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Dec 08, 2014

Native, HTML5, Or Hybrid Mobile Apps: Taking an Expanded View of the Web


Digital consumption has become so prevalent in our day-to-day lives that our online activities have become a part of our daily routines. As Nielsen points out in a report on digital consumers, “content that was once only available to consumers via specific methods of delivery (such as via print, radio and broadcast television) can now be sourced and delivered to consumers through their multiple connected devices.” This applies both to how people consume and create content for personal and work-related purposes. At the nexus of these changes is the use of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, used by consumers and employees to access information where and when they choose to. This includes the use of the mobile web, native mobile apps, and hybrid apps for accessing and creating content. For the past few years, there’s been an ongoing debate across the industry regarding the strengths and weaknesses of native, HTML5, and hybrid enterprise mobile apps, including which approach will win out. At Apperian, we don’t see this as an either/or discussion. Instead, this reflects a continuing evolution of how people consume and create information and the choices that are available for doing so. In a recent post about how native apps are a critical element of the ‘open’ web that fosters innovative approaches to accessing and creating content, John Gruber writes; “If you expand your view of “the web” from merely that which renders inside the confines of a web browser to instead encompass all network traffic sent over HTTP/S, the explosive growth of native mobile apps is just another stage in the growth of the web. Far from killing it, native apps have made the open web even stronger.” We couldn't agree more. As Gruber points out, native mobile apps aren't in opposition to the web – they exist on top of the web and offer alternatives to websites that are powered by web browsers. For enterprises that prefer a “write once, run everywhere” approach, HTML5 is a lower-cost option for enterprise apps. Meanwhile, hybrid mobile apps that are written in HTML5 but are wrapped in a native `container’ and are created using cross-platform development tools offer administrators yet another option. Regardless of the type of app approach that’s selected by an enterprise (or a mixed approach, if that’s the preference), companies ultimately require a secure method to distribute and protect the data that’s used by employees, business partners, and contractors as the open web continues to evolve and create new opportunities for accessing and sharing content.  


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