Go HTML5, Young Frenchman.

Go HTML5, Young Frenchman.
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The following is a guest post by Gregory Menivelle, a French-American entrepreneur and founder of smartnotify.us and Pyrasolutions, He also has a background in international expansion, helping companies achieve success on a global scale.

HTML5 can bring a competitive advantage to French startups that are ready and willing to ride the wave. Allow me to join the Rude VC’s enthusiasm (albeit from a different angle) and encourage software companies, and IT teams in the enterprise realm, to embrace HTML5.

When our daily work revolves around building software, it’s easy to lose track of the true reason why people buy our products.  It’s not because they look good, or they were coded in c++, or use a LAMP stack. No. To quote Clayton Christensen, companies hire our software to perform a job.  And more importantly, our software is just a mere replacement from the tool they currently use for doing the job (you can read more here).

The “job” can be to entertain, help with accounting, blogging, customer management…the cold, hard truth remains the same:  Customers want something that works and meets their needs.  Whichever levers are pulled behind the curtain to make that happen is irrelevant to them.

“The Job to Perform” is the prism I use when evaluating (and getting excited about) HTML5.  Look, HTML5 is just a tool. It has some pros and cons. What separates HTML5 from other tools at the moment is that it facilitates creating, implementing, and supporting software that can consistently and accurately help customers perform a job across multiple platforms.

My only concern about HTML5 is that people tend to dismiss it as being too simple, or even worse an insult, simplistic.  This distorted view is unfortunately a case of bad P.R./marketing for HTML5!  While people can quickly acquire HTML5 skills, the entire stack requires a comprehensive skillset that can seldom be mastered by just one person.
In this article, when talking about HTML5, I am referring to the following technologies.

  • HTML5 proper, the markup standard. Of course, the standard is still in draft mode and it will be a few years before all browsers properly support it.
  • CSS 3, the “design” layer. In an age of multiple devices, screen resolutions, and delivery channels, the user experience will be one of the keys to success.
  • JavaScript.  Without JavaScript (and its relatives such as jquery), HTML5 would not do much. JavaScript simplifies user interaction and server interaction.
  • Mobile connector. The connector is a tool you can use to make HTML5 behave like a native app on a mobile device.  We use PhoneGap at my company but there are other tools out there that perform very well (xamarin and VSNomad come to mind).

As you can see there is much more to HTML5 than meets the eye. The companies that will come ahead will be the ones with experts in those technologies and a focus on putting the “job for the software” ahead of the stack. This is particularly true in B2B software or at the enterprise level, where HTML5 can deliver the most results, including:

  • Streamlined development costs:  Your HTML5 team can implement a product that performs on any platform, right from the start. If your team focuses on a given tool (say iOS, or Windows 8), then you need a whole new set of competencies the moment you want to expand your reach.
  • Happier customers:  Keeping with the theme of code-once, deploy-anywhere, you can now debug, monitor, and improve your product much more effectively. Testing is also greatly simplified. HTML5 makes it simpler to embrace Agile principles at the enterprise layer.
  • Solve B.Y.O.D.:  Bring Your Own Device is both the Holy Grail and the Holy Nightmare for CIOs.  HTML5 is a nice silver bullet you can use.  By creating solutions that are device agnostic, you deploy at the enterprise level without worrying about the hardware underneath. This feature also gives you an extra edge for security.
  • Focus on security:  Too often vendors get complacent because they are using “hardware x” and think it’s ok to skimp on data security.  With HTML5, since you are hardware agnostic, you should build your solutions assuming that the hardware is compromised and move the security features higher up in the process. This approach puts you in control of security, privacy, and role policy.

I often hear that French companies are lousy at marketing compared to their American counterparts, and this may be true (look for a few posts on tools and tricks to bridge the gap). But French companies are also known to have great developers and talented designers.  As they start to embrace HTML5, I can see them gaining a real competitive advantage over the competition that will just be focusing on a specific stack or ecosystem.

3 Responses

  1. Avatar
    davidbruant

    Some necessary adjustements:

    “In this article, when talking about HTML5, I am referring to the following technologies.”
    => Unfortunaltely, some are missed in your list. Top of the list comes devtools. Chrome ones are astounishing. Firefox is catching up. IE11 looks promising. All are coming quickly with remote-debugging features. This is a form of tooling that exists in other platform but isn’t as advanced and moving as quickly as what happens in HTML5 now.
    This post and talk by Google about how they improved GMail performance says it all http://www.html5rocks.com/en/tutorials/memory/effectivemanagement/

    JS also makes easy some things that are much harder in other platforms like reaching 60 frames per seconds with the help of things like requestAnimationFrame.

    “HTML5 proper, the markup standard. Of course, the standard is still in draft mode and it will be a few years before all browsers properly support it.”
    => Or as people who know the interactions between standard bodies and web browsers say: “it will be a few years before HTML5 properly specs what browsers implement”. In-depth article on the topic (French): http://letrainde13h37.fr/11/les-technologies-web-et-leurs-standards/

    “Solve B.Y.O.D.: Bring Your Own Device is both the Holy Grail and the Holy Nightmare for CIOs. HTML5 is a nice silver bullet you can use. By creating solutions that are device agnostic, you deploy at the enterprise level without worrying about the hardware underneath. This feature also gives you an extra edge for security.”
    => Why the extra security? Quite the opposite actually. Some “HTML5” attacks are device or rendering engine specific. Thinking of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDW7kobM6Ik where a Webkit-specific flaw is used (port overflow).

    “Focus on security: Too often vendors get complacent because they are using “hardware x” and think it is ok to skimp on data security. With HTML5, since you are hardware agnostic, you should build your solutions assuming that the hardware is compromised and move the security features higher up in the process. This approach puts you in control of security, privacy, and role policy.”
    => HTML5 security requires a level of expertise that’s beyond anything known in other platform. It requires an encyclopedic knowledge of the platform, the APIs, the practices. And of course of the specific bugs in different implementations.
    Security is possible, but it’s not easier than in other platform. Maybe the opposite.

    On data privacy, this is unrelated to HTML5. Everything is possible on iOS and Android. Companies just choose to be douchebags. They would be with HTML5 too. The problem and solution are at the human level. Technology is neutral here.

    On the topic of security and “human level”, I reported a critical security bug (I could have stolen their entire user base without anyone ever noticing) to a startup on their HTML5 app. Took them months to fix it. The same security issue came back some months later. Apparently, they didn’t have regression tests (decision to have some is a human process decision, unrelated to the underlysing technology) Took them another 3 weeks to fix it.
    Security is hard. HTML5 doesn’t make things easier; maybe harder unfortunately.

    • Avatar
      Gregory Menvielle

      David,
      Yes, there is a plethora of HTML5 tools out there; I am hoping to review some for next week’s posting. I think you and I are connected on Twitter, don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you think of certain tools that should be included.

      For security, I believe you and I are on the same page, possibly from a different angle. HTML5 does not solve security and, as you mentioned, potentially make it harder to properly handle. The advantage, to me, is that you need to be a lot more pro-active and “device independent” when addressing security issues to make sure the app works properly. The same way you’ve seen people discard security bugs with HTML5, I’ve seen people assume that because they were coding native, security was built in.
      Security is definitely technology neutral and a choice that people need to make consciously. It will most likely be that those who put security and privacy first will quickly gain some good traction at the enterprise level.

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