latest news in programming at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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