Online sports betting website bet365 has revealed that it is using the HTML5 markup language to improve the feel and function of its mobile platform, and reduce the code needed to produce it.

HTML5 is the latest iteration of the HTML standard, used for building and deploying web content. While previous versions of HTML were designed primarily for marking up text-based content, HTML5 is much more interactive, allowing web developers to take advantage of new capabilities such as 3D graphics rendering and gesture control without the need for plug-ins.

Fifty percent of bet365’s customers now access the company’s services via a mobile device, and over the last six months, the company's development team has been working with HTML5 to deliver a near-identical experience across all mobile devices.

The company said that audio and video streaming is now powered by HTML5, allowing customers on any device to access the streams, without the need for a flash plug-in. The same is also true of bet365’s Match Live service, which provides users with a graphical representation of a sport when a stream is not available.

“One of the problems with the streaming was we were never able to embed that in the same screen; the customer could only see one thing at one time,” Alan Reed, Head of the Systems Team at bet365, told Techworld.

“HTML5 has allowed us to embed the streams, so now we can give customers betting opportunities at the same time that we're presenting them with real-time data.”

Another benefit of HTML5 is that it can now detect not only which device a customer is using, but also the screen size, the system capability, the geography and the type of connection. This means that bet365 can provide a “graceful degradation” of service depending on the circumstances.

So if a customer was connecting to the site via WiFi for example, the video stream would start automatically, but if they were connecting over 3G, the customer might want to conserve bandwidth so the video would not start until they clicked 'play'.

Critically, HTML5 is enabling the company to move away from an application-based development model – where separate versions have to be built for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and so on – to the creation of a universal product that can be accessed through a browser.

Reed explained that going down the app route inevitably leads to fragmentation, and can also require the services of specialist developers who understand how to get richness out of the native operating systems. This is a lot of effort given that bet365’s apps only account for 15 percent of mobile activity, the other 85 percent being HTML.

By unifying its codebase, the company has been able to achive a number of efficiency gains including shorter development timescales and a lower cost of development. However, Reed said that the company does not intend to move away from apps altogether, nor will it replace all of its HTML4 with HTML5.

“A clear strategy that we've attempted to put through is to see HTML5 as an extension to HTML4. We're very customer-focused, and we had to wait until our customers had browsers that would support this. So we couldn't just go in and pioneer, we would lose customers, it's not good business sense,” said Reed.

“We've been quite measured in waiting until we feel as though we've taken HTML4 as far as we can. If we can target HTML5 in certain areas, we can make a more organic transition, both internally and externally to our customers.”

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