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7 apps making the most of HTML5

Peter Wayner | Oct. 23, 2012
HTML5 is more than a few years old and no longer a curiousity. Web pages that used to simply emulate a piece of paper are now expected to do something snazzy to justify their existence. Thanks to HTML5, along with innovations in JavaScript and CSS, interactive logic is a standard strategy for Web programming, and full-fledged Web apps are everywhere. All it takes is a few extra tags to rewrite the world's software as a Web page.

The souped-up HTML5 Canvas tag and its many drawing operations lies at the heart of Angry Birds, as with many other HTML5 games, like the Atari Arcade built by Microsoft. The routines give programmers all they need to draw the artwork for the game. Many of the old libraries (such as the physics library) at the core of Angry Birds that were built for Flash are being rewritten to support HTML5 applications drawing on the canvas.

Getting Flash out of the loop promises to eliminate all of the glitches that appeared when the Flash plug-in and the browser couldn't get along.

HTML5 cautionary tale: Facebook mobile app

Not everyone is smitten with the HTML5 path. Some who invested heavily in HTML5 are backing away. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called it a big strategic mistake to create Facebook's mobile products with HTML5. The solutions worked, but they were sluggish and glitchy because the browsers just weren't fast enough to handle all of the data. Native apps are much better at limiting the memory footprint, and that's often the most important limitation for a programmer working on the mobile platform.

Fans of HTML5 acknowledge these complaints, but it's not like native apps are perfect, easy to write, and portable. The solution, they suggest, is to keep your aspirations in check and use the best of the new features. Don't try to display a bazillion triangles in a first-person shooter that runs in your browser. Work with the new tags and back-end enhancements like the local database. Start with a simple editor and build slowly. The advantage of HTML5 is that you can roll out new features one at a time without asking the user to go through all of the grief of upgrading.


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