Kazaa, EightBit, and the coming HTML5 Mobile Web App Revolution

As part of my role at True, I get to spend a bunch of time with the team at mobile startup Kiip.

Beyond being generally awesome, they are some of the biggest evangelizers of the growth of HTML5 Mobile Sites over the next few years.

From a market perspective, building sites in HTML5 makes total sense:

  • Build once, compatible across multiple devices
  • Not constrained by the rules of a platform OS (or the associated payment costs)
  • Deeper user analytics and behavior insight (and the ability to quickly iterate on the fly)
  • Easier to link content outside of the app / drive traffic to the app
  • Greater pool of talent for building sites outside of Objective C

From a timing perspective, Apple’s continued push to increase their revenue cut of subscriptions and their ever-shifting terms of service combined with the rapid growth in Android Devices makes a near term renaissance of mobile browser-based applications seem imminent.

However, from a technology perspective, I’ve always believed a shift from client to server-side applications on mobile was at least 5 years out.  Beyond the lack of comprehensive standards – adoption from major tech players to browsers, hardware improvements, and the infrastructure shifts needed were going to keep developers building native applications for a while.

This week – I changed my mind – because of two awesome new applications:

First, EightBit.me is a kick-ass product created by Courtney Guertin, Amadeus Demarzi, and Addison Kowalski – the first two also co-founders at Kiip.

Beyond generally making Foursquare fun again, the EightBit Web Application truly shows how talented developers can create awesome experiences within the mobile browser.  Though its a bit slow (which is partially my old iPhone) – the team has done a killer job making users feel like they’re experiencing a native iOS application.

The second is the new mobile website from True Portfolio company Fitbit.

Conceptually, the team is not building anything new or bleeding edge here – but it serves as a really useful reminder that not every mobile web application needs to have a ton of bells and whistles.  In reality, the team has built a solid browser application that solves my Fitbit data tracking needs and has easily done that with the current capacity of my phone’s software today.

This post was triggered by a SeekingAlpha post heralding a comeback by music service Kazaa who would be able to circumvent Apple’s rules by building in the browser.  It’s an interesting idea (and worked really well for their stock price), but in reality, the technology isn’t there for this to successfully work this year.

Will it (or something similar) work next year?  I’d bet yes.

Performance won’t be identical one year from now – but I’d bet that more startups are making the small trade-off for performance to build mobile applications in the browser to take advantage of all the other upside.

Get ready.

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P.S. To clarify, I don’t think native applications ever go away – big corporations, media companies, and high-res games (in the short-term) will continue to build native.  The first two because they have the money and resources to do so and the second because the technology won’t be as good (yet.)  However, more and more companies will choose to build mobile applications in the browser first – before then going iOS or Android.

P.P.S. This post was written before launch – but if you want to see awesome HTML5 Performance – check out any WordPress.com blog running OnSwipe on an iPad 2.  They’re building the future.

 

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adam

I work for True Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund with offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto. We partner with promising entrepreneurs at the earliest stages in the technology market providing hands-on management support to guide our portfolio companies through the challenges of early growth.