Media & Entertainment

Financial Times acquires London-based developer of its HTML5 web app

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The Financial Times has acquired London-based application development firm Assanka, which built a nifty HTML5 web app – and other applications – for the publisher.

(Hat tip to Benedict Evans)

FT staffers such as Katie Morley and Jonathan Wheatley started spreading the news on Twitter, garnering retweets from FT.com managing director Rob Grimshaw and PR rep Tom Glover, who confirmed the acquisition to me but declined to share more details about the deal terms.

The FT has good reasons for purchasing an application developer that focuses squarely on developing for the Web rather than building native mobile applications. As I wrote in a previous post, when the publisher’s HTML5 web app was unveiled:

“The Financial Times would rather not have Apple take a 30 percent cut of in-app subscriptions for its iOS publications, and has launched a HTML5 Web app that enables readers to access content across tablets and smartphones.”

Assanka has eloquently expressed its love for Web apps in the past:

“Assanka firmly believes that the craze for native apps is a short one and we are already seeing it on the wane. Native apps, which need to be distributed via a proprietary app store controlled by an operator or device manufacturer, also suffer from being restricted to the platform for which they are built, necessitating an almost complete rewrite for each different platform. Maintaining separate, functionally equivalent apps for Android, iOS, Blackberry OS6, Playbook, WebOS AND Windows Phone is an expensive and time consuming business, something that major publishers realise only too well.

Native apps have other limitations too. Web technology has matured over 15 years to provide a rich set of tools for making web applications that are open, accessible and linkable. The very ethos of web development is that it is fundamentally an open platform, inviting integration, connecting, linking and sharing of information. Native apps construct a silo around themselves and operate in their own artificially constructed world. Everything in that world may be beautiful and the user experience may be dazzling, but the value is locked into that container.

Native apps will always have a place on mobile devices, particularly for applications such as gaming where the performance demands are high and graphics requirements are intensive. Games often also take advantage of features such as accelerometers which are not (yet) available to access from web applications. For apps that need to take advantage of bleeding edge technology and offer exceptional performance, native code is still a good option. But for news and magazine publishers, the tide is turning.”

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