In a February 2012 assessment of standards for Web applications on mobile devices, the W3C said it is releasing two competing drafts for audio: the Web Audio API and the MediaStream Process API. The W3C’s Audio Working Group is seeking feedback on which approach Web developers prefer in terms of having their needs met.

Specifications for touch, Web storage and defining an API that enables Web pages to use the WebSocket protocol for two-way communications are all advancing, Jacobs said.

He also said the W3C’s Web Applications Working Group is working on a new charter to address “universal access to Web applications across a wide range of devices and among a diversity of users.”

On the graphics side, SVG 2.0 facilitates integration with HTML5, so advanced graphic filters can be applied to multimedia content. Efforts in the works at the W3C include the 2D Programmatic API under the HTML Canvas 2D Context specification; CSS Backgrounds and Borders work on rounded corners, complex background images and box shadow effects; and CSS 3D effects and animations.

Efforts to create audio and video playback standards, and to capture audio/video, are in the early stages of work, Jacobs pointed out.

The fact that HTML5 is not completely built out leaves developers in somewhat of a pickle. “Most organizations are going with straight HTML4 and JavaScript,” said EffectiveUI’s Franco. “It’s like playing the game with one hand tied behind our back.” Thus, Web application development becomes a compromise. You can write a rich, full-featured application for Flash or Silverlight and limit where the application can be used, or you can go for broader reach across devices but having to sacrifice some of the richness.

Have Web apps become mobile apps?
Unless, of course, you’re talking about developing mobile Web applications, where WebKit is just about ubiquitous and most mobile browsers support HTML5 in some form. And this gets to another of Franco’s points: Developers need to stop thinking in terms of Web apps or mobile apps, and consider organizational goals first and foremost.

“We tend to think of channels or technologies instead of user needs and business objectives,” he said. “As application developers, we need to have these bigger business conversations.”

One of those discussions revolves around user needs and the user experience. Reams of research show that users will leave a website if it is slow to respond or can’t deliver what the user wants. So one decision application developers face is to write an application that is native to a device, or to use Web standards to reach more devices.

About David Rubinstein

David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.