Facebook just backed away from a huge bet on HTML5.
In the middle of last year, Facebook launched redesigned versions of its smartphone apps.
Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
These new apps relied heavily on HTML5, the latest version of the code with which most Websites have been built.The reason Facebook built the apps in HTML5 was because it views the Web as a neutral platform – not belonging to Google, which owns Android, or Apple, which owns iOS.
One benefit was that the apps had a unified designs across platforms.
Another supposed benefit was that Facebook’s big bet on HTML5 would encourage other mobile developers to do the same. Facebook wants mobile developers to build on the Web, not Android or iOS, because Facebook has a firm grasp on the Web. It distributes traffic through the News Feed, and it has a network of hundreds of millions of Like buttons gathering information across the entire thing.
The only drawback to building its apps in HTML5 was a big one, however.
Apps built in HTML5 can be much slower than apps built in native iOS and Android code.
This made Facebook’s iPhone app in particular very slow.
This pain point created an opening, and Instagram, a photo-sharing app only available on iOS until last week, walked right in and started grabbing away Facebook users – reaching 30 million by today.
Today, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion. It’s a great move. It’s also a move that allows Facebook to undo its big bet on HTML5.