“If it can be done on the Web, build it for the Web; if it can’t, build an app.”
Alex Schleifer, GM of the Media Lab at SAY Media
Thanks to Apple’s iOS and Google’s open source Android OS, smartphone and tablet apps have enjoyed a period of astounding success over the past few years. Towards the end of 2010, Wired magazine even declared that “the Web is dead.” Who needs browsers when we have apps galore on our smartphones and tablets? Well, fast forward 18 months and things have changed. Browsers are starting to trend up again and some online businesses are turning away from apps.
SAY Media’s Alex Schleifer is the lead designer for ReadWriteWeb’s re-design (currently in process) and his quote above captures why mobile websites are enjoying a renaissance. When smartphone apps first got popular, after Apple’s App Store was launched in July 2008, they offered an immediate jump in functionality for mobile content. Previously, mobile websites were minimalist and often painful to use. Compared to mobile sites circa 2008, iPhone apps were attractive and easy to use. Apps could also tap into functionality native to the OS, for example using GPS in a location app.
the rise of HTML5, the next generation of the Web’s markup language HTML, the attractiveness and functionality of mobile websites has gotten richer and more interactive. That’s what Schleifer means by “if it can be done on the Web, build it for the Web.” In 2008, it may not have been possible to get the functionality you wanted via a mobile website. But in 2012, more often than not it can be done on the Web.But with
One of the most compelling case studies of this shift away from apps and back to websites came earlier this week from Jason Pontin, the Editor-in-Chief and publisher of Technology Review. iPad and Android tablet apps for magazines have been a big trend over the past couple of years, spurred on by dwindling print magazine sales. But according to Postin, the dream quickly soured. After launching iOS and Android apps in January 2011, Technology Review ran into development, sales and other difficulties. The overhead was too much:
“Absurdly, many publishers ended up producing six different versions of their editorial product: a print publication, a conventional digital replica for Web browsers and proprietary software, a digital replica for landscape viewing on tablets, something that was not quite a digital replica for portrait viewing on tablets, a kind of hack for smart phones, and ordinary HTML pages for their websites.”
All of that work and for disappointing sales. Technology Review sold just 353 subscriptions through the iPad. Postin also noted the “walled garden” effect of having its media content effectively locked up in an app, which resulted in less of the “linky-ness” that readers expect on the Web.
Technology Review has decided to “kill” its iOS and Android apps, opting instead for an HTML5 website that will work across all devices.
Of course not all online businesses will do this. Some products, such as Flipboard and Evernote, function much better as native apps. Flipboard’s beautiful user interface and Evernote’s smooth navigation would suffer by running in the browser.
Some products will opt to cover their bases and have both an app and a mobile site. Amazon flirted with an HTML5 site to replace its Kindle iPad app, to see if it could route around Apple’s 30% cut of sales made within apps. But despite the impressive functionality of the HTML5 Kindle site, the fact remains that the iPad app offers a slightly better experience for Kindle users.
Ultimately, deciding whether to kill an app will be both an economic as well as functional decision. For Technology Review, and for us at ReadWriteWeb, building an all-purpose fully responsive HTML5 website makes much more sense. Build once and deploy on multiple platforms. That’s what the browser is good at.
Make no mistake, there is a trend happening: HTML5 websites are usurping apps in some areas. Media apps will be one of the first categories to be killed off, but over time we’ll see more apps migrate to HTML5. Particularly as some very large companies on the Web, notably Facebook and Google, are heading in this direction already.
What has your experience been like with HTML5 websites on mobile devices, compared to native apps?
Google just announced a range of updates to Google+ video hangouts, declaring its intention to move social networking “beyond the status update.” Any conversation on Google+ can now “go live,” with a ‘Hangout’ button underneath every post. Clicking ‘Hangout’ starts a video chat with everyone involved in the thread. This feature will work through Google+ Messenger in upcoming versions of the native Android and iPhone apps.
The On Air hangouts that have allowed public figures like the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu to broadcast live to the world are becoming available to more celebrities and G+ users with large followings, and it’s becoming a self-service feature, instead of one managed by Google. It’s also being integrated into YouTube, so a recorded version gets uploaded to the broadcaster’s YouTube account.
The right sidebar of Google+ will now display up to three live hangouts users can join, and invitations to hangouts will now trigger push notifications on mobile devices. Earlier this month, Google added free phone conferencing to hangouts, extending the reach of the live chat to anyone with a phone (in the U.S. and Canada).
You can see more examples of the new features in action on the Google blog.
While it’s widely accepted that most 12-year-olds are comfortable using iPhone apps, it’s not common that many 12-year-olds can code up their own. Meet Thomas Suarez, who has created two of his own. Both are distributed by Carrot Corp, the startup Thomas founded, but cannot legally own because he’s under 18 (his father is listed as the company’s president). Hundreds of downloads later, the prodigious sixth grader’s choice for what to do next seems to be the only thing that fits into his age group’s sensibilities: that’s right, he spent his profits on an Xbox.
Last month the Manhattan Beach, California kid developer spoke about his burgeoning career and the technology gap separating young and old at TEDx conference about ideas worth spreading. At TEDxManhattan Beach, the young man took the microphone with confidence and smiles, speaking quite effectively and intelligently to an older crowd.
Here you can see him on stage, talking about how he created his apps with the iPhone SDK, some Python scripting and support from one of his teachers. He has amazing stage presence too.
“These days students usually know a little more than teachers with the technology,” he said to a chorus of amused laughs. “Not many parents know how to make apps!”
