September 20, 2012

Facebook Engineer Links HTML5 Flaws to Mobile Problems

Tobie Langel, a software engineer at Facebook (NewsAlert) as well as the company’s W3C AC representative, recently decided to take his grievances with HTML5 to the Web. Langel posted to that HTML5 is, in his words, “What’s slowing down Mobile Facebook.”

The post begins: “Hi, Following the recent announcements we (Facebook) made about rebuilding our iOS app using more native technology, we have had a lot of requests to provide detailed feedback on the performance issues we encountered while building for the mobile Web. Here it is. Comments welcomed.” 

Image via Shutterstock

Langel then outlines a number of key areas in which development for Facebook mobile fell short.

Recently, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg cited HTML5 as “the biggest strategic mistake” that Facebook has ever made, so Langel’s post goes along with this same sentiment, while going into more detail.

“Lack of tooling in mobile browsers makes it very difficult to dig down and find out what the real issues are,” said Langel. “It’s not uncommon for our application to exhaust the hardware capabilities of the device, causing crashes.”

Langel added, however, that “It’s difficult for us to understand exactly what’s causing these issues.”

Other issues Langel discusses include scrolling performance, stuttering and GPU buffer exhaustion, and memory complications.

“Native momentum scrolling has a different feel across operating systems,” said Langel, hinting to further snags in relation to how each device works.

When discussing the GPU, Langel described it as a “Black-box with a clunky API to add things to it,” adding that he believes it will be difficult to “Get to a place where managing GPU can be left strictly to the browser in a reasonable amount of time.”

According to Langel, standards require better touch-tracking support, improved caching, and smoother animations. At multiple times in the post Langel makes suggestions regarding API development, too.

This negative review of HTML5, coming from such a high-profile company as Facebook, should give pause to its developers, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“HTML5, or some derivation of it, will come out ahead in the end,” assured Zub partner Jonathan Smiley. “Simply because having many competing UI language systems is counterproductive. Devices are more quickly connected every day, and terminals that hold everything locally are finally starting to fade away. Apps won’t be any different.”

Want to learn more about HTML5? Then be sure to attend HTML5 Summit- a DEVCON5 Event, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX.  Stay in touch with everything happening at HTML Summit. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman


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