Facebook goes native

My response to Rob Woodbridge’s email from Untether.tv (see below)

Finally, a company that sees the light.

I have been lobbying against HTML5 in mobile (and desktop) as an application solution for a couple years now. Every time I run up against a new project we sit down and assess HTML5 against the capabilities and performance issues. Every time we decide to go native.

The last project we decided to go with a Flex/Flash based solution, literally the day before Adobe announced the end of their mobile Flash initiative. But Flash still provides a much better cross platform web experience than any other environment.

HTML5 is not ready for prime time. It is a solution that marketing firms will lobby for as it gives them the greatest cross platform access with the lowest development costs, but it will always leave the customer with a less than optimal solution and end user with a less than satisfying experience.

Native applications will always give better performance and make better use of the device capabilities.

HTML5 has it’s uses, just be aware of its limitations so you don’t end up producing a solution your customers are unhappy with.



Sent by Rob Woodbridge untether@gmail.com
Facebook finally did something yesterday for their mobile strategy that, on first blush, the world seems to love. They updated their mobile apps with a fresh batch of faster, native ones and the response has been immediate with some of the highest praise the company has received.The key difference here is that they went native. They stepped away from HTML5 and built platform-focused native applications in order to really take advantage of the device and OS capabilities. If you haven’t upgraded to the latest versions, do so and you will see the difference. Pretty incredible.What is the business lesson that was learned here? This isn’t the end of HTML5 – nor is it a hit against the use of the cross-platform markup language. It just might not be ready for an app the size of Facebook right now – especially with the amount of pressure they are under to turn mobile into revenue (which I think was THE biggest reason they moved native – more on that in another email).

So what lessons can you learn from this to take to your own company?

What Facebook just did was rapid prototyping and you can do the same thing with HTML5 as you figure out your mobile strategy. First off, HTML5 is as cross-platform as you will get in the mobile world – build once, deploy (mostly) everywhere a smartphone goes. This satisfies the need to build Android, iOS, Windows and BlackBerry versions of your mobile app. This is important for 2 reasons: 1- Your users are on all platforms right now (and will be on more as they come out – think Bada and Symbian in Europe). 2 – You never know where your future growth will come from so you need an affordable way to test across all platforms without committing to deep, long and expensive development cycles for each.

For your business, don’t wait to get into the mobile game. Start the same way Facebook did. Build in HTML5 across all platforms, gather usage metrics (i.e. OS type, most popular content, visitor flow, commerce triggers, etc.) and build native when and where you need to. You may not be able to do everything you want in the first version but that’s ok. Understanding how your users interact with your app should be the first thing you do before committing a huge budget to build out an app that misses it’s point.

What Facebook did up to this point may have seemed a frustrating hot mess of mobile ineptness but use their simple test and release process to make sure you are giving your users the right experience – the one they want.

What do you think? Am I giving too much credit to Facebook? Have you already done this? Reply to this email and let me know!


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