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Stay aHead: Branch, Google Octane and HTML 5

by Eric Kramer on 28 August 2012

Stay up to speed on the latest platforms and developments. Here’s your weekly taste.


Starting to gain some early momentum, Branch is a potentially disruptive curated discussion platform seeking to enable a “smart new brand of high quality public discourse”. Similar in a sense to intimate dinner table conversations that are free of spam and trolls, Branch provides an intuitive mechanism for having extra meaningful interactions.

Curated groups are created where they are able to engage around issues in which they are knowledgeable. Users can share or subscribe to “branches” which are always publically viewable, but permission must be received in order to actually contribute content with a 750 character limitation. Branches are fully embeddable anywhere and a handy bookmarklet allows users to seamlessly pass along conversations from Twitter to Branch in just a few clicks. A unique take on the traditional forum, expect this to gain significant media attention and traction as it evolves.

Google Octane

In its incessant effort to push the envelope in web development, the Google Chrome team has launched Octane, a new JavaScript benchmark suite intended to help boost browser speed measurements. Based on a set of well-known web applications and libraries, five extra tests have been added to Google’s existing V8 Benchmark Suite.

A high Octane Score indicates smoother performance of JavaScript code found in large, real-world web applications. All of the tests are open-source and the expanded set of benchmarks is displayed in an interface that adapts to the size of tablet and mobile screens. Expect to see developers add this tool to their arsenal and feel free to have a look yourself.

HTML 5 vs. Native

After beating out Flash and pulling ahead in the battle for web development, the HTML 5 standard is still highly regarded as the future of mobile apps. However, several recent events have increased the blatant friction between HTML 5 web apps and a native approach. Last week, Facebook loosened its stance on HTML 5 by releasing a revamped and native iOS version of its official app that is twice as fast as its predecessor. By shifting its focus from scale to speed and user experience, Facebook has been able to move closer to the expectations of today’s users. However, this now prevents its engineers from the luxury of rapid iteration and daily code releases.

Although web apps may be ideal for initial releases with limited budgets, the quality of an app is quickly becoming the top priority for development strategy. The “build-once-deploy-everywhere” mantra seems to have lost some of its appeal and it appears that HTML 5 may simply not be ready for primetime when it comes to mobile. For more opinions, take a look at this great discussion taking place on Branch.

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