May 19, 2010

HTML5 Series Part 3: Changing the Mobile Web


Hostway Team

By Meredith Barnhill

The fastest growing market for Web-capable technology isn't home computers or even laptops—it's mobile products like smartphones and tablets. With Apple's dominance in the mobile market with the iPhone and more recently the iPad, users are flocking to these non-Flash supporting devices. With millions of iPhones and iPads sold, Flash-based Web sites are scrambling to accommodate this growing demographic by utilizing HTML5.

Browser-based Applications

Applications rule the smartphone realm today. Since Apple released the iPhone and iPod Touch, companies including BlackBerry and Google have followed suit—offering downloadable applications for their respective mobile operating systems, BlackBerry's RIM software and Google's Android OS. The iTunes App Store has over 100,000 third-party developed applications for the Apple iPhone, most for a modest fee.

Since HTML5 is an open-Web language and will be supported by browsers on every platform, it will enable developers to design applications that can be accessed from a phone or computer browser, eliminating the need for a separate mobile application store.

Browser-based applications are beneficial because they do not take up hard drive space on a mobile device. They also are not restricted to a certain operating system, such as applications from the Apple App Store. HTML5 also allows users to access offline content by using cached versions of files. This benefits mobile users because they can view email anywhere without being connected to the Internet.

By allowing users to access applications through their mobile browsers, developers can focus on the Web-based service they offer rather than spending time and resources on re-engineering applications to work across several different platforms. Because HTML5 offers Flash-functionality without the need for the third-party plugins, designers will be able to include interactive functionality within the application without worrying that Apple users will not be able to access their content.

Geolocation and Augmented Reality

The latest mobile application craze is for location-based applications. HTML5 includes standards for geolocation APIs (application programming interface) allowing browsers to access a user's location using their IP address or GPS function on their mobile device.

Social networking platforms like Gowalla and Foursquare are solely based on this technology while companies like Twitter and Yelp use geolocation strategies to enhance what they already offer. Users can tag individual tweets with their location's coordinates from their browser, whether mobile or desktop.

Yelp's "Monocle" function uses both geolocation and augmented reality functions to enhance user experience. Augmented reality adds virtual elements to live views using your mobile device. In Monocle, users can visually see points of interest around their current location and click on those points to bring up reviews and ratings from the Yelp community.

Another suggested use for augmented reality includes Augmented ID which uses facial recognition to tag live contacts with their virtual accounts. Users will be able to see a contact's most recent tweet, Facebook profile or any social networking account they claim.

Companies like Twitter and Yelp are considered forerunners in the geolocation realm, but this technology is quickly becoming the standard.

Check back each day this week for more articles in the HTML5 series:
Part 1: Introduction to HTML5
Part 2: Groundbreaking Functionality
Part 3: Changing the Mobile Web
Part 4: Conclusion

About the Author

Meredith Barnhill is a multimedia journalist in Austin, TX.

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