Sencha proves HTML5 is ready for prime time

By Chris Umiastowski on 2 Jan 2013 11:09 am EST


Early last month I wrote a piece about BlackBerry 10 and HTML5, suggesting that in the long term, RIM is making the right bet by pushing its WebWorks platform so hard. Between Webworks and native cascade-powered apps, mixed in with some Android love, RIM has their bases covered.

Not so long ago, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, ruffled the feathers of the HTML5 camp by saying that this new web technology wasn't really ready for prime time. It's well known that Facebook re-wrote its apps using native code because they weren't happy with HTML5 performance.

Like many others, I took this at face value. I assumed Zuck was right. I take a long term view on things and I figured that HTML5 would eventually be a huge movement that dominates much of cross-platform mobile app development. But if that day wasn't quite here yet, so be it. Bugs will get worked out, things will improve, and HTML5 will have its day to shine.

Well, the folks at Sencha have done a damn good job of proving that this future day is actually here. It's now. For those who don't follow the scene so closely, Sencha is a company that builds an HTML5 mobile app framework. created an incredible set of HTML5 tools.

They took offense to the Zuckerberg statement. And they set out to prove him wrong. Check out the video above. They actually build a demo app using pure HTML5 to show some of the most complex features of Facebook on iOS and Android. They've built something that is not only faster, but consumes less bandwidth than the native iOS app from Facebook.

You can read their entire blog post about the development of "Fastbook" on the Sencha blog here. It's a long post and quite fascinating. There is some pretty good evidence that Facebook's HTML5 developers were just not doing a best-in-class job of coding up their app.

So what does all this mean to RIM? If Facebook can be coded up using just HTML5, I don't think there is any reason to think that a slew of other apps can't be done using these same tools. HTML5 can handle photo filters, so Instragram-like apps should be possible. It can handle video, so Netflix should be doable.

The convincing argument made by Sencha really makes me believe in the idea that the world is moving away from platform-specific development tools. Sure, we might need platform specific tweaks, but HTML5 is mostly a cross-platform environment. This lowers the barriers to getting great apps on BlackBerry, and should level the playing field (as far as apps go) as the mobile computing market evolves.

Reader comments

Sencha proves HTML5 is ready for prime time


It looks like HTML5 is the future while Native is slow, a data hogger, and old school. Any phone that uses Native is outdated.

I highly recommend homework before commenting. And if you don't know, post like it's opinion, not fact.

I run two phones (work and personal). A Bold 9790, and my own LG Optimus One. I still use this old Android because I can't stand the throwaway mentality OEMs have built into Android phone sales, and plus, running CM 7.2 and my own tweaks, the phone is still viable for me (46 apps currently installed, and still room for more). But, it's running a measly 600MHz processor, Adreno 200, and 512MB RAM.

Slow, right?

When this phone was running the HTML5 version of the Facebook app, it was an excruciating experience. EVERYTHING was slow. And by "slow", I mean grit-your-teeth-and-stop-yourself-from-throwing-it performance.

When Facebook put out a native-code version for Android, the app performance probably tripled for me. Mind-blowingly different. So, let's connect some dots, especially for those users who have never compiled code.

Cross-platform tools, like HTML5, have major weaknesses to overcome. Mostly the fact that it is still practically impossible to get the same performance as native code. Native code gets the home court advantage - EVERY TIME. However, phones which are as powerful or more than my old netbook appear to overcome that disadvantage just by the fact that they're strong enough to muscle through inefficient code. But, throw an old phone into the mix, and the differences become astounding.

Further, it's one thing to develop a highly-optimized HTML5 app for a single platform with limited devices (iOS, BB10), and quite another to develop the same app for 500 different devices running vastly different versions of the Android Operating System. It's logistically impossible to tweak your HTML5 to perform at native code levels with that much hardware and that many Android variations.

Facebook finally acknowledged that this is the case, and Sencha decided to drum up some publicity for themselves, taking advantage of the idiotic holy wars which always surround these things.

Have a good day, everyone! And please do some homework before building yet another holy war.

Impressive, YES.

Being adopted by large web companies like Facebook, NO. HTML5 is the future, but no one is ready to commit to it yet.

Does even CrackBerry have a HTML5 App? (or even a native PlayBook App?)

This actually runs really well on the PlayBook, a much better experience then the native FB app. If they could package this into an app it would be great.

Agree. Please ask them to finish this app. It is twice as attractive and about four times faster than the native PlayBook Facebook app as a facebook viewer.

Now if only you could use it to post and comment...

I totally agree. I have bookmarked fastbook to my homedcreen on my PlayBook and am definitely going to use it as my main Facebook app now! It's so smooth and is much more effective than the native Facebook app on pb!

