Facebook vs. Fastbook: Developers offended by Zuckerberg knock on HTML5 make clone app

Facebook vs. Fastbook: Developers offended by Zuckerberg knock on HTML5 make clone app

A team of mobile app developers offended by Facebook czar Mark Zuckerberg dissing HTML5 have created a Facebook app that they say works better than native versions because of the HTML5 coding.

Zuckerberg famously knocked HTML5 in an interview this fall when he said relying too much on it instead of developing native mobile apps was "the biggest mistake we made as a company."

"When Mark Zuckerberg said HTML5 wasn't ready, we took a little offense to the comment," wrote developers at Sencha, a mobile app company that focuses on HMTL5 development.

Sencha Monday released Fastbook, a mobile app that performs almost the exact same functions as native Facebook apps for smartphones, but is built on an HMTL5 framework. The HTML5 version has faster load times, more responsive formatting and increased ability to toggle between different views without needing to reload information compared to the iOS and Android native Facebook apps, the developers claim. "We set out to show that you can build the challenging parts of the native Facbeook app in HTML5 and we built a framework that makes that possible," says Jamie Avins, an engineering manager at Sencha. "We believe HTML5 is the technology and it's ready right now."

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Mobile platforms are a big deal for Facebook. Zuckerberg said during that same interview earlier this year that mobile users are more likely to be active daily users, and therefore give the company a better opportunity to make advertising revenue compared to desktop use of Facebook. TechCrunch recently reported that Facebook decided earlier this year to stop pursuing HMTL5 apps and focus solely on native apps for the Android and iOS platforms. The latest updates to both platforms claim to increase the speed of the apps in loading information.

Sencha developers say they can do better with HTML5 apps, though. One of the biggest advantages for the HMTL5 versions over native apps is their ability to maintain state while toggling between different views, Sencha developers say. For example, when switching between views of a news feed and someone's profile in the native Android app, data is refreshed after each view, Sencha says. HTML5 maintains state between the various views, meaning that when switching between the views, the timeline does not have to reload. "Toggling between your wall and news feed should not cause all your data to be reloaded," Avins says in a video comparing the HMTL5 version to the native apps.

Compared to the iOS native app, Sencha's HTML5 version also allows more comments to be viewed at once using what Sencha calls "nested infinite lists." Fastbook automatically rotates to be level when the phone is held horizontally too, a function lacking in the native iOS app, which only works in a vertical view.

In both native apps, Sencha also noticed unnecessary data transfers occurring. Using API calls, the developers found that about every 10 items in the native apps requires about 15KB to 20KB of information, much of which is not needed to render views. In the HTML5 version, Fastbook loads as little as 10% of that data to render the same items.

Sencha developers say they worked on the app in their spare time to prove that HTML5 can work as well as, if not better than, native apps. Fastbook is available from the company's website, but Sencha says it's not meant to be a replacement for the Facebook native apps. "It's a technology demo that shows what developers can do with HTML5 if they take the right approach, and use the right frameworks and tools," Sencha's blog post reads. The company was founded in 2008 and has been backed by Sequoia Capital, among other venture capital firms.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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Tags social mediasmartphonesinternetunified communicationsFacebookwirelessNetworkinghtml5softwareapplicationsWeb 2.0consumer electronicsmobile appsSenchaInternet-based applications and servicesAndroid FacebookiOS Facebooknative appsZuckerberg HMTL5Facebook appiOS native apps


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