HTML5stac Enables Composing of Web Apps via APIs

Mark Boyd
Dec. 12 2013, 08:00AM EST

Initial interest in Mobstac's new HTML5stac offering is growing among early adopters keen to use the platform to design composable web apps, all built off REST APIs. Ravi Pratap, CTO and Co-Founder of MobStac, spoke with ProgrammableWeb about what HTML5stac will mean for web app developers.

HTML5stac provides a cloud platform aimed at allowing developers to create responsive websites and web services that function across a range of devices. A key focus has been on 'future proofing' the websites so developers can compose and re-compose the data and content elements as they scale or widen their device reach. HTML5stac is currently in private beta release, with a more public beta stage planned for 2014, but developers are encouraged to start trialing the platform now.

HTML5stac early adopters

"The initial response has been encouraging and we're seeing a very healthy level of interest in what HTML5stac has to offer," Pratap told ProgrammableWeb.

"At this point, we've released access to a small number of developers to fine-tune a few elements of the developer portal and documentation, and to also gather feedback to help us plan our public beta launch.

"At this early stage, small teams that have dabbled with building responsive web apps, and are looking to do more complex mobile work for their clients, will get the most value out of HTML5stac. Existing businesses will derive more value from HTML5stac at a later stage, when the platform is more mature and has a more complete mBaaS feature set.

"We've also had a high degree of interest from our solution partners, looking to leverage our platform for the mobile solutions they're currently selling to their clients, which is excellent for us because this was the thesis for our thrust into creating a developer platform."

On HTML5stac, every piece of content, object and file is accessed by REST APIs. Pratap explains the benefit of this approach:

"The Web thus far has really been a page-centric world, with web pages being the final output of web content management systems. With the advent of mobile apps (Android, iOS, HTML5), the key architectural elements necessary to drive data into and out of these apps have turned out to be RESTful APIs that enable the separation of data from presentation. Unfortunately, existing web systems built over the last decade are woefully inadequate in exposing the APIs necessary to power mobile apps, which is why developers have traditionally had to write tedious amounts of code to retro-fit REST APIs onto legacy systems.

"With MobStac, you get a future-proof architecture on which to build all your mobile apps, instead of picking different ones for different projects. Essentially, this is an mBaaS for HTML5 web apps."

HTML5Stac in demonstration

Pratap points to a demo app that shows how current developers are monetizing products built on the HTML5Stac platform.

"The demo app is displaying content from 2 distinct feeds: First, there is a mobile news feed from our customers at intomobile.com. It showcases how any content feed (RSS/XML/JSON) plugged into HTML5stac can be seamlessly transformed into a responsive content experience. Second, we have also added a YouTube video feed of all TED videos.

"What the demo shows is that customers can take our template app and easily plug in content coming from any content management system (Drupal, Joomla, Sharepoint, etc.) and tailor the solution to create a responsive website. Monetization is enabled through ad integration with mobile ad networks and real-time bidding (built into our platform). Developers would merely need to choose, say, Google AdX and configure their settings.

"The compelling thing about building an HTML5stac-based solution is that it enables the possibility of creating seamless, next-generation, fast responsive websites without having to tear down everything and rebuild from scratch. Developers using HTML5stac can now sell sophisticated mobile solutions to their new and existing customers and increase revenue, without having to do all the heavy lifting. This also allows them to execute many more turnkey projects with the same workforce."

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Pratap is hoping HTML5stac will be an ideal platform for developers designing web service interfaces for new SmartTV devices. Worldwide, about one in 10 TVs are internet-connected, but this number is expected to grow to one in four TVs by 2018, with fastest growth expected in international markets like China. Developers who want to provide apps and websites that are displayed on TV screens can use the HTML5stac platform to design their product. Pratap explains the benefits:

"Designing websites to be viewable on SmartTVs is quite a challenge, and we know that existing tools like Bootstrap don't really factor in really large screens and the necessary UI changes that need to be affected. For example, if one were to adopt a purely CSS-based responsive approach to SmartTV websites, you'd end up with a very poor experience for a number of reasons.

"HTML5stac includes a feature known as responsive adaptive templating, that allows a website owner to showcase a different UI altogether for screens that are larger than a certain sizeā€”for example, 32 inches (this number is under the developer's control). In addition to that, being able to simplify navigation (because TV remotes make it hard to get anywhere on the screen), and cutting down the amount of JavaScript that runs on the client side, for example, are all features that developers get automatically with HTML5stac."

Developers wanting to test the HTML5stac during the private beta release are invited to sign up at the Mobstac developer portal.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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