Apparently HTML5 applications are the best thing after sliced bread.
Windows 8 is said to promote HTML5 as the preferred application development solution.
I used to look kindly at that. But about a month ago I started to get worried: is HTML5 good for everything?
In military, industrial, warehouse management, medical, etc is not rare that bespoke applications are developed and stay in use for many years (and I really mean many: 10, 20 or even more!) with barely an update. It’s not rare that those applications only receive very small updates once very 5 years. Those applications, not Angry Birds, are what keeps the world running: troops know what supplies they can count on, iPhones are manufactured, FedEx is able to deliver your package and your doctor is able to check your health.
But now that everybody seems to be moving to HTML5 webapps, what happens when my warehouse management application is a webapp and the additions in the newest browsers make the webapp no longer work?
Are vain upgrades the future?
Say my webapp is released in 2014 and it works fine with Firefox 14.0 and Chrome 26.0, the newest browsers when I release the application in 2014. Fast-forward to 2020 and Firefox 14.0 and Chrome 26.0 do not even install on Windows 10 computer! What’s the solution?
Should the customer pay for a huge update and redesign to make it work with Firefox 27.1 and Chrome 41.0 in 2020?
A virtual machine with Windows 8 and Firefox 14.0? A portable Mozilla Firefox 14.0 on Windows 10 in 2020 to be able to use that line-of-business application that only requires a small update once or twice every 5 years? How are the virtual machine and/or Portable Firefox 14.0 different from or better than a fat client? What’s the advantage? I’d say none!
Native applications usually do not have that kind of problems because APIs are much more stable. You can still run Win16 applications on Windows 7!
You don’t believe me? We may soon be developing for 76 browsers!
While HTML5 may be fine for applications which are updated very often, it makes me feel very uneasy to see it used in environments where applications will be rarely updated, such as SCADAs, warehouse management, control system, medical records, etc.
A solution is needed
It looks like that choice of technology is going to make those applications much more expensive in the medium and long term, paying for “adaptations to new browsers” (sorry, I resist to call “update” or “upgrade” to something that adds zero value other than being able to run on a newer browser).
Or maybe it’s about time to define actual “HTML5 profiles”. ACID3 seems to be too weak of a profile: two very different browsers may pass ACID3 yet a webapp would work with one browser and fail with the other due to bugs, missing features/added features, etc.
Something needs to be done.