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Why Apps Are Dead.

Available on the internet

Available on the World Wide Webstore.

Each and every one of us is guilty of causing what will result in the death of the downloadable app. Millions of sales worldwide for apps such as Angry Birds, and high grossing apps for companies such as Zynga(who have 3 apps in the top 10 grossing after purchasing OMGPOP, the creators of DrawSomething), require users to purchase in-game paraphernalia, are all factors which blind us into not seeing this coming.

Angry Birds as an example, already has an in-browser edition of its most popular game. Facebook and Twitter, both have their own mobile sites which are identical mirrors of their downloadable apps. My point here, is that the technology doesn’t need to be in an app, and actually requires extra work to do so. Sooner or later the whole thing will crash, as more people uptake usage of online mobile versions.

The likely responses to this are that many games wont do this. It’s not practical. But, at the forefront of web development, and in upcoming standards, there are signs that browser creators are doing all they can to make the browser more friendly to games. Most importantly, allowing data to be stored for offline use. Already being used to certain extents with video. One of my favorite examples is Rawkets, a multi-player anonymous game. This could so easily have been an app, but was developed to showcase what can be done with recent web technologies – and is much better because of it.

With internal mobile memory being limited and apps taking up far too much room – this transition just makes sense. New mobiles like the HTC One series, have ditched the port for expandable memory, once your storage space is full – you need to uninstall apps. If a developers app doesn’t cut it, then its gone! Unless they provide a web-based app for the user…

If by this point, you really don’t believe me, then take a look at Jolicloud OS and the Chrome browser in particular. They offer apps (The chrome webstore and the latest Jolicloud apps). All of them web based. It wouldn’t take much for developers to scale things down and offer mobile versions. Mozilla themselves have been working on a whole OS built on HTML and utilising the cloud, gearing it towards games, the OS could even ship integrated with things like the Gamepad API, already seen in a Firefox nightly build.

So maybe they aren’t quite dead yet, but as the usage of mobile sites increases with time and developers start to take notice, people will expect to see a website they can visit. They will expect to be able to see all of the functionality from the app (arguably this is a must from a usability point of view anyway). But most likely, web based applications will be the first port of call.

Where do you think apps will go in the next two years?

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8 Comments

  1. Posted 11/04/2012 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    While I do agree that mobile sites are a better idea then mobile apps, I think it is important to make the distinction between apps (as in downloadable software) and web apps (as in fancy interactive websites). I do think that, for mainstream users, it is/will be important to have the app feel (both mobile and desktop) for web apps even if the native apps diminish in popularity.

    It is important to consider that “normal” users care less about what it is and just want it to work, and in that case, I would argue that the app-like look and feel is more user friendly than the website-like look and feel in the case of web apps. To reference one of your examples: in the google chrome web store, there is often a lot of ranting about apps just being bookmarks, but that is, in fact, the point. Those app-bookmarks (app-like look and feel, while still being a website and not a native app) are more user friendly (the icon, the new tab page w/ separate app pages, maybe even special urls/breadcrumbs (I thought something like that was planned in firefox)) than real bookmarks or typing in the url.

    To summarize: web is better than native, but app-like look and feel will need to stay.

    • Posted 11/04/2012 at 1:20 PM | Permalink

      I have to agree, I tried not to go too much into design analysis, but as you say they will need to still have the same aesthetics. With the iPhone users can bookmark a website, and it uses the browser without all of the chrome surround – making it exactly the same as the app, and the user doesn’t have to remember the URL. Things such as responsive design will also aid the demise, with users able to visit sites that are custom to their screen, it means that apps don’t really need to be thought about, and if they do, then there are options to just port the site over without extra work.

  2. Posted 11/04/2012 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

    I don’t think apps are going anywhere soon. I get what you are saying, but have you considered the convenience of having a downloaded app when your internet connection is down or your network coverage is limited? Or, what about about data limited plans and how that would affect app versus browser usage? Or, wifi only tablets — you can download some apps and use them when you don’t have wifi. Some people don’t want to spent the extra money upfront for at 3G/4G device and then have to pay an additional monthly premium for constant connectivity.

    While internet on a mobile phone is changing, there are still things that apps can do better and faster. I could go online and play a game a on my phone, but if I like it and want to play it frequently, I’ll download the app. Then, I have faster access to it and don’t have to deal with any lags when my internet connection is less than ideal or browser UI’s that get in the way of doing what I want to do. For instance, If i hit back on by browser, I might have possibly lost what I was doing, but if I hit back on the app, i can go back into it right where i left off.

    • Posted 11/04/2012 at 4:48 PM | Permalink

      Data is a huge issue, as you say, especially on a mobile. However, HTML5 looks to the future (here is the page), developers can store databases and application caches on the device (that includes desktop machines). It’s not a 100% solution, but it