App-pocalypse Now

Awesome rant! Could not agree more.

Want to second the comments on Firefox OS. Not thrilled about Mozilla’s foray into advertising, but cheap devices with “good enough” websites/HTML5 “apps” could start a fire underneath these stupid ecosystems.

Don’t confuse web apps (programs that happen to run inside your browser) with web sites.

The best way to use gmail or pages/keynote (or Office if MS ever makes it available) on a mobile device is with a mobile app, no doubt. Ditto for any other web app.

The apps that Jeff complains about in his post, however, are “you’re visiting our website from a mobile device, why don’t you download our app instead!” apps, which are a complete waste of the user’s time.

Suppose someone sends me a link, or I’m looking for something and I google and click on a search result. The resulting web site “helpfully” offers to take me away from the thing I wanted to look at to the App store. Which, if I download it, the resulting app will not be smart enough to take me to the link I was originally trying to get to. To hell with that.

Or suppose I want to use Ebay (just as an example of a highly interactive web site where I’m not just going to end up there because I clicked on a link). I downloaded that app back when I first got an Ipad, only to discover that it didn’t include support for seller features or advanced search features that I use just about every time I interact with Ebay. For all I know the ebay app may have gotten better since then, but having wasted my time once, I am disinclined to waste it a second time.

My phone is a dumb flip phone, so I cannot speak to how useful apps are compared to websites on a tiny screen. But on an Ipad, the web browser is far more useful than an app version of the website nearly 100% of the time.

The deplorable state of most web sites when it comes to being optimized for viewing on a mobile device is a whole nother topic, of course, but the solution to that problem is implementing proper adaptive site design, not trying to steer your visitors to a crappy app version of your site.

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Best part for me is that I use an iPhone 3, so most apps won’t even work for it anymore. So the question for me is “Is your app soooo valuable that I should leave a working, reliable environment just to be able to run it?” Hey, I’m a neo-luddite. :smile:

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I’ve been studying App development for Windows 8 and they actually are trying to get app developers to consider a lot of standards to help bridge the user experience gap.

I haven’t been a fan of Microsoft since I was a little kid playing on 3.1.Still looking at the various mobile OS designs, I have to side with the standards Microsoft is promoting to developers. However they can only enforce them so much.

Now preferences aside, basically one of two things could drastically change things.

  • First, someone builds a standard development language that can be
    interpreted or converted to run native on all the popular
  • Second, there are global design standards agreed upon
    as best practice across all devices to unify the user experience

At current both of these are unlikely. I know there are some app conversion applications available but none of them really create a native application. The second is even less likely as good design is considered a competitive advantage.

Still it took many years for a majority of websites to adopt best practice and there are still a ton of them that haven’t. The only advantage apps have over the web is the ability to connect to native functions that browsers lack access too.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that apps have the potential to overpower the web to some degree. However I don’t think that future is coming in the next couple years, maybe not even the next five.

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Discourse is open source; there have been some movements to make more responsive designs for it.

There is a good discussion on meta about the issue. I believe they serve up a responsive site for mobile browsers, but keep the desktop one pure for performance reasons. If you are going by viewing the source, it may be deceiving.

Webapps. Or at least apps powered using web technologies. is a great example: we can avoid fragmentation by using the same codebase for all apps (and possibly even the mobile website too).