I once had a college history professor who would have us map out raw data from old archives. Though a laborious and often futile exercise, he argued that by doing so you can sometimes glean patterns from seemingly unrelated data. In addition to being a handy tool for would-be historians, the practice can be useful for spotting business trends. There have been a number of recent disclosures and initiatives that suggest tech industry leaders are pushing HTML5 for web and app development big time. Today’s blog will serve as an introduction to HTML5, and will be followed by a second post outlining the different ways the tech industry is promoting it. The third and final post will delve into the more complex questions of why tech industry leaders are embracing HTML5, and what this trend bodes for the future of app development.


HTML5 is a markup language for structuring and presenting content on the Internet. It is the fifth revision of the HTML standard (created in 1990 and standardized as HTML4 as of 1997), and includes CSS3 and a series of JavaScript APIs (Application Programming Interface; used as an interface by different software components to talk with each other).² HMTL5 is not a monolithic entity. It is a collection of features, technologies, and APIs that combine the power of the desktop with the interactivity and connectivity of the Internet. From a programming perspective, HTML5 provides an improved markup language that supports the latest multimedia while keeping it easily readable by humans and consistently understood by computers and web browsers.¹ According to a Binvisions report released on 30 September 2011, 34 of the world’s top 100 Web sites were using HTML5 – the adoption led by search engines and social networks.


The focus of the mobile world is turning to HTML5. Right now, HTML5 is positioning itself to be the No. 3 mobile platform behind Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the two most widely-used native app platforms. In December 2011, research firm Strategy Analytics forecast sales of HTML5 compatible phones will top 1 billion in 2013.² HTML5 is appealing to developers and businesses because it can be used to build Web apps that target all mobile platforms at once.

According to a recent study by financial researchers Bernstein Research, HTML5’s web-based apps are more cost-effective and less labor-intensive than building different native apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. HTML5 is also good for developers, as they can avoid the 30 percent commission charged by Apple and Google for selling apps through their app stores. In addition, Apple also takes a 30 percent cut on subscriptions sold through the App Store. These cuts could be mitigated with HTML5-based apps. Amazon and Twitter both are offering Web apps. Executives from Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook have all praised HTML5, Bernstein Research noted.³

HTML5 apps are not without their disadvantages. Speed concerns (especially critical for gaming apps), security risks and web browser compatibility have all been cited as issues that need improvement before web-based apps can overcome their native counterparts.

Growing pains aside, the move toward HTML5 is unmistakable. In my next blog, I will explore this trend in greater detail by reviewing evidence of growing tech industry support for HTML5 in six broad areas: gaming, digital media and analytics, monetization, social media, web browsers, and search. In the third and final blog of this series I will analyze the motivations behind this industry shift to HTML5, and what conclusions, if any, can be drawn regarding the future of app development.

¹ HTML5 Rocks

² Wikipedia-HTML5

³ PC World, “HTML5 Adoption Might Hurt Apple’s Profit, Research Finds”