Succeeding Where Facebook Failed, WeChat Gives New Life to HTML5
摘要： Apple popularized HTML5 technology. Facebook bet on HTML5, which hurt it quite a bit, leading to a time when badmouthing HTML5 became a popular pastime in the gloating media. WeChat, through its public accounts, has used games and re-vamped marketing to restore HTML5 to the spring of its first youth.
(Chinese Version)Last week, WeChat’s publicity campaign provoked heated debate, as three major brands BMW, VIVO, and Coca Cola pushed some amazing ads to users, once again displaying HTML5’s many charms within Friends Circle. Lightweight and with cross-platform capability, HTML5 is very likely to become a future alternative to Flash, rather than native Apps.
Even if you’re not a techie, you will still have felt HTML5 events happening all around us in the last year. Last year, “Psycho Cat” exploded in WeChat’s Friends Circle, followed by a series of other games, proving the marketing value of HTML5.
HTML5 has been out for many years, and is a standard for browser-based collaboration, allowing a variety of different material to run smoothly in the browser. Its greatest advantage lies in the fact that it is cross-platform and easy to develop, and has low development costs. As early as 2010, when Steve Jobs slammed Adobe Flash, it was predicted that HTML5 would replace Flash in the next technology wave.
From that point on, the HTML5-Flash debate has been a staple of conversation among programmers. Last Tuesday, Youtube announced that HTML5 would become its default video player, a move that would have been almost unimaginable prior to 2010. At that time, Adobe boasted that 75% of all websites worldwide used Flash technology for video players. But as of last year, people had largely accepted HTML5’s popularity, with 85% of websites using HTML5 technology.
Wherefore Flash’s decline?
Apple has never been a company that is the first to market new technology, but throughout the years it has seized every opportunity to eliminate technologies and equipment, like the floppy disk, the CD-ROM, netbooks, and shoot cameras. Of these, Flash is without question one of the most notorious.
Jobs was completely disgusted with Flash, so the iPhone and iPad never supported Flash. As a consequence, Apple and Adobe erupted into a contentious war of words, with Jobs even going onto a forum to explain to people why iPad did not support Flash, saying that Flash technology lacks sufficient openness, has poor performance, large battery consumption, insufficient touch support, and that this would greatly hinder people’s iPad user experience.
In 2010, Apple sold 40 million iPhones and 15 million iPads. Although tablet growth has already begun to show signs of a slowdown since last year, it is still very clear that developers cannot ignore this big of a user base. So, in this war between Apple and Adobe, Apple was backed by a huge group of developers supporting research and development in HTML5 technology, facilitating the popularization of this technology.
In the second year, Adobe abandoned its R&D work in Flash mobile devices, and HTML5 had nearly become the most widely supported mobile browser. Adobe recognized that Flash was already in decline, and that at the same time the introduction of apps also rendered the browser-based Flash less important. Flash was also facing the fragmentation demands of Android systems, and targeting different versions and optimizations was too time-consuming.
Zuckerberg takes the plunge with HTML5
Many large companies are pushing the development of HTML5, but Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is probably the craziest among these. As a tech geek, he has vowed to use HTML5’s Web App to break iOS and Android’s monopoly, re-igniting a debate that’s been around for the last few years—will HTML5 replace the App?
Unfortunately, HTML5 ran into a few problems in 2012, when two standard organizations pushing the development of HTML5 technology, W3C and WHATWG, ended their cooperation. Zuckerberg took a big leap with HTML5. The belief that HTML5 would overtake App had become overpowering, and as a result, the performance of Facebook’s mobile product market was extremely average prior to 2013.
If Zuckerberg had not paid $1 billion to purchase Instagram in 2012, one could have almost said that Facebook had totally missed this mobile wave. Indeed, Facebook’s $100 billion IPO suffered again and again throughout 2012.
Common sense would suggest that Facebook’s years of trial and error with HTML5 had dealt a huge blow to its usability and that, barring any unforeseen circumstance, it would become just another technology that disappeared from users’ field of vision after a short-lived spurt of popularity. But since the explosion of “Psycho Cat” in Friends Circle began last year, HTML5 has once again reappeared on the scene, leading people to wonder about its real value.
WeChat becomes HTML5 technology’s biggest supporter
HTML5 has been supported by a conflux of events—many tiny threads coming together. iOS and Android systems abandoned Flash, allowing HTML5 to develop naturally. And now, upgrades to mobile phone hardware and the improvement of HTML5 itself have improved the performance of HTML5-based applications. iPhone’s support of HTML5 is complete, and now Google has completed the Chrome browser’s switch to the Chromium kernel, which significantly improves its support of HTML5.
In the last few years, many HTML5-based applications have tried to replace App, but have been limited by the technology’s imperfections. The experience of using these applications was far below the standard set by native Apps. In the last year, HTML5 has been able to provide a better experience than native Apps, and this has been an important factor in making HTML5 popular once again. But the basis for this enhanced experience is not simply in being a replacement for native Apps, but rather due to some diverse applications that are more suitable for HTML5, like games, media, and marketed products.
This diversity of directions can maximize HTML5’s main advantages, such as its cross-platform capability, low development costs, and rapid speed of development, with the overall product experience far outpacing that of native Apps.
From the demand perspective of native Apps, HTML5 and native Apps are not opposed. Rather, native Apps need HTML5 to help solve some core problems, such as information exchange between native Apps. Native Apps are operate in isolation and lack the ability to exchange information amongst themselves, raising App’s traffic ever higher. But HTML5 can resolve these problems that native Apps cannot, and at a very low price, raising the efficiency of the entire mobile application market.
In the domestic market, BAT is actively pushing HTML5 technology, such as Baidu’s release of Connect last year. Alibaba’s Yun OS is even more built around a core of HTML5 users. But ultimately, WeChat has been the most influential in promoting HTML5 to ordinary users, using the intimate social connections of Friends Circle and HTML5’s own advantages of cross-platform capability, low development cost, and high speed. Many companies are using HTML5 technology on the Friends Circle platform, which is a self-perpetuating marketing scheme.
In reality, WeChat has not made any creative advances in HTML5 technology, but has made their many attempts with HTML5’s user scene. Moreover, they haven’t used browser-based technology and websites to promote HTML5, relying instead on WeChat’s special Accounts and Collections to form a HTML5 user scene that surpasses App and is attached to WeChat.
Of course, the most important thing of all is that Wechat has offered some divided HTML5 applications that have been easily accepted by users, and this has made it so that users get a better application experience and more convenient application access channels.
HTML5’s head is in the clouds, but the feet have yet to touch the earth
Everyone is able to predict the prospects and trends for HTML5, from Apple, Google and Facebook to our domestic companies, but it is still very difficult to predict in what ways a technology will influence the market. You can never predict the forms in which future technologies will appear in front of people.
When loading a large picture in HTML5, performance can decline, and performance can also decline when a large number of users are all accessing the same HTML5 application at once. HTML5 is leagues behind native Apps in terms of gaps in performance and user experience. If you open the same H5 application and native application, you can see very clearly that the H5 application’s Internet speed is lower than that of native Apps.
Apple popularized HTML5 technology. Facebook bet on HTML5, which ended up hurting it quite a bit, leading to a time when badmouthing HTML5 became a popular pastime in the gloating media.
WeChat, through its public accounts, has used games and re-vamped marketing to return HTML5 to the spring of its first youth. Whether H5 applications will succeed in completely replacing native Apps or in destroying iOS and Android’s monopoly are subjects likely to be debated long into the future, and only time will provide us with the answers.
(The article is published and edited with authorization from @ibailve.com, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.)
Translated by Jennifer Smith (Senior Translator at ECHO), working for TMTpost.