Amazon’s latest ebook reader is the talk of the town – not because of any new or superlative hardware features, but because the Kindle Cloud Reader replicates many of the functions of its standalone brother in the form of a HTML5 web app. The web app functions as a browser-based ebook reader, letting users access their Amazon accounts, download and read their ebooks.
The hot topic of tech industry conversations these days is HTML5. While HTML5 is far from being a fully-adopted standard, it holds great promise: to deliver rich content across any platform or device, and to convert any website into a fully-functioning web app. This ability is revolutionary, marrying the utility of an app with the ease of access of the web. This will particularly alter the mobile experience, since it extends the utility of mobile browsers, without the need to purchase additional apps.
Moving app-level functionality to the web browser may turn out to be HTML5’s most disruptive trait. Web apps like Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader challenge the app store economy pioneered by Apple, but that has now been adopted by Google in their Android Market (and by others). Prior to this, Apple imposed an across the board 30% fee for all purchases made through apps, adding to the cost of making content available to iOS users, and leading many other ebook providers (like Kobo) as well as magazine and newspaper publishers to cripple their apps, by removing purchasing functionality from their apps. This is somewhat ironic, given that Apple’s abandoning of Adobe Flash (in favour of HTML5) may be one of the reasons for HTML5’s rise.
HTML5 is nothing more than the latest version of Hypertext Markup Language, the basic grammar for laying out web pages so that they can be rendered by web browsers. A substantial update on the current standards, HTML5 will supercede not only the current version of HTML (HTML4) but also XHTML1 and DOM2HTML. HTML5 has been designed to be robust and powerful, providing built-in support for multimedia and rich content but remaining easily readable by human beings and consistently understood and interpreted across platforms.
The adoption of HTML5 will have major repercussions for the mobile web and application ecosystem. For a start, HTML5 will let users access a wide range of rich multimedia content without having to worry about compatibility issues. HTML5 also promises to bring more content to mobile browsers, changing the truncated mobile browsing experience into one that more closely resembles desktop browsing. This will be a particularly useful feature for users in Asia, many of whom use mobile browsing as their primary means of accessing the Internet. And as discussed earlier, HTML5 will reduce the influence of companies like Apple and Google, which take up to 30 percent of all revenues generated from applications.
Although HTML5 will become completely W3C compliant in 2022 (a feat that no other version of HTML has achieved), it is already a firm enough standard that Amazon is using it for a cloud-based ebook app. Mobile marketers, advertisers, brands and agencies are all watching HTML5 developments with great interest, because of the wide range of benefits that HTML5 may bring. Easier distribution of rich media content, for a start, as well as online gaming without the need for web app design, and a level of multimedia/animated content that eliminates the need for Silverlight or Flash implementations, plus being OS- and device-agnostic means that marketers using HTML5 have a wide range of options, and need only build once to achieve almost universal distribution.
Whether that comes to pass remains to be seen, as the renewed interest in HTML5 puts the standard under even greater scrutiny. Paradoxically, widespread adoption of HTML5 will only happen when it becomes used more widely, so it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Amazon’s big move may be the start of an avalanche, as users/consumers start to use and demand HTML5 functionality. The next few months should be very interesting, and if all goes well, you may be reading this blog’s entries in an all new HTML5 format – together with almost everything else on the web.