March 08, 2013
HTML5 Adoption and the Importance of Independence

Last year was quite a bad one for HTML5 in terms of developer mindshare. At the end of 2011, developer sentiment seemed to favour a shift away from native and towards HTML5 for a large range of application categories. As the year went on, there were more horror stories than successes and the tide of opinion swept the other way as Facebook publicly declared that HTML5 wasn’t good enough for their mobile apps. With a title declaring the importance of independence you’d be forgiven for thinking this article would be about a need to reverse that trend to get away from the tyranny of walled garden app stores. Nothing of the sort we promise.

Look out for sampling bias

Independent surveys and statistics are the important thing referenced in the title. HTML5 adoption just happens to be the subject of one of the best bad stats examples in the midst of last year’s shift. Apparently last summer, just after Mark Zuckerberg’s revelation that betting too heavily on HTML5 for mobile apps was the biggest mistake he’d made at Facebook, 94% of app developers were betting on HTML5 winning. Of course this survey came from Kendo UI – a vendor of HTML5-based tools for mobile app development. It’s unlikely they set out to create a useless survey but they did want some data to support their tools. So they asked web developers if they were using, or planning to use web technologies – amazingly most of them said yes! This is clear from the fact that the number one reason for using web technologies in the survey was “familiarity of languages”. Such a high proportion of developers working with web technologies should be excellent news for upcoming web-app only platforms like Firefox OS and Tizen, however, the huge number of native applications being created across all the platforms suggests the real figures are nothing like this. It’s a clear case of sampling bias. Kendo UI recently published another survey in which a more realistic 50% of developers built some apps with HTML5 last year but a rather less credible 90% were planning to use it in 2013. Contrast this with our latest mindshare and intentshare data, which agrees with 50% use last year but sees only 15% of those not already using HTML planning to adopt it.

Seek transparency and independence

In our developer economics survey we make a big effort to ensure we collect data from a wide range of developers and we publish the breakdown of platforms developers are working with along with the results of all the other questions. Where appropriate we weight or normalize results according the the proportion of different groups in the survey. Of course it’s not possible to avoid all bias in the sample and there is undoubtedly an element of self-selection – developers with an interest in the commercial aspects of app development are much more likely to answer a survey entitled “developer economics”. To a certain extent, that’s deliberate – serious developers who are trying to build businesses that involve apps want to know what other like-minded folks are thinking and doing.

If you’re looking for reliable information on the app market, particularly if you want to make business decisions using it, you need the most independent and transparent sources. We’re doing our best to be one of those sources.

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