By 2013, there will be more than 1 billion HTML5-capable browsers in use throughout the world. Applications for those HTML5 browsers will be created by 2 million HTML Web developers, according to research from IDC. There is no question that HTML5 is going to be a major factor in mobile development during the next five to 10 years. The rise of HTML5 does not mean the death of native applications, but as the standard progresses, many developers will begin to incorporate more HTML5 into their apps than native code. 

By 2015, IDC predicts that 80% of all mobile apps will be based wholly or in part on HTML5. It makes sense: As HTML5 evolves, it gains access to many features that were once the sole domain of native code. Audio and video playback have been problems that are now beginning to improve, and several companies including Sencha, appMobi and Mozilla are working on ways to give HTML5 better device access to objects such as a device’s camera and accelerometer. 

It takes a village to raise a child - or, in this case, HTML5. During February's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, a group of companies banded together to create the Core Mobile Web Platform Community (Coremob), a forum for “the global mobile developer and IT community to focus and accelerate the evolution of the mobile Web as a compelling platform for mobile applications.” Coremob includes several giants in the development and mobile worlds, including Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Mozilla, AT&T, Red Hat and Qualcomm’s Innovation Center (among many more; see infographic below). Like the browser wars and the Web before it, the mobile Web is not going to be completely developed by one company. For HTML5 to truly become a viable set of standards, the technology community at large will need to work together to share resources to make that possible. 

But the mobile universe is not quite ready for a full-fledged HTML5 ecosystem yet. This comes down to the status of mobile browsers. Applications that run in browsers do not have the capabilities that native apps have. You thought Android was fragmented? Ever since Microsoft trounced Netscape with Internet Explorer, browsers have been, almost by definition, the most fragmented aspect of Web technology during the past 15 years. That is no different for mobile browsers such as Apple’s Safari, Google’s stock Android browser or its mobile Chrome Beta, Firefox Fennec, Opera Mini, Dolphin, Skyfire, Internet Explorer for Windows Phone or BlackBerry. HTML5 is supposed to be able to cut through the differences of all these browsers, but they are not all created equal. 

This is where Ringmark comes in. Designed as an open source tool by Facebook for the Coremob community, Ringmark is a browser-testing suite that determines how well different browsers implement app functionalities. Ringmark determines what “ring” a browser is in and what type of capabilities an app can perform in that browser. For example, browsers that pass “Ring 0” can run “Level 0” apps, Ring 1 can run Level 1 apps, and so on. The infographic from IDC below shows an example of the capabilities in each ring, and which apps can run on which levels.

We did a couple of Ringmark tests by visiting Rng.io on mobile browsers to see how well they stack up. Ring 0 has 97 different capabilities, which most of the browsers we tested passed. There are between 137-160 capabilities in Ring 1, which none of the browsers we tested passed. If a browser does not pass all the capabilities of a Ring, then it does not test the next Ring. (As browser versions advance and begin to pass Ring 1, Ringmark's developers will build out more rings to allow for further advances in expected browser capabilities.)

Here are the results:

Opera Mini/Mobile

  • Android (Opera Mobile) -- R.0: 7 failed, 90 passed
  • iOS (Opera Mini) -- R.0: 32 failed, 52 passed

Dolphin HD

  • Android -- R.0: 97 passed -- R.1: 44 failed, 93 passes
  • iOS R.0: 97 passed -- R.1: 33 failed, 106 passed

iOS Safari

  • R.0: 97 passed -- R.1: 34 failed, 106 passed

Stock Android Browser

  • R.0: 97 passed -- R.1: 44 failed, 93 passed

Android Chrome Beta

  • R.0: 97 passed -- R.1: 17 failed, 143 passed

Windows Phone Internet Explorer

  • R.0: 11 failed, 86 passed

Amazon Kindle Fire Silk

  • R.0: 4 failed, 93 passed

BlackBerry 6

  • R.0: 97 passed -- R.1: 58 failed, 80 passed

It appears that the browser with the most HTML5 capabilities at this point is Chrome Beta on Android. We noted when Chrome Beta was announced that it would be a good browser for HTML5 development. Yet, Chrome Beta’s performance does not help the bulk of the Android ecosystem. First, it is only available on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich devices, which make up only 4.9% of all Android devices as of May 1. Second, when a mobile Web app runs an application through Android, it will choose the default browser of the device, which will be the stock Android browser, not Chrome Beta. 

Take a look at the infographic below and let us know what you think about the future of browser development for HTML5 functionality in the comments.

Note: Thank you to Evan Davis of Isobar in Boston for testing Windows Phone and BlackBerry 6 for us. 

Click here for a larger version of the infographic