The sooner HTML5 apps take hold, the better for all of us. The ONLY reason I consider a device other than BlackBerry is because every app commercial I see, it ends with "check out the app now for iPhone and Android". I'm really looking forward to "who has the apps" dying as an argument, and seeing phone makers have to rely more on better features to sell their devices.

RIM posted a BB10 promo on Facebook today that listed 10 features of BB10, like BlackBerry Balance, BlackBerry Hub and QNX. One guy replying said that he cared nothing about that "junk", he just wanted apps like Angry Birds.
The iPhone will clearly be technologically inferior and more expensive than the new BlackBerries, yet many will still buy because Apple has certain apps.

Lol, Just ignore comments like that entirely... Those are the types of people who don't put much thought or time into what they're writing. Since it was a BB10 Promo, the guy should of realized that angry birds is on the Playbook therefor theres an OOOVVVEEERRRR 9000 Percent chance of it being on there not? I argue with IOS people like this all the time and it sends shivers down my spine how such uninformed people could even bother commenting...even worse.. when people with a Playbook say "Oh theres no Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, or Jet Pack Joyride!This thing sucks!!" People like that are either blind...or just plain stupid and can't realize that you can get the same experience as fruit ninja playing other games.

Does this mean that apps are irrelevant? Couldn't there be just one "Mobile App Store" for all devices?

Yes, according to that clip that QNX posted with the Veep doing a run through of the Car 2 platform. The QNX team have already been out front pushing the boundaries on what is possible with HTML5. Bodes well.
From my BB10 expectant BlackBerry PlayBook.

maybe its just me. but this isnt an app, its just a webpage. and it doesnt even work properly on blackberry. Just loaded it up on my 9790 and the and are 100x better.

It's not an app. It's supposed to work in the browser to show that you don't need an app and that HTML5 works great for even the most demanding apps. Your limitation is the horsepower in your 9790.

On my 9800, I use

is facebook on playbook write with html 5? If I'm not mistaken, what we see at the video can be done by facebook app on playbook, doesn't it?


HTML5 is good for cross-platform apps, and Sencha touch is really fast, compared to other HTML frameworks, because they dont use HTML at all ;) - its pure Javascript.
A while ago i made some performance tests on my dev alpha and when it comes to animations, HTML5 was much slower then Cascades and even AIR. To provide best performance i decided to use Cascades.
Dont get me wrong, its good to know that cross-platform technology exists - but i think that most BB user would prefere Cascades apps, if possible.


I thought I was the only one who thought this. Yes, WebWorks (HTML5) is very capable and the concept is neat to say the least BUT it doesn't offer the performance that cascades/ndk offers. To be quite frank, WebWorks is piece of shit at this point. Perhaps in the future, it will increase the performance but right now, "easy to develop" is not a good enough excuse for providing shitty framerates - ultimately shitty user experience. At todays day and age, all apps must have 60fps or should gtfo, no joke. So yes, zuckerberg made the right decision in leaving HTML 5 aside for now. I also hate Android ports on my Playbook.

Exactly! I commented previously on the same. "Write once. Run anywhere." is just not true. At the current time it smells more like marketing than anything else. The "proof is in the pudding". To get reasonable real-world performance from HTML5 apps, you must own a recent, powerful handset. Upgrade, upgrade! Buy buy!!! :P

Guys, HTML5 or NO-HTML5, phone upgrades are always going to be available.

To get any kind of performance, it's obvious that you need to own a recent device.. However, optimization of HTML5 is way folds over Native.

HTML5 can simply include a header code which detects the device and limits the availability of certain features to ensure 'real-world performance'.. Native needs to be individually optimized and updated. How can a vendor effectively manage 500 individual app versions?

Besides, Native is what the developer writes and gives.. HTML5 is a global development.. Today if Facebook cannot get the code right.. Fastbook can provide an easy solution.. Native just comes with road-blocks after road-blocks..

Very impressive, and it's a great showcase of HTML5. But I wonder what version of the native FB app they're using. I've got the latest on iPhone 4S and it doesn't have to fully refresh the data when I swipe in the navigation panes from the left or right.

and I was unable to replicate the native app getting "stuck" as they showed on the Galaxy Nexus. Flows as well as the HTML5 app they show in their video far as I can see...

Cool app! They should make Fastbook app available on iTunes and Android Market. I hope RIM will collaborate with them to make fast HTML5 apps on BB10.

Very nice indeed. I had just taken it for a test drive on my PlayBook and I must say I enjoyed it more then the native PlayBook app.

I love this. Amazing that the big guy (FB) couldn't get the ball across the line. Maybe they really didn't want to. If HTML5 gets to be to persuasive to ignore it's going to be very exciting.

I'm not complaining. Just curious. The link stalls on my 9930 at "log in w/ facebook". I'll try on the PB next and am sure it will run. But, while the 9930 has nowhere near the HTML5 capability of the PB, shouldn't this run on it as well?

As others have mentioned, performance is not there yet and too many low level APIs are missing. RIM is relying on devs to build the bridges with native. It saves internal resources, but also means it will take a while before devs have all the tools they need.


Netflix mobile app is already a HTML5 app and if I am not wrong it has been that way since the debut on IOS and Android

We've been building HTML5 app in the SAP (enterprise) space since HTML5 was in its infancy. I have to say things have definitely gotten a lot easier recently but we have 10's of thousands of users who have been using our HTML5 solution for quite some time now. I am pleased to see Zuck's comments shown as wrong. You know what they say: A bad workmen always blames his tools!

re: iphone - I notice how they have to do many more swipes to achieve a speed tha tlooks similar on fastbook when scrolling. The fast scrolling is also a bit choppy

Simple swipe actions seem to lag behind slightly but consistently - it's still fast, but it's slower enough that the HTML5 app will "feel" slower.

Other aspects - landscape view, caching - are just poor app design in the native app and not really a reflection of HTML5. Similarly the difference on android where they fetch more data is a design decision and not a platform limitation.

Having developed both, basic responsiveness of operations is always marginally if noticeably better in a native app. Hand-tuned HTML5 demos notwithstanding.

I guess you missed the point. The demo is not trying to prove that HTML5 provides a better or enhanced experience than Native as many would like to believe..

It's jus that same things such as Native can be easily and effectively executed through HTML5. Which leads to the next important point that 'WHy is it not done already then?'.


Sencha released BB10 Beta theme 2 months ago...
Still not liking it for HTML5 development as the Blackberry developed for JQuery though.

The only question I have with this is what's the difference in development time between nurturing a html5 app to perform this well compared with going native?

I agree with Marc_Paradise, the scrolling is not as smooth in the html5 demo as in the native demo.

I'm looking forward to when html5 apps can match the performance of native (will BB10 be the first here?).

HTML5 will never replace native apps. A few reasons......

1. Games. HTML games are pretty awful
2. Integration with phone features (notifications, camera, calendar, etc.)
3. How do you make money selling an HTML5 app?
4. How to you protect your source code so nobody can view/steal it?

Semi5, I think you're misleading.

1. As of date, their performances are lower, you're right. but the adoption of WebGL etc ... (meaning we're on day 1 and I can't see why it shouldn't be better day after day).

2. This integration is provided by APIs so it only affects a small portion of the code (when you invoke the feature); some of them are HTML5 standard (media/video/audio/local storage/database/websockets ...), only some (calendar, messaging, etc) are brand/device specific.

3. Exactly like other platforms, in app marketplaces plus/or on an online subscription fee basis.

4. For WebWorks/BB10 (and I believe for most platforms ?) you do not publish a bunch of HTML files. The app is compiled and packaged.

Okay Sencha, most (if not all) of the points you outlined in the video about the advantage of Fastbook over Facebook app is a design decision, not capability of native app.

Stop acting butt hurt and accept the reality, HTML5 is not ready for prime time yet. It wont have comparable performance in next several years.

Hey Fanboy! Wasting time re-loading images and entire pages is a design decision of what kind?

I guess you comment is really from the past, because HTML5 is leveraged more widely than ever before.


BINGO! Even though Apple has always accepted and supported HTML5 development from the initial stages.. The core integration of HTML5 is completely lacking from Apple. The low HTML5 scores, the poor HTML5 performance vs. BB10.

It's mainly because if Apple says YES to HTML5... Instagram, Netflix, Skype and all other major Apple dominated Applications will immediately jump ship whole-heartedly to HTML5 (which they are trying to)..

If this happens, Apps vs. Web versions will hold no differences for the new generation of devices.. Can you imagine the lost income through app store?

Isn't that the bb10 native facebook app that was demoed at bb world? With the "peek" and "flow" gestures though? Why is it on iphone?

Honestly I thought the native was better than the html5 I don't know what these guys making the video were smoking

Same old.. Same old.. What I don't like about this article is that it's kind of a justification to the performance and logic of HTML5. Really, can I say that it's brainwashed fans to support Native over universally developed HTML5?

If you've used Fastbook, it's world of a difference over any current Native app. It has performance even better than desktop version. The loading and rendering is pure logical, try scrolling 300 posts down (yes you can within seconds) and yet the 300th post is available immediately with images, links, etc.

Honestly, I would request CB to stop giving a fk about all Droid and Apple fans and not put in post after post trying to convince them otherwise.

Really fk them. The point is.. RIM wants existing BB consumers to just upgrade and then there is this entire untapped market where Apple and Droid don't exist.

You guys keep giving news and posts which are clearly to just make anti-Rims believe that BB can do it.. If a person cannot understand the potential of HTML5, nothing can convince them otherwise. Their minds are blocked with Apps and Ecosystems.

RIM & Microsoft are leaders in App development and future of Applications because they have created 'Containers' which let Apps expand their reach and provide high level performance at negligible cost (minimal hardware requirements). READ: Windows 8 desktop (apps) & Cascades.

Netflix, Skype, Win8 Apps, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all are going this one way route because leveraging the application across multiple platforms is of prime importance BUT efficiency is DATA MANAGEMENT will be the key focus this time around. With consumption of mobile data increasing by multiples as every year passes, providers (app developers) will be primarily focused on ensuring that this data is passed through at the highest rate of transfer along with the quickest mode possible.

The main advantage of HTML5 is that it does not get affected by large quantity data - From using Fastbook, I've understood that, 500 or 5000 posts does not matter but what's more important is what's currently being displayed. That takes priority over everything else.

The OS of BB10 can or maybe already is, designed to either throw out your cache at the bare minimum or build a cache if required, and since this access can be open-ended towards developers, it gives more control over the user experience.

With Smart graphics, 3D rendering, AV codec support, hardware acceleration, etc. HTML5 score is of key essence in development today.

Fastbook has essentially proved that Native applications are Dumb or as Smart as the person writing it can be.. And there is no escape from this even at the highest level of development - FACEBOOK.

If you go through the Netflix blogs, you will get a deeper understanding of application development & DEPLOYMENT. You can have the best hardware in the world (SONY PS3) but yet performance of an application can be below par (read: Youtube on PS3).

The only solution to this is OPEN ENDED hardware to take advantage of logical coding and efficiency in deployment of open-standards. AND guess who is in the prime position of all? RIM and it's BlackBerry 10 micro-kernel RTOS.

The potentials and possibilities are endless. You have a science project in school, you want a remote operator (BB10 handheld), you simply get a coded HTML5 web page, put private access and once you login you are good to go. Entire hardware system of your handheld can be used. Data can be instantly transmitted to and fro from your robot machine to your handheld and back. No need for vendor approvals (app world), no limitations on hardware, and no compromise on performance. Sure you can do this in Apple and Droids too, but there comes a point where they both hit their limitations. And it happens quick.

You can argue that HTML5 and background technical performance is not for consumers to care about, and performance on Apple and Droid are totally at par, however, this time around it's about the providers and addressing their needs. We are hand-in-hand in this and without providers, consumers are at a total loss.

The only person to lose in this entire new trend is the Carrier and the carriers are the actual Android and Apple Trolls. They are tied to each other in this bad corporate agenda of simply looting the consumers and in return pressurising the providers with additional costs which expand on to millions of dollars yearly.

Benefits of HTML5:

- Uninterrupted transition from Native to HTML5
- New generation coding & logic development
- Seamless load shedding & effective data management
- Universal deployment of standard application
- Considerably low development and management costs
- Parallel distribution and networking through Mobile to Machine, ICE or IVI, CE, etc.

Are you kidding me? You compare 2 apps that are designed differently. Why didn't you do the same thing for the native app? You added a new way to display comments, but you kept the old way and claim that html5 is better.

Then you rotate the device with html 5 showing how quickly it rotates, but on the native app you have it set to portrait only, so there is no possible way for it to rotate.

The entire comparison is faux. You compared apples to oranges and left it to non programmers to take it that way.

Next time make a real comparison and not a half winded use my product demo.


First RIM is dead, sorry BB fan boy. 2nd you have no idea what you're talking about. Native apps will always be better. Why, because they exist on the hardware. Html5 apps are basically middleware and if designed right will look very nice and do until the company wants an app that takes the UX to a new level and the customer actually enjoys their product.

LOL ps3 the best hardware, my PC outperforms a PS3 hands down.

I understand you feel like an abused RIM developer and that you're platform will be dead by 2015 and that you're finding out that you couldn't veer make decent apps, it will be ok. HTML5 will save you as you make a crappy HTML5 app then users only use it 40% of the time because your UX is limited, then your company hands the app to a consultant who makes a great app and usage goes up another 35%.

Also you need to learn what data management really is. Good luck with your php site.

You are as meaningless as this article.