A year or so ago, Wired declared that the web was dead–because everyone was moving to apps.
The rise of the app-economy has given huge power to gatekeepers like Apple that approve and distribute apps and then take a big cut of any revenue generated from them.
But now a new technology–HTML5–is threatening to disrupt the app market and put leverage back in the hands of content providers.
By allowing developers to build web-based applications that are nearly as rich and functional and cool as “native” apps that are built for a specific platform (namely, Apple, Android, or RIM).
The web-based version of Cut The Rope is the best game developed for a web browser so far. And it demonstrates how powerful and disruptive HTML5 could be to the app ecosystem.
We’ve never seen a game that has run as smoothly or emulated as well as it is on the iPhone in a web browser. But this version of Cut The Rope does.
In Cut The Rope you have to cut ropes attached to a piece of candy and swing that candy to Omnom, a cute little monster, somewhere on the screen. It’s deceptively simple, as the puzzles can actually be pretty challenging.
But unlike Angry Birds — on the Chrome app store — and other attempted ports of games like Bastion, the web-based version of this game runs smooth as silk. It never once slows down, it loads in seconds and the physics engine acts the way you’d expect it to act.
Even using a mouse — which might seem a little jarring at first — starts to become second nature over time.
These are the kind of standards we’ve come to expect from native applications. You’d have to write an app for a specific platform in order for it to run smoothly and deliver a top-notch experience, in the past. That means designing a game for the most popular platforms, if you want to make sure your game is noticed.
With native apps, what we have ended up with is a two-horse platform race — Apple’s iPhone operating system and Google’s Android operating system. You have to build your game for the iPhone if you want to get the most traction, and then port it over to Android. That’s made it hard for additional smartphone platforms — like Windows Phone or the BlackBerry operating system — to spring up.
If this simple version of Cut The Rope is any kind of indication, that notion could vanish pretty quickly.
If you view the game on a mobile device that supports HTML5 — like your iPhone — you’ll find the game loads immediately and with little concern. At first glance, it seems like it’s a carbon copy of what you’ll find on your desktop — the animations are smooth and the music and sound quality is just as good.
(Unfortunately, you can’t play it yet because it requires a mouse, but you can bet that’s an easy fix. HTML5 Games like Ninja Rope already support touch-based controls.)
That means you could run this game on a WebOS phone like the Pre 3. Or a Windows Phone. Or any kind of phone that supports HTML5.
We said earlier this week that HTML5 would replace the majority of native applications over the next 3 to 5 years, but it was not ready for prime time just yet. Here are some of the reasons why:
- HTML5 will allow online software and content — not just games — to be much more interactive and richer.
- HTML5 apps are cheaper to make because they’re cross-platform. With HTML5, you can develop an app once and be up and running on every platform.
- Engineers are more comfortable with developing HTML5 apps, according to Romain Goyet, CTO of app development company Applidium
- The proliferation of HTML5 apps will reduce the power of app gatekeepers like Apple and shift the balance of power back toward content providers instead of app distributors.
(If you want to learn more about HTML5, you check out our in-depth report about the future of the platform.)
This whole Cut The Rope thing seems like a branding experiment designed to show how easy it is to port a game to a web-based programming language. It’s a pet project for Microsoft, which is trying to tout the browser capabilities built into its new version of Internet Explorer.
Even for a branding experiment, though, it’s really exciting to see just how powerful the platform can be. Time to get excited.