HTML5 the future for FX single-dealer platforms

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FX banks will use HTML5 to build the front-end of their single-dealer platforms (SDPs), according to a survey from Caplin, the technology vendor.

The vast majority of respondents, when asked what technology they would use to construct a graphical user interface if they were starting a project now, say they would use HTML5, the native web technology championed by Apple, Google and Microsoft.

If your firm were to start building a new SDP, which technology
 would it be most likely to adopt?

 Source: Caplin Single-Dealer Platform Technology Survey

That suggests HTML5 will eventually replace the present favourite technologies – Flex and Silverlight for web applications, and Java and .Net for installed applications – that run the front-end of the SDPs of the world’s leading FX banks, such as Barclays’ Barx, Deutsche Bank’s Autobahn, Citi’s Velocity and UBS’s FX Trader Plus.

The driving force behind the shift has been the race to produce a new generation of HTML5 browsers that do away with the need for plug-ins and bolt-ons, such as Java applets, Flash, Flex and Silverlight, to create better graphical animation and interactive applications.

Google has backed HTML5 since 2008. Steve Jobs in effect bet his company on it in early 2010, when he banned Flash on all new Apple devices and declared HTML5 was the future. Meanwhile, Microsoft announced in 2010 it would stop developing its Silverlight coding system and developed Internet Explorer 9, seen by some as its first truly competitive browser in 10 years.

Technology lifecycles for web-delivered apps

Source: Caplin Systems 

Paul Blank, e-trading director at Caplin, says as the scripting engines of browsers – which essentially run everything in the background of the application – have got better, it means the kind of performance that previously one could only find in a desktop computer is now possible in a browser.

He says the benefit of HTML5 is it allows for ubiquitous deployment, as it can go anywhere.

“You don’t need to deploy a plug-in and you don’t need to worry about installing anything as you would, say, with Java.” says Blank.

“The beauty of HTML is that it just runs on anything and you don’t need to worry about the client’s environment, with the proviso that your client is running a modern browser.”

Of course, that does not mean that SDPs are going to move to HTML5 overnight.

After all, the development of the offerings that are coming to the market at the moment would have been started a few years ago, when HTML5 was not where it is today, and before there had been such a commitment from Apple and Microsoft towards the coding system.

Furthermore, there are other reasons that could hamper the roll-out of HTML5 in FX SDPs.

First, there are concerns that customers have not yet adopted the new generation of web browsers.

Second, large banks, which like to develop their systems internally, have a large pool of developers proficient in Flex and .Net, but do not yet have those capabilities in HTML5.

Industry sources suggest that leading banks are building up their proficiency in HTML5, but are not yet ready to commit to a coding system for one of their flagship products that has not historically been used for building trading platforms.

Instead, Blank believes that leading banks will test their expertise in HTML5 with smaller projects, finally switching over when the next rebuilding cycle of FX SDPs gets under way.

“Bit by bit, banks are starting to introduce more and more HTML within their applications and over time they will migrate over to it,” he says.