Christian Heilmann

On Sencha’s Fastbook “HTML5 Tech demo”

Monday, December 17th, 2012 at 7:05 pm

You might have seen the big splash Sencha landed today with their Fastbook HTML5 demo showing that using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript you can make a damn responsive version of Facebook. You can see the demo on Vimeo:

All the details are in their post “The Making of Fastbook – an HTML5 love story“. I saw this and went “holy crap, that is awesome”. As an Android user I’ve seen the native app crash several times when trying to scroll through a lot of data (also on Twitter, so this might be a Samsung implementation problem) and the HTML5 demo is incredibly smooth and compelling.

And then of course, the developer in me thought that something must be amiss about this – it is too smooth, it is too “sales demo”. And of course I got backup – the comments on the blog bring up that this is not running in a web view where a lot of the performance issues would come up and Mozilla internal mails already complained about the fact that the demo does not support any other browsers than webkit – no Firefox, no Opera and no Windows at all. To the internets! Someone is wrong about calling something HTML5 without supporting everything.

And then I stopped. And reflected. And thought for a second what we are doing here. There seems to be this massive Pavlovian response in engineers to want to find the flaws in something rather than looking at the benefits.

pavlovs dogs
Cartoon of awesome by The Rut

Yes, this only works on Webkit, which is bad as HTML5 is more than Webkit. It was also wrong of Sencha to claim that this is showing love to HTML5 without embracing the nature of HTML5 as browser-agnostic platform. But this is marketing war. This is making a demo and showing that things can work when you put effort into it. This is a direct response to the in 99% of the cases misquoted Zuckerberg statement that HTML5 wasn’t the right choice for Facebook at the time. But still I vented my disappointment:

Disappointed that @Sencha’s HTML5 love story means webkit love story. No, Firefox Mobile, no Firefox OS, no Opera and no Windows. :(((

Of course the Twitter stream from that consisted of people telling Sencha off and many people who want to see HTML5 fail (although it wouldn’t make any difference to their lives) harping on about the awful state of HTML5 and the bane of browser inconsistencies – another Pavlovian response every time you say HTML5.

Here comes the kicker, though. Quite a few of Sencha’s folks agreed and explained that this was a quick tech demo and thus only worked in Webkit. Jared Nicholls, their Senior Software architect kept it succinct:

@codepo8 agreed and fixable. Only 24 hours in a day.

So instead of waving my finger and complaining about the thing that could have been but wasn’t thought of I am trying to get conversations going to fix and enhance. Let’s see where this goes.

Sometimes the right thing to do is not to listen to the angry man inside your head and see how something can be done better. Sencha’s demo is a damn good marketing move and well done indeed. So instead of shooting it down it makes sense to work together.

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