Thomas, a self-taught programmer and student of Apple’s “one to one” training service program, spoke for five minutes about the gap separating young and old, several times alluding to adults as the kids, and kids as adults in the world of tech.
“My first app was a unique fortune teller called Earth Fortune, that would display different colors of Earth depending on what your fortune was,” Thomas said during his TED talk. “My favorite, most successful app is Bustin Jieber–a Justin Bieber whac-a-mole.” (It costs a buck.)
In late 2010, he released the app using the premise of the Whac-A-Mole game. Spin-offs include Bustin Howie, and Bustin Piers (lampooning Howie Mandel and Piers Morgan). “I created it because a lot of people at school disliked Justin Bieber.” He isn’t alone in that sentiment, clearly.
So far he’s made about $1,000 from the app, but the experience has made him a local celebrity. “A lot of kids these days like to play games, but now they want to make them. And it’s difficult, because not many kids know where to go to find out how to make a program…Any student at my school can come and learn how to design an app. This is so I can share my experience with others.”
With the help of his two younger brothers, Thomas lectures in front of a group of about 20 students at lunchtime. With the district part of the iPad pilot program, integrating iPads into the classroom and hour-long lunch lessons on the ins and outs of app creation, could the South Bay area of Los Angeles be the next blue chip incubator for tech talent? At least for the younger set.
“A big challenge is how should the iPads be used and what apps should we put on the iPads,” he questioned at the end of his TED talk. “We’re getting feedback from the teachers at the school to see what apps they like. When we design the app and we sell it, it will be free to local districts. And other districts that we sell to, all the money from that will be funneled to local ed foundations.”
While the young technophile is working with a third-party company to make new apps, he said his next goal is to get into Android programming, continue his app club “and find other ways for students to share knowledge with others.”
A very impressive 12 year old to be sure. And certainly the shape of things to come.
Over the weekend, we reported that NBC had released a new version of their iPad application, which allows users to watch full episodes of their favorite NBC TV shows on the iPad while on the go.
It looks like NBC was not the only one,Â Turner Broadcasting System – a Time Warner company has also released TNT for iPadÂ andÂ TBS for iPadÂ apps that allows users to watch full episodes of TV shows on those channels. They have also updated their iPhone apps to bring full episodes of TV shows to iPhone users.
Here’s a brief description of the TNT for iPad app from iTunes:
Get complete access to your favorite TNT shows wherever and whenever you want. Check out episode guides, watch clips and behind-the-scenes videos, set schedule reminders and even watch full episodes of The Closer, Falling Skies, Rizzoli & Isles and more after authenticating through your television provider.
Here’s one for TBS for iPad app:
If laughter is the best medicine, we’ve got your comedy cure. And the best part? This prescription is free.
With the TBS very funny iPad app, you can have access to your favorite comedies wherever and whenever you want. Watch full episodes of Conan, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, The Office and more after authenticating through your cable or satellite provider. You can also check out episode guides, watch clips and behind-the-scenes videos, set schedule reminders and more.
Users can access the full episodes from those channels only after authenticating through their television provider.
App Store links:
It is great to see companies like NBC andÂ Turner embracing mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad and allowing users to watch full episodes of their favorite TV shows while on the move.
While publications like WSJ and The New York Times have either complied to Apple’s In-App Subscription policies or devised clever workarounds, The Financial Times refused to take any of these measures, which is why Apple has removed the app from the App Store, two months after its 30th June deadline.
All In-App Subscriptions going through Apple meant that publishers would never get any information about subscribers. This pinched FT more than Apple’s 30 percent cut, since they claim their subscription model centers around owning data about its readers. An FT spokesperson told PaidContent:
“TheÂ FTÂ iPad and iPhone apps will no longer be available to new users through iTunes. We are directing readers to theÂ FTâ€˜s new web app available at app.ft.com.Â iTunes will remain an important channel for new and existing advertising based apps.”
The FTÂ web app, which was launched just a couple of months back, tries to mimic the native app experience right from presenting progress bars to displaying text like “Please wait, downloading app”. Â The publication claims 550,000 users read FT through the web app, available at app.ft.com.
Last year, nearly 10 percent of the company’s new digital subscriptions came from the iPad. The number of FT subscribers have doubled since theÂ dÃ©butÂ of the FT app on the App Store, which has helped the company to reduce its reliance on ads as a medium for revenue.
FT joins Amazon, Walmart and many other companies, which have offered iPad optimised web apps to bypass the App Store’s strict policies. What effect does this have on FT’s digital subscriber growth remains to be seen.
Google launched an advanced security feature calledÂ two-step verification system earlier in the year for Gmail and Google Apps (last year) that makes your Google Account significantly more secure by providing an additional layer of security.
The two-step verification process relies on something you know (your password) and something you have (your mobile phone).
This two-way verification is not new. Quite a few banks have been using this system for quite a while, allowing users to access their website using a unique passcode generated by a security token given by the bank and the password.
Last month, Google released an iPhone app called Google AuthenticatorÂ for the two-step verification for iPhone. Google Authenticator app basically turns your iPhone into a security token and generates a unique passcode for the two-step verification.
You can checkout how the two-step verification system works in the demo video:
You may also go through the the details about the two-step verification system on this webpageÂ on Google’s website before setting it up.
It is highly recommended that you enable the two-step verification if you have a Google Account. The entire setup process does not take more than 5 to 10 minutes. And if you do then Google Authenticator is a must-have app andÂ you can download it from the App Store for free using this iTunes link. You can also use the app on your iPad or iPod touch.
Please stay safe and pass this around to your family and friends who have a Google Account as well.