In the era of the PC, the browser became the entrance to Internet information, not because it supports HTML technology, but because it brings humankind the space and philosophy of "the world is flat"-the first time information has been realized in human history. Interconnection. Today, although WeChat uses HTML5 technology as the application number (official name: Applet), it does not really use the essence of HTML5-open and interconnected, which determines that it may not be able to achieve the ultimate "WeChat OS" Ambition.
WeChat released the long-awaited app number ("mini-program") internal test, quickly swept the circle of friends, a press release was overwhelming, and the HTML5 development community cheered.
Everyone thinks that the mobile Internet has ushered in a new era of "WeChat Operating System (OS)", and the spring of HTML5 Web App is here. As an entrepreneurial veteran in the HTML5 field and as one of the former developers of the HTML5 international standard, I should have been thrilled. However, after reading the introduction of the WeChat application number, I have reservations about the future of "WeChat OS".
The "small program" at just the right time
History is a mirror.
The development of the mobile Internet can learn a lot from the PC Internet. Although the appearance is inconsistent, the essence is the same.
The software program has two architectures: one is C / S (client / server); the other is B / S (browser / server).
The APP on the mobile end and the Windows software on the PC were both C / S architecture, while the HTML5 and PC-side web pages (HTML4) were both B / S architecture. In the PC era, the C / S architecture was mainly used in the early years. Everyone went to download websites and download Windows software. This is the same process as downloading apps from the application store on the mobile terminal.
Later, everyone gradually began to stop downloading websites, and instead used browsers to obtain information, mainly based on B / S architecture. A key variable from C / S to B / S is network bandwidth speed.
Because B / S depends on the network, once the network conditions are mature, B / S will become popular.
Today, the mobile terminal is also undergoing the same evolutionary process as the PC terminal. The network bandwidth is getting better and better, and users are more and more reluctant to download from the app store. I believe that the number of times people go to the app store is getting less and less.
Figure: The evolutionary history of the PC Internet and mobile Internet is strikingly similar
It must be acknowledged that Tencent is a company that is very good at making products, and every product iteration is very solid.
Just when the mobile Internet is on the "window from C / S architecture to B / S architecture", Tencent is launching an application number at the right time. It wants to take advantage of the situation to kill all APP application stores, using its huge user base and WeChat Embedded browser, thus becoming a super platform for application distribution, and finally realizing the super ambition of "WeChat OS".
Browsers have always been considered Web OS, and this story sounds logical. However, things don't necessarily go in this direction, and one important detail is ignored.
A real HTML5 platform is about to emerge?
Again, history is a mirror.
WeChat is not the first company to do an app number. As early as 2010, on the other side of the ocean, Google, the world's largest Internet company, launched the Chrome browser-based "application number": Chrome App.
Just last month, in August 2016, Google announced that it would stop supporting Chrome Apps.
Chrome has 1 billion active users, more than WeChat, and Google has more money than Tencent. Why did the great plan for Chrome Apps ultimately fail?
Chrome App and WeChat App ID have a fatal commonality: Although both use HTML technology, they do not use the essence of HTML.
One of the core reasons why the World Wide Web swept the globe overnight was the first letter "H" (hyperlink) in HTML. Although it seems to be a very simple technology, it reflects the core design concept of the Internet: openness and interconnection.
Through a URL link, anyone can view the content you posted without having to go through the app store review, and you can easily jump between any two web pages. From the introduction of the WeChat applet, all published application numbers need to pass the audit of Tencent, and the application number is also closed, and cannot be freely jumped to external web pages.
Therefore, today's application numbers only use the cross-platform functions in HTML technology that do not need to be downloaded and installed, and do not use the essence of HTML openness and interconnection. It is just a "platform using HTML5 technology", but it is not a true "HTML5 application platform"; in other words, it can become an important supplement to "WeChat IM", but it cannot become a "Internet that people expect operating system".
In the Internet world, only openness is the most vital.
What is the real HTML5 platform?
Again, Again, history is indeed a mirror.
In the PC era, these two software are the most frequently used by everyone: IM and browser. One connects people and one connects people with information. This is one of the two most basic human needs.
Tencent's invincible social gene determines that it perfectly connects people with each other in the PC and mobile era. However, connecting people and information is not Tencent's strength.
As the mobile Internet gradually enters the deep water area, the simple embedded browser of WeChat will not fully meet the needs of people to efficiently and securely obtain information, and its semi-closed ecology will not adapt to the Internet's open interconnection trend.
Browser-The real HTML platform will "return the king" and become the most efficient tool for securely connecting people and information.
This trend is already evident abroad.
Google announced in April of this year that the number of monthly active users of the mobile version of Chrome browser exceeded 1 billion, and it has increased by 200 million in the last 5 months! In addition, this year, Google abandoned the Chrome "application number", and also released a heavyweight HTML5 new technology framework-PWA (Progressive Web App).
HTML5 has been criticized for not being able to use it offline, and the experience is not smooth enough. Based on the PWA framework, HTML5 applications can support both online and offline, and the acceleration speed and interactive experience have been significantly improved.
Through PWA, the disadvantages of HTML5 compared with APP have been smoothed out, while the advantages are very prominent, so it is generally optimistic about the industry. PWA works in Chrome, Firefox, Opera and other browsers.
When the "browser" king returns, users want to surf the Internet more efficiently; developers want to release HTML5 applications that can be accessed on any platform; medium and large enterprises want more autonomous, controllable, and more secure development and deployment Enterprise-level HTML5 applications.
At that time, do we still need "small programs"?