By Dave Hess
Last month, Mozilla launched a new project called WebAPI. The goal is to create a cross-platform, web-based API for mobile app developers. Using WebAPI, developers would write HTML5 applications rather than native apps for iOS, Android and other mobile platforms. Unlike native apps, HTML5 apps can run on any device that runs an HTML5 capable browser. These days that includes most modern phones, including iPhone, Android and newer RIM (Blackberry) devices.
WebAPI will allow browsers to interface with the phone operating system and take advantage of things like the phone dialer, SMS, geolocation, contacts, the accelerometer and the camera. The ability to take advantage of these tools is often a deciding factor when determining whether to build your app natively or as a web app. With these tools in their arsenal, coupled with the “write once, run anywhere” capability the web provides, many developers may decide that an HTML5 application is the way to go.
Google is certainly favoring web applications over native apps whenever it can. Case in point is YouTube’s recently re-launched mobile site, which is rife with HTML5 features, including the new HTML 5 video tag. The web app touts superior video quality when compared to native applications, namely the iPhone’s, and it will soon feature more content as well.
In order for WebAPI to be appealing for developers, Mozilla will need Apple, Google and other mobile browser makers to implement the APIs so that WebAPI can compete with native applications. As unlikely as that sounds, keep in mind that Apple’s original vision for iOS app development was based around HTML applications, and there aren’t many companies as eager to embrace web apps as Google. Two potential allies that are compelling to say the least.