Why HTML5 is a Hit with Developers

HTML5 has emerged as the lingua franca for mobile application development, and companies of every size are racing to respond to the mobile revolution.

Nearly half of North American developers are currently working with HTML5. In fact, programmers are more likely to favor working with HTML5 than with any other rich Web or multimedia technology -- including Flash, Adobe Systems Inc.'s ubiquitous Web multimedia technology. Globally, three-quarters of programmers anticipate developing with HTML5 over the next 12 months.

These are the most provocative findings from a recent survey of 1,200 developers conducted by software development consultancy Evans Data Corp.

The Evans Data survey makes a compelling case that HTML5's time is nigh. In North America, for example, 43 percent of software developers are currently programming with HTML5. Of course, as Evans Data points out, HTML5 hasn't yet been standardized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In fact, HTML5's non-standardized status has become something of an in-joke, at least among Web geeks: it's expected to be promoted to W3C "Candidate Recognition" status sometime this year, although full standardization could take a decade or more. This doesn't change the fact that almost all Web-aware applications or devices already support HTML5 concepts or methods.

It doesn't change the fact that developers everywhere are programming with HTML5, either.

North America isn't an outlier: according to the Evans Data survey, just under two-fifths (39 percent) of developers in the Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) and nearly three-fifths (58 percent) of programmers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions are currently working with HTML5.

Why are programmers so suddenly hip to HTML5? You can bet it has to do with the exploding popularity of smartphones, tablets, and other more mobile alternatives to traditional desktop and laptop computers. HTML5, more than any other technology, has emerged as the lingua franca for mobile application development.

It's been a long time coming.

Two years ago, Apple Inc. co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs famously thumbed his nose at Flash, the (still ubiquitous) rich multimedia technology developed and marketed by Apple rival Adobe. Jobs raised eyebrows when he touted a combination of HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS as an open, standards-based alternative to Flash. Jobs, moreover, put his money where his mouth was, banning the use of Flash from Apple's iOS-based platforms.

At the time, some thought it a case of over-reach. Two years on, Jobs' anti-Flash edict -- like so many of his seemingly capricious or tendentious decisions -- appears, if anything, frightening prescient. Last November, for example, Adobe announced plans to stop developing Flash for mobile platforms, citing the popularity of HTML5 in the mobile space.

The upshot, says Janel Garvin, CEO of Evans Data, is that HTML5 has become the standard for mobile or cross-platform mobile applications. "There isn't any question about the adoption of HTML5, it's already the de facto standard," said Garvin, in a statement. "There is especial strength in HTML5 for mobile and cross-platform mobile apps, which is the direction the industry is moving for client devices, and that has made it extremely attractive to developers everywhere in the world," she continued. "We see the most strength in Asia, a region that is generally quick to adopt new technologies."

HTML5's popularity is tied to a spike in mobile-oriented Web application development. In its survey last summer of 400 mobile developers, for example, Evans Data found that three-quarters (74 percent) of programmers planned to start porting or extending enterprise apps to mobile platforms through 2012. Many of these efforts were expected to focus on Web application development -- using HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS -- as distinct from coding native applications for mobile devices, the researcher found.

"This … [shows] the importance of [W]eb apps vs. native apps to mobile developers which correlate with the need to support a wide range of devices," said Garvin, in a release that accompanied the results of Evans Data's mobile application development survey.

When it announced its intent to kill Flash in the mobile arena, Adobe effectively -- and magnanimously -- conceded defeat. "HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms," wrote Danny Winokur, vice president and general manager for interactive development with Adobe, in his now-famous blog post. Added Winokur: "We are excited about this."

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