These past weeks (after Apple’s iCloud announcement) there has been a lot of debate about web apps vs. native apps on the web. The main idea is that Google is all about keeping the data and the experience in the web with web apps while Apple is all about keeping the data in the cloud but the experience in native apps.
It feels as if most of the uses of HTML5 so far have been to prove that it can be done. Big web companies such as Google and Facebook will invest heavily in this space but I believe that web apps will never provide the experience native apps do. Specially not if they have a huge stack of containers on top of them; a frame within a frame within a frame within a browser within an OS.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many sites which work great on the web such as Tumblr, Quora, Digg, Reddit, YouTube and Facebook; to name a few. They work great because they are rich in content and links which is the vision behind the web in the first place. When there is more interaction involved, such as games and content creation, then the web shows its limitations. I’m not saying that these things can’t be done, just that the web can’t provide the same experience a native application can.
Having said all that, I do see the advantages the web has to offer, specially in the form of availability on any device with a browser. HTML and CSS are also quite powerful tools for decoupling logic, structure and aesthetics. I’m sure there are many native apps which use web views to render things which would be a pain to accomplish with the native frameworks. These advantages shouldn’t be an excuse to not provide users with native experience on the devices they use. The success of app stores is evidence enough of the hunger users have for native apps. After all, there’s an app for that, not a web page for that.
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