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HTML5 – Opening new horizons

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The volatility of stock markets and the availability of diverse trading technologies have made the task of stock trading interesting and challenging at the same time. The advent of new platforms and applications has added a certain degree of complexity to the concept of online trading. Traders, for many years, have been relying on thick client applications for monitoring the market.

Trading terminal features can be classified into ‘must-haves’ and ‘good to haves’. Must-have features include a constant connection with the exchange or clearinghouses, technical analysis support, security, and provision to create a dashboard to perform multiple actions.  Customization and multi-platform support are some of the good-to-have features.

Since most of these features are resource-intensive, they did not work on browsers in the past. Nowadays, with the introduction of new technologies like Flash, Silverlight, etc., most of the features can be built for browsers. But the challenge is that these solutions continue to face bottlenecks since they are still not at par with existing thick clients.

The improvements in Javascript engines and the introduction of HTML5 specifications have now made it easier to build an application on the browser, or a suitable workaround.

Features Overview

Things we feel excited about
HTML5 introduces features that have a direct application in the Capital Markets space. By leveraging these applications, it is possible to bring the experience of a thick client based terminal to the browser (directly and indirectly) with very little compromises.

Streaming
A terminal requires constant feed for prices, order execution and alerts. This has been achieved using various techniques like long-polling, Flash sockets and HTTP streaming. With the introduction of WebSocket, a bi-directional communication channel, it is easier to build streaming channels with a lot more efficiency. Leading commercials and free products in this space provide support for WebSocket based channels.

Cross-platform
All modern browsers on desktops or mobile devices support most of the features, and hence HTML5-based applications give a true cross-platform experience to end-users. The same applications can be re-modeled just by using Javascript and CSS3. The new form factors of devices have encouraged developers to build applications––by using cross-platform HTML5 language, API and tools––and remain focused on developing features rather than infrastructural blocks. Despite the fragmentation, the growing community and third party libraries have helped address a lot of issues with ease.

Analytics
Analytics is an integral part of any application in the Capital Markets space. An application can have calculations as simple as percentage change to as complex as computation of pricing model for derivatives. Since most of the work is done on UI threads, performing such calculations made the application sluggish. By using Worker (Web Worker), thread calculations can be offloaded from UI threads, hence making the user experience better.

Other features like Storage API helps in handling large volumes of data on the browser by offloading objects from memory to browser-based storage; it also helps in securing cross-domain communication. Canvas is a case in point––it helps in advanced graphics with improved performance on machines with GPU.

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