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What's so great about mobile apps? Not every service needs one.

Stashed in: The Web, X all the Y !!!, @rabois, HTML5!

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Recently I was whining on Twitter about IMDb's mobile website asking me to install their app each time I look at the site on my iPhone. Each time you view the site, the first thing you see is this annoying splash page that I keep having to click through. It's basically an ad, and it's standing between me and the information I want.

Do I really need (or even want) to install yet another app on my phone just to use a service for a which a standard website would suffice?

No, not even a little bit.

A dev at IMDb replied to me on Twitter, trying to understand my issue and informing me about how good their app is. In his mind, the app is optimized to make for the best user experience, and everyone should seriously consider using it in favor of the website.

The thing is, it's difficult to "improve the user experience'' on a site like IMDb -- at least for users like me who usually land on the site after a Google search.

I use IMDb frequently, but I never decide to go to the IMDb homepage and just browse around from there. It just happens to be an informative site that's well-indexed by Google. I get the info I want and get the hell out of there.

And that's the way the web works. How can you really improve on that, and why would you try?

Most services should never sacrifice experience on their website in favor of an app. To create a phone app is to fragment the web. It's analogous to having a web without search. You cannot ask the web a question; you can only ask questions of individual services.

AND APPS DON'T LINK TO EACH OTHER, so when you favor your app over your website, you limit searchability and interconnectedness -- 2 key features that make the web the greatest invention in human history.

I'm not trying to trash-talk mobile apps for mobile app devs, but seriously -- apps are just 1 way to use the internet. It's not the end-all, be all. Unless you really need an app, you should focus on making your mobile website better.

An internet made of apps is an internet without a web.

Congrats on taking the opposite stance of @rabois.

Your post reminds me of last year's Wired article: The Web is Dead.

My favorite part of that article is the quote from Yuri Milner about how the Web is dominated by a few players:

According to Compete, a Web analytics company, the top 10 Web sites accounted for 31 percent of US pageviews in 2001, 40 percent in 2006, and about 75 percent in 2010. “Big sucks the traffic out of small,” Milner says. “In theory you can have a few very successful individuals controlling hundreds of millions of people. You can become big fast, and that favors the domination of strong people.”

More bluntly, the Web is dominated by Facebook: with over 1 trillion pageviews a month, is there room left on the web for anyone else?

And yet Facebook seems to spend a lot more time developing its mobile Web experience than its mobile apps.

So Facebook's strategy is very much in accordance with your point, despite their having the most downloaded mobile app ever.

The Web matters. The mobile Web -- specifically HTML5 apps -- will become increasingly important in the coming years.

Can someone please read this very long post and tell me what he says? I think its relevant here.

http://tripleodeon.com/2011/09/of-sites-and-apps/

I skimmed it and I think his point is that there is a conceptual difference between a "web site" in the classic sense and a "web app" in the webN.0 everything is different because we use XMLHTTPREQUEST and local storage and rebuild the dom with javascript. Dumb client = web site, smart client = web app.

Which -- and I apologize if I'm over-simplifying your views -- you might characterize as "sites that respect HTTP" and "sites that disrespect HTTP."

But he completely dismisses native apps as a "dead end" which seems a misreading of history. People said the same thing about Java applications in the 90's vs. native technologies, but last time I checked I used native apps EVERY DAY on my laptop and Java applications... never.

I love the breakdown of the Internet into "sites that respect HTTP" and "sites that disrespect HTTP."

That is a beautiful thing. :)

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