After a lifetime developing software it’s surprising how rarely I discuss my ideas in this blog. Some of the advice about how to blog suggests writing about your field of expertise but I guess I’m sufficiently burned out after all those years to actually not find it very interesting any more. OTOH, I also actually think that software is not what it used to be. It’s not that innovation was higher in the past, it’s that there were far less people creating interesting software and not much had been done, so we were starting from a low baseline and thus appearing to achieve a lot. Today, frankly, most software is boring. And actually much of it truly is (not just my biased perceptual basis) because it’s so derivative and often trivial. But also, what I’ll label the “meta-issues” have largely already been solved and so rarely does even somewhat innovative software ends up being very interesting.
For instance, in the dying of my working career I chased the irrelevant pursuit of learning yet another development environment to evaluate whether my employers should pursue this development path. In particular, I easily set up an Android development environment, carefully sequestered in a VMWare virtual machine, ran through all the examples in several tutorial books and then did a few samples of my own. There was a time when this would have been a challenging task for me, but after decades of learning new development environments, languages, and frameworks – big whoop, this is trivial. And there would have been a time in my career when having something like Eclipse for development and debugging or the Android libraries would have been really impressive (hey, I date back to 360 assembler era where we have a few macros as the library and punchcards and coredumps as “tools”, so I can be impressed, but frankly after CodeWarrior (for Macs) as my first IDE, they all look pretty much the same now, and frankly, Eclipse is mediocre compared to Visual Studio, but back to my main point …)
It’s this context where I have two reactions to HTML5: a) big whoop, it’s boring as toejam with absolutely nothing interesting or innovative about it (sorry kiddies, it might impress you but that merely means you have a low threshold for what impresses), and, b) it sucks. Now actually it isn’t really HTML5 that sucks (a boring spec, hardly deserving of an entire book and certainly not the entire shelf of books about it). Now it’s: a) the browsers’ implementation of it (esp. Firefox, boy have they gone downhill), and, b) the websites that get excited about it and way overdo (sorta like the early days of fonts when authors got carried away and created documents that really did look like ransom notes, the cliche that eventually applied to bad use of fonts).
Now I realize web designers have to do awful things and create a terrible experience for me because they have to try to get me to pay attention to ads since I, like everyone else, won’t actually pay for content, so we get the trashy presentations we deserve for the price we pay. No, it’s not that (and how HTML5 has made that worse) that bugs it, it’s the equivalent of ransom notes excess, it’s that some sites think unless they’re pushing all sorts of updates and animations and reformatting of the pages at me at a rate so rapidly the browser can’t go through its tedious re-rendering and show me a stable display before the next bit of “dynamic” content comes along. STOP IT, FOLKS.
There is an old bit of wisdom, ignored of course outside the Mac ecospace. Code doesn’t change focus! Period. Only the user changes focus. The incessant violation of this rule, plus the abuses of HTML5, make some websites now almost entirely unusable, in that I can read about five words before the text I was looking at mysteriously disappears off-screen. Are you listening, HuffingtonPost, your site SUCKS BIG TIME. Get some new designers or hire someone older than 15 who knows proper design.
But naturally as an old curmudgeon that all the kiddies will merely think an old fool I think the much ado about nothing that HTML5 (vs apps) creates is really silly, given it is absolutely no content (even poorly done apps beat the best HTML5). But nonetheless there people who actually want to argue that HTML5 is wonderful, as pure this article (but notice the source when you click the link, not exactly a knowledgeable source). So let’s deconstruct a little bit of their feeble arguments, since their arguments are mostly the conventional wisdom of the doctrinaire anti-Apple crowd (or alternatively, pro-openSource (aka mostly OpenTrash), pro-Android (aka mostly, pro-crappy UIs, but “open”), pro-Unix (aka, puzzle solvers who want to prove how smart they are by having unusable software where “user-friendly” is as much a swearword as commie is to tea-baggers)).
Distribution: Native apps are distributed through app stores and markets controlled by the owners of the platforms. HTML5 is distributed through the rules of the open web: the link economy.
Surely you jest! Have you ever heard of malware, aka Android apps at Google (even controlled sources like Amazon will get you a quick case of an STD). Yep, I can’t think of a better way to get malware than “open web” – you dolts! No matter how fascist iStore may be I’ll put up with Apple’s dictatorship before having a mean time until my personal information is known by every hacker on the planet of 12ms that “open web” will do.
Monetization: Native apps come with one-click purchase options built into mobile platforms. HTML5 apps will tend to be monetized more through advertising, because payments will be less user-friendly.
You’re kidding, right! Who are you addressing this comment to – users or developers. It sounds like developers, but your point is stupid even for them, and it’s insane for users. Why would I want a crappy, slow, poorly done, loaded with ads, bandwidth hogging (btw, you do know bandwidth isn’t free any more) website instead of a nice clean app I have to pay the whopping $0.99 for. Come on, payments will be less friendly than ads – again, what planet do you live on. And somehow this is a good thing about HTML5 (as opposed to merely a whine about Apple policies; would you make the same claim for apps vs HTML5 on Kindle Fire?)
Platform power and network effects: Developers have to conform with Apple’s rules. Apple’s market share, meanwhile, creates network effects and lock-in. If and when developers can build excellent iPhone and iPad functionality on the web using HTML5, developers can cut Apple out of the loop. This will reduce the network effects of Apple’s platform.
Functionality: Right now, native apps can do a lot more than HTML5 apps. HTML5 apps will get better, but not as fast as some HTML5 advocates think.
Now this is so laughable you know this author has never written a line of code, either app or HTML5, or even has been a very observant user. “Right now“!!? In which century in the future will HTML5 functionality even come close to native apps? HTML55, maybe (except that will suck even more). I’ve heard this kind of stupidity most of the my career to the general effect (“well it sucks now but it will get better”, otherwise known as the Microsoft first principle of business). NO, FOOL, NO! HTML5 is less capable that, as Spock once said, “stone knives and bearskins” when compared to code. “HTML5 apps will get better” – HA!, we’ll be lucky if they get less sucky! Exactly how are these awful things going to get better, except to remove most of the cutesy HTML5 insanity.
No, this kind of article is just plain stupid (right up there with any article explaining how Android tablets (or worse, Windows 8) is almost as good as Apple). You guys hate Apple (and for many reasons I agree, but that doesn’t mean I’ll use a terrible product just to spite Apple) and you can’t stand their success and this is just the 999th thing that is going to kill them (I’m sure you predicting Linux would be the OS of the future and smartphones had to have a keyboard and Apple Maps is better because it does (badly) auto-routing).
Next to the stupid things political commentators say (like Karl Rove and Dick Morris) you (author of this article) make them look good and like insightful gurus. Why are most tech writers such idiots, just sellout shils or just stupid?