Tags: native

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Browsers, not apps, are the future of mobile - Inside Intercom

I wrote a while back:

There’s a whole category of native apps that could just as easily be described as “artisanal web browsers” (and if someone wants to write a browser extension that replaces every mention of “native app” with “artisanal web browser” that would be just peachy).

Here’s some more thoughts along the same lines:

We’re spending increasing amounts of time inside messaging apps and social networks, themselves wrappers for the mobile web. They’re actually browsers.

There’s an important take-away to this:

The web is and will always be the most popular mobile operating system in the world – not iOS or Android. It’s important that the next generation of software companies don’t focus exclusively on building native iOS or Android versions of existing web apps.

Just make sure those web apps render and work well in the new wave of mobile browsers – messengers. Don’t build for iOS or Android just for an imaginary distribution opportunity. Distribution exists where people spend most of their time today – social and messaging apps, the new mobile browser for a bot-enabled world.

Installing web apps on phones (for real)

Henrik points to some crucial information that slipped under the radar at the Chrome Dev Summit—the Android OS is going to treat progressive web apps much more like regular native apps. This is kind of a big deal.

It’s a good time to go all in on the web. I can’t wait to see what the next few years bring. Personally, I feel like the web is well poised to replace the majority of apps we now get from app stores.

Working with mobile technology - Digital Service Manual - GOV.UK

Excellent guidelines from GDS on providing services that work well on mobile. The watchwords are:

  • responsive design,
  • progressive enhancement,
  • open data, and
  • emerging technology (service workers, notifications, etc.).

Native and hybrid apps are rarely justified.

Audacious Fox: Mini Interview: Loren Brichter on the Sale of Letterpress to Solebon

Colin pointed out this interesting perspective from an iOS developer moving to the web:

My work for the last few years has been on the web, and honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air. Instant refreshing, surprisingly good debugging / perf tools, intrinsically multi-platform, and most importantly, open.

Web tech gets a lot of shit from native devs (some of it deserved). But the alternatives are worse. I find the entire concept of App Review morally questionable despite Apple’s good intentions. So I sleep better at night not being part of that anymore. Sure, the web is messy, and it’s delicate, but it’s important and good and getting better fast.

Apps are dying by Cameron Moll

Cameron looks back on his 2007 Mobile Web Design book:

I don’t anticipate native apps will die off anytime soon. But I’m warming to the idea that they may be less relevant to the future of the web, and I reaffirm that “a browser will be — or should be — sufficient for interacting with web content.”

Progressive web apps are poised to be remarkably relevant to the future of the web. Let’s not screw it up.

Surveying the Landscape – Peter Gasston

An in-depth, thoroughly-researched look at the threatened health of the web. It’s grim reading, for the most part, but there’s a glimmer of hope towards the end.

BitCam : The World’s Most Advanced Camera For Your Mini Pocket Computer

A lovely little native app:

The world’s most advanced camera for your mini pocket computer.

View source for added nostalgia/flashbacks.

Oh, and RTFM.

Yet another blog about the state and future of Progressive Web App - The blog of Ada Rose Edwards

Bravo!

In the web developer community’s collective drive to be more App Like and compete with native apps we may lose or weaken some of the web’s strongest features and we need to consider carefully before we throw away urls or the entire browser chrome in an effort to look like and behave like the cool kids of native.

You can hear more of Ada’s thoughts on progressive web apps on a recent episode of JavaScript Air.

Progressive Web Apps and our regressive approach | Christian Heilmann

So remember when I was talking about “the ends justify the means” being used for unwise short-term decisions? Here’s a classic example. Chris thinks that Progressive Web Apps should be made mobile-only (at least to start with …something something something the future):

For now, PWAs need to be the solution for the next mobile users.

End users deserve to have an amazing, form-factor specific experience.

I couldn’t disagree more. End users deserve to have an amazing experience no matter the form-factor of their device.

State of the gap

Remy looks at the closing gap between native and web. Things are looking pretty damn good for the web, with certain caveats:

The web is the long game. It will always make progress. Free access to both consumers and producers is a core principle. Security is also a core principle, and sometimes at the costs of ease to the developer (but if it were easy it wouldn’t be fun, right?).

That’s why there’ll always be some other technology that’s ahead of the web in terms of features, but those features give the web something to aim for:

Flash was the plugin that was ahead of the web for a long time, it was the only way to play video for heavens sake!

Whereas before we needed polyfills like PhoneGap (whose very reason for existing is to make itself obsolete), now with progressive web apps, we’re proving the philosophy behind PhoneGap:

If the web doesn’t do something today it’s not because it can’t, or won’t, but rather it is because we haven’t gotten around to implementing that capability yet.

Bad Character - The New Yorker

A fascinating thought experiment from Ted Chiang:

So let’s imagine a world in which Chinese characters were never invented in the first place. Given such a void, the alphabet might have spread east from India in a way that it couldn’t in our history, but, to keep this from being an Indo-Eurocentric thought experiment, let’s suppose that the ancient Chinese invented their own phonetic system of writing, something like the modern Bopomofo, some thirty-two hundred years ago. What might the consequences be?

Progressive Web Apps have leapfrogged the native install model … but challenges remain

While many challenges remain, the good news is … it’s progressive. Developers can already see the benefits by sprinkling in these technologies to their existing websites and proceed to build on them as browsers and operating systems increase support.

Don’t Forget The Web

Here’s the video of the talk I gave at Facebook’s Mobile @Scale event where I was the token web guy. The talk is pretty short but there’s some fun Q&A afterwards.

The Facebook-Loving Farmers of Myanmar - The Atlantic

A fascinating slice of ethnographic research in Myanmar by Craig. There’s no mention of the web, which is certainly alarming, but then again, that’s not the focus of the research.

Interestingly, while Facebook is all omnipresent and dominant, nobody is using it the way that Facebook wants: all the accounts are basically “fake”.

What I found fascinating are the ways that people have found to bypass app stores. They’re basically being treated as damage and routed ‘round. So while native apps are universal, app stores would appear to be a first world problem.

Now if there were only some kind of universally accessible distribution channel that didn’t require any kind of installation step …hmmm.

The App-ocalypse: Can Web standards make mobile apps obsolete? | Ars Technica

I really, really want to like this article—it’s chock full of confirmation bias for me. But it’s so badly-written …I mean like, just the worst.

Here’s an actual sentence:

So with a capable, HTML-based platform and a well-designed program that makes good use of CSS, one site could support phones, tablets, PCs, and just about anything else with one site.

So, yeah, I’m still linking to it, but instead of it being for the content, it’s because I want to lament the dreadful state of technology writing.

Native or Not? The Untapped Power of Web Apps | Viget

Following on from that last link, here’s an in-depth run-down of what you can do in mobile browsers today. I think a lot of people internalised “what you can’t do on the web” a while back—it’s well worth periodically revisiting the feature landscape to revise that ever-shrinking list.

Perhaps the biggest advantage the web has over native apps is how quickly users are able to engage. All that’s between the user and your content is one click.

Web! Apps! Fight! : Sally Jenkinson

It’s not about technology, performance and APIs – it’s about people.

The Future of the Open Web - Broken Links

I completely understand Peter’s fears here, and to a certain extent, I share them. But I think there’s a danger in only looking to what native platforms can do that the web doesn’t (yet). Perhaps instead we should be looking to strengthen what only the web can offer: ubiquity, access, and oh yeah, URLs.