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Netflix sheds light on benefits of HTML5 for apps

In a blog posting, Netflix’s VP of Personalization Technology John Ciancutti outlines reasons for embracing HTML5 as the technology of choice to run his company’s mobile and console apps and what that decision means for customers.

You may recall, back in October, Netflix began to offer disc-free streaming on the Playstation 3 through an app installed on the  console. What many people probably didn’t notice is that app and the accompanying user interface were written solely in HTML5 using a customized port of Webkit.

The decision to use HTML5, Netflix says, allowed its engineers to construct an app that masquerades as a native program, hiding the truth that it’s actually a Web-based app. “That’s what HTML5 brings to the table, the freedom to create rich, dynamic and interactive experiences for any platform with a web browser, ” Ciancutti says.  “In fact, we’re also using HTML5 to create the user experience for our iPhone, iPad and Android applications as well.”

What else does HTML5 have to offer? It’s easy to modify and experiment with, Netflix says. A big part of Netflix’s success hinges on its ability to find new ways to keep hooking up customers with movies and TV shows that they will enjoy. That means Netflix is frequently changing both its back end and front end setups making sure that finding content is increasingly easy for subscribers.

By being based entirely on the host-side servers, HTML5 makes implementing those changes appear seamless to users. As Ciancutti puts it, “our customers don’t have to go through a manual process to install new software every time we make a change, it ‘just happens.’”

Expect the HTML5-powered Netflix app to arrive on your iOS and Android devices sometime in the near future.