Nexus One Day 3: Web Apps

Google. Have you heard of them? They became big with search and have always been pushing the web as the application deployment platform of the future. When Apple came out with the original iPhone they initially continued Google's ideal, by pushing web applications as the way to develop applications for the platform. Apple changed course by allowing native application, but still continues to improve iPhone as a platform where web applications can be made to look and behave like native applications. It supports adding websites as applications, offline web applications, and running them full-screen, without any of the usual browser chrome. So it came as a surprise when Google launched Android as a platform where applications were developed using _Java_. Why, Google? Why did you not push for the web as the main application development on Android? It seemed such an obvious choice. Heck, Palm beat Google to it. Their WebOS is completely based on web technologies. _Palm!_

I don't get it. Word on the street is that Google does see web applications on the mobile phone as the future. However, they do not seem willing to promote that route yet, although they develop an increasing amount of applications as web apps these days (Gmail, Buzz, Google Voice). Although it is partly to work around Apple's rejection of their native iPhone applications.

So, how's Android's support for web applications at this point? Android uses Webkit for its browser. It supports all the technologies required to build native-feeling web apps: multi-touch gestures, local SQL databases, access to location information. It is also possible to add a bookmark as an icon on the desktop, although the icon picture is not configurable. There's also no easy way to hide the browser location bar (there's some tricks, but it's kind of tedious). Overall it's not bad, but it appears that iPhone's support for web apps is still better, which is surprising, isn't it?