New Technologies in Mobile Web

March 18, 2016

By Roland Campbell, Director of Solutions Engineering

One great thing about the web is it is constantly changing as great people innovate.  One bad thing about the web is it is constantly changing.  Over the past few of months, a couple of great new technologies started to generate some real buzz. The new technologies I want to talk about are Angular 2 and AMP.

Angular 2 is the next release of AngularJS, a very popular and growing JS framework for building single page apps (www.virginamerica.com and www.hm.com are examples). As with the first version of Angular, this version is created and managed by Google.

AngularJS is six years old, so it is getting a bit grey.  Angular 2, just released as a development version, simplifies the framework, although it could be said it completely changes the paradigm from Model-View-Controller to Components. (Components are little bits of functionality or content that can be used over and over.)  AngularJS used to require you to specifically mention each JavaScript file required (it was gobs and gobs); this has be replaced by a single line of code in Angular 2. It still requires gobs and gobs of JS, you just don’t have to specifically code for each.  Also simplified is scope management: you don’t have to do it anymore and greatly simplified directive definition.

Angular 2 will have a large learning curve for experienced AngularJS developers, which has a large learning curve itself. 

If you would like to learn a little more about it, I would recommend this article, http://angular-tips.com/blog/2015/06/why-will-angular-2-rock/. If you would like to learn a lot more about it, try here https://auth0.com/blog/2015/05/14/creating-your-first-real-world-angular-2-app-from-authentication-to-calling-an-api-and-everything-in-between/

Next let’s talk about AMP.  AMP is an acronym for Accelerated Mobile Pages and is a new framework that allows you to build extremely lightweight and fast web pages, meant to be displayed on mobile.  I think that perhaps Google’s recommendation that responsive pages are the best choice for mobile is coming up a little short in the performance department, so they built a new technology.  Right now, AMP is meant to build content pages, not transactional pages, and is a bit restrictive as to what you can serve.

AMP pages are built with HTML, must start with the doctype <!doctype html> and have <html ⚡> or <html amp> as the top level tag. (Leave it to Google to put an emoji like character in a text format.) 

The technology does not support forms or JavaScript beyond the single JavaScript file that supports the AMP technology. It does provide a method to load analytics, and of course ads. 

Some companies have jumped on board, supporting their content natively, such as Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress.com, Chartbeat, Parse.ly, Adobe Analytics and LinkedIn. For example, you can add a tweet to your page simply using the following syntax:

<amp-twitter width=375 height=472

      layout="responsive"

      data-tweetid="638793490521001985">

  </amp-twitter>

These pages are blazingly fast, supporting lazy-load, with no effort on your part. Google will feature AMP in mobile search results and will cache them so they are electronically close to everyone.  They have a nice little demo up here, http://g.co/ampdemo, which you can see on your mobile device. Searches from this site will return AMP pages.  The official blog announcing the project is here, https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2015/10/introducing-accelerated-mobile-pages.html?m=1. Perhaps you should just build a fast mobile-specific site that gives your mobile users speed for everything, but this technology will certainly help news sites and blogs.

Both of these new technologies deserve a look, but unless you have mostly content pages, AMP is probably not for you yet. Angular 2 is still in beta, but if you have a medium term project and already have AngularJS experience, you might want to consider using the newer framework to ensure you are future proof. Just be aware that pioneers often 

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