Mobile Web Apps vs. Native Apps

And so begins the next development war.

37 Signals officially announced Basecamp Mobile today, and gasp, it’s a mobile web app, not a native one or ones.

Launch: Basecamp Mobile

Sure, 37 Signals isn’t the first company to make this decision, but they are well-known and well-respected for both their development chops and their relentless pursuit of simplicity.

So, this is a kind of a big deal among web developers.

The reasoning is sound, but of course, developers immediately began taking sides over Twitter and in blog form.

Unsurprisingly, DHH (@dhh) had the following to say in short form:

Taking your web app mobile just for iOS in 2011 is like taking your business to the web just for IE4 in 2001.

I happen to agree with mobile web development over native development, and I’m not alone.

This marks the beginning of what will be the development equivalent of a land war in Asia.





  1. True, but until semi-recently, the sides weren’t nearly as even. HTML5/CSS 3 and JS match up nicely with native toolkits.

  2. Definite advantages to web apps in the enterprise space as the mobile version needs to integrate with a suite, app server, database, etc. The question would be how easy it would be to leverage device features such as cameras for OCR, geo-location, audio controls and so on. Maybe it’s becoming easier.

  3. Well, if REST APIs exist, native toolkits are just as easy as mobile web apps. Data access is on the backend system.

    Mobile web apps can access some hardware controls with HTML5, and this is improving. However, native is still better, but the problem there is developing on different platforms. Tools like PhoneGap and Appcelerator are a must if you want to build for multiple platforms.

  4. Yup, Facebook will be testing the HTML5/CSS 3 waters. I expect them to hedge their bets with iOS and Android native apps, but the lack of a good mobile Facebook for BlackBerry, Symbian, etc. is a gap they need to fill w so many users.

    I tend to agree with a mixed strategy.

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