HTML5 to Replace Apps? Not in My Lifetime

HTML5 may be here to stay, but the mobile app model isn’t going anywhere either.

I believe in HTML5. I think that anything that can be developed with it on the UI side probably should. There’s a question whether most things can, but that’s a different debate.

What I do find ridiculous is the notion of skipping an app altogether for an HTML5 website.

The guys at Vision Mobile explain it best in this simple slide (taken from here):

HTML5 vs apps

HTML5 is missing a lot of infrastructure required for an app store. Essentially – there’s no monetization, distribution and retailing – all the components that web developers need as incentives to write their apps.

I’d add to that one simple fact: people like owning things.

If you go to a web page to get a service, then how can you make it your own?

If on the other hand, you selected an app of a service, and downloaded it, isn’t that your app now?

There’s probably a way to get URLs from the web and paste them as “web apps” on your smartphone. I heard that a couple of times, but I haven’t seen anyone really doing that. I don’t. And somehow, I am sure no one in my extended family even knows the meaning of this thing.

Apps are here to stay. They are the new consumption models in devices – mobile or not.

HTML5 may be a good UI technology for cross platform development, but it is no app-killer.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Liked this post?

Share it!

Never miss a post!

Or just grab the RSS feed!


  1. The App Store for HTML5-Apps is the world wide web. You can load your apps via domain. So in a way this already exists. What is missing is the monetarization. There should be an easy way for micro-payment! Because most apps in the famous app stores cost about 1$ and so there should be a way to easy pay per month/week/forever/.. via already existing structures. E.g. SMS, because its easy accessible. If you have to register yet another account for payment noone wants to use your app but if its easy to pay they will just do it.

    • Tsahi Levent-Levi says:

      These are no easy problems to solve, especially not in a web world… I didn’t see any solution emerging yet that fits well.

      • A website and a webapp are very similair, a webapp when done right, can just be a fancy website bookmark with offline caching.

        The monetarization of the web a lot of times is ads. Ads and mobile don’t really go together that well because of the screen real estate.

        I don’t see how distribution is a problem with webapps, you have all the freedom of normal apps and more. You can build a hybrid app (native wrapper/webview) that you publish in an appstore or make it downloadable from your own site.

        Mozilla for FirefoxOS solved monetarization by leveraging the existing relation of the enduser with the network operator. So you don’t need a creditcard.

        Do you know why they do that ? Because FirefoxOS is gonna be on cheap smartphones first, for the less fortunate masses. These people don’t have a creditcard.

        If you look at the share of feature phones sold worldwide, it is still about half. That is the market FirefoxOS is targeting.

        This in large part is related to price. If developers want to sell to them, they need to find a way. The network operater is the way.

        • Distribution != downloading stuff from the web, in the marketing sense of the term. It means making money by having a distribution channel doing the heavy lifting of selling stuff for you.

          It remains to be seen whether the GSMA’s OneAPI notion of using your phone number + phone bill as a distribution channel will compete with the AppStore and Google Play. Possibly it will make sense for Firefox OS, but native apps will always be easier to monetize than web apps you have to repeatedly download to use.

          • “but native apps will always be easier to monetize than web apps you have to repeatedly download to use.”

            You don’t download webapps more frequently then native apps. Or do you think webapps don’t work offline ?

            Webapps have 2 ways to updates, one is through the app store if it has been packed as a native app and has no ‘app cache’ setup.

            Webapps can also be updated with the use of the ‘app cache’. Which is even easier for the user, because you don’t need to do anything.

            It automatically gets downloaded after the app is started on an idle moment. And only if there is a new version.

            It is one HTTP-request to get the manifest file, which gets checked if it has changed. If it has not changed the file will not even be downloaded.

            If the file content indicated there is an update the changed files are downloaded and cached. So it will use the least amount bandwidth as needed.

            The files of the updated version of the app will only be used the next time the app is started and if the downloads has been completely.

            Look up HTML5 Application Cache manifest if you want to know more about it.

          • Lennie, Thanks for the tip.

  2. If you examine the Chrome Web Store, this is actually an App store for web apps. After selecting a Web app on Chrome Store it gets some real estate on your browser. Google also provides monetization means (Google In App payments).
    The Chrome Web Store is currently only available on desktops, but I am sure it will find its way into the mobile, surely on Android OS.

    • Tsahi Levent-Levi says:


      While you are correct, people don’t use the Chrome Web Store as much as they use an app store on the phone, and real estate on browsers is expensive…

      Add to that the fact that there are no real high value apps in Chrome Web Store and you can see the problem.

      I don’t foresee this as something that will catch up in the next 3 years.

      • But what you have to keep in mind is Chrome OS and the development of the Chrome browser. They aren’t anymore for “pure” browsing but for organizing, connecting, sharing, etc. and Chrome gets more and more integrated into desktop environment with all those web apps.
        I agree that we won’t see a real solution in the next 3 years but I think there will definitly be a generation of users to whom the Chromebooks fits perfectly and so the Web Store does.
        I would say that the development only just began and the next years will be very interesting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *