The Dawn of the Web App Age

Enterprise Mobility

The Dawn of the Web App Age

By Michael Stanford  |  June 03, 2014

When Steve Jobs (News - Alert) first announced the iPhone in 2007, he explained that it was designed to run web apps in the browser. There was no need to write programs directly to iOS, because the browser had a set of user interface elements callable from JavaScript that mimicked the look and feel of the native apps.

Perhaps because developers were not impressed with this notion, Apple (News - Alert) announced a native SDK for the iPhone less than a year later. In retrospect, this turns out to have been a very good move. Apple app store revenue in 2013 was $10 billion.

But the long arc of software history may yet turn out to vindicate Jobs' original vision. HTML5 has gone a long way toward making the browser environment as smooth as the native environment, to the point that Firefox is now promoting a smartphone OS that is basically an embedded browser. The only kind of app that is supported on that platform is a web app, written in JavaScript, HTML and CSS (News - Alert). Mozilla's goal is that these apps will be equally capable in every way as native apps on iOS or Android.

This capability is not exclusive to Firefox OS. The Cordova (aka PhoneGap) framework extends to all the other main mobile operating systems the ability to write apps in JavaScript that to the user are indistinguishable from native apps. With Cordova any engineer capable of creating a web page and writing JavaScript can create such an app. By definition, native apps run more smoothly than Cordova apps, and there are some things that Cordova apps can't do. But a carefully designed Cordova app, addressing appropriate capabilities, can be indistinguishable from a native app.

The kicker is that a Cordova app doesn't need to be rewritten to go from iOS to Android (News - Alert). So, in many cases, Cordova yields apps that are just as good as native apps, but covering all the main platforms with dramatically less effort. And as HTML5 and Cordova evolve, the necessity for native apps will continue to diminish.

Michael Stanford (News - Alert) has been an entrepreneur and strategist in VoIP for more than a decade. (Visit his blog at

Michael Stanford has been an entrepreneur and strategist in VoIP for more than a decade. (Visit his blog at

Edited by Maurice Nagle