I've had an unusual number of interesting conversations spin out of my previous article documenting that mobile web apps are slow. This has sparked some discussion, both online and IRL. But sadly, the discussion has not been as… fact-based as I would like.
So what I'm going to do in this post is try to bring some actual evidence to bear on the problem, instead of just doing the shouting match thing. You'll see benchmarks, you'll hear from experts, you'll even read honest-to-God journal papers on point. There are–and this is not a joke–over 100 citations in this blog post. I'm not going to guarantee that this article will convince you, nor even that absolutely everything in here is totally correct–it's impossible to do in an article this size–but I can guarantee this is the most complete and comprehensive treatment of the idea that many iOS developers have–that mobile web apps are slow and will continue to be slow for the forseeable future.
Now I am going to warn you–this is a very freaking long article, weighing in at very nearly 10k words. That is by design. I have recently come out in favor of articles that are good over articles that are popular. This is my attempt at the former, and my attempt to practice what I have previously preached: that we should incentivize good, evidence-based, interesting discussion and discourage writing witty comments.
I write in part because this topic has been discussed–endlessly–in soundbyte form. This is not Yet Another Bikeshed Article, so if you are looking for that 30-second buzz of "no really, web apps suck!" vs "No they don't!" this is not the article for you. (Go read one of these oh no make it stop can't breathe not HN too I can't do this anymore please just stop so many opinions so few facts I can go on). On the other hand, as best as I can tell, there is no comprehensive, informed, reasonable discussion of this topic happening anywhere. It may prove to be a very stupid idea, but this article is my attempt to talk reasonably about a topic that has so far spawned 100% unreasonable flamewar-filled bikeshed discussions. In my defense, I have chosen to believe the problem has more to do with people who can discuss better and simply don't, than anything to do with the subject matter. I suppose we'll find out.
So if you are trying to figure out exactly what brand of crazy all your native developer friends are on for continuing to write the evil native applications on the cusp of the open web revolution, or whatever, then bookmark this page, make yourself a cup of coffee, clear an afternoon, find a comfy chair, and then we'll both be ready.
A quick review
My previous blog post documented, based on SunSpider benchmarks, that the state of the world, today, is that mobile web apps are slow.
Read more: Sealed abstract