The Maturing of HTML5: 5 Lessons from HTML5 Developers’ Conference

Nov 7, 2013
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During his conference Keynote, Intel’s VP Christos Georgiopoulos brought up the Gartner Growth Cycle and ventured that we had finally entered the era of productivity for HTML5.

If the activities, professionalism, and presentations delivered during the HTML5 Developers’ Conference are any indicator, Christos is spot on in his assessment.  This spring the conference was held in a local San Francisco hotel; this fall it had moved to the Moscone center and with the change in venue came a new mindset as well.  The focus was no longer on making sure HTML5 gained acceptance but rather on overcoming some of the challenges of bringing the new technology mainstream.

There were way too many great talks happening concurrently at the conference and many of us lamented on having to make some decisions as to which speaker to go and watch.  Luckily most of the sessions were taped so keep an eye on the website:  http://html5devconf.com/ where all the talks and presentations will eventually be posted according to the conference organizers.

Here are my 5 main takeaways from the conference:

  1. Don’t hesitate to show what your software cannot do.  Intel was brave crazy enough to include me in the keynote where I got to talk about SmartNotify. The founders from Lively and The Lost Decade game company also came on stage with me and we talked about why we are not using all of Intel’s development tools! Yes, you read it right: A major vendor talking about their limitations. While most unusual, from a marketing and word of mouth standpoint, it worked quite well.  Numerous attendees engaged us throughout the conference and ended up looking at Intel’s offering. So don’t be shy about being a bit exclusive, it pays off!
  2. Visualization is the next big frontier.  Watch out for the incoming data storm!  We are storing a bevvy of information and while HTML5 will help us deploy apps quickly across platforms, being able to visualize data properly is become a major challenge. A few frameworks are starting to appear to help developers in their tasks. Vizualization is about Story telling and once the videos are up, I highly encourage you to watch “Transforming the presentation of official statistics” by Rob Fry.  To me, his was the best presentation.
  3. Don’t let the promise of HMLT5 fool you; it is still all about giving your users a great experience. Yes, HTML5 helps you code once, deploy everywhere.  However,  deploying on mobile is much harder and convoluted than deploying on the web. Many companies fail to prep their mobile deployments properly.  Someone from Twitter gave a great presentation on the challenges that mobile poses at Twitter. Given the amount of resources they have, it was quite a sobering presentation to attend!
  4. Connectivity is the biggest problem with HTML5. In other words:  What happens to your app when you are not connected to the network?  Several presenters brought this issue to light and, in a very ironic twist, 2 very good presentations were hindered by the spastic wi-fi of the Moscone center.  As developers we need to come out with good strategies on how to securely let the users experience our applications even in a disconnected state.
  5. There are many tricks to speed up HTML5 applications.  Demian from Blackberry gave a great presentation filled with hints on simple steps we can take to speed up our applications.

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Of course it would not be a conference without exhibitors trading marketing pitches in exchange for freebies or cupcakes!  Going through the exhibits the increasing number of solutions that are specifically developed with HTML5 in mind were impressive. We are getting a great arsenal of tools and frameworks to chose from to build our products.

Here is a list of the most intriguing companies that were out there:

  • Intel launched its new XDK on the first day of the conference.  Disclaimer, I may be a bit biased in that we used the Xdk for our software.  While I cannot talk about it for people looking at developing games, I do believe that in the enterprise world, the platform is worth taking a look at.
  • The Amazon AppStore was out in force and I got to chat with their tech group.  If you are developing an app in HTML5 and are not considering leveraging the power of the Amazon AppStore, you are going to miss on a lot.  It’s well thought out and simple to use (yes, we will eventually put our app on it!).  I also like that they built an emulator that runs on any device making it simple to test and QA an app.
  • OpenClove has a promising product to help people integrate video conferencing in their applications.  From an energy level, they reminded me a bit of Twilio in the early days; whether they follow the same path remains to be seen of course.
  • Lanica has an interesting offer for those of you who develop video games. Their framework promises cross-platform game development at native speeds.  The demos were quite impressive and you should at least give them a test run when looking at the different gaming platforms available.
  • Finally a shout out to Women Who Code. It’s great to see a movement in the Bay Area to help more women get into tech roles.  Our lead dev is a woman so I get to see on a daily basis that women are just as good (if not better, let’s be honest!) at coding as men!

The conference seemed to be a coming of age for HTML5 and the developers in attendance were not just from start-ups but also from established companies outside of the software world which is yet another sign that the enterprise business is warming up to the technology.

If you attended the conference and want to add some notes, feel free to use the comments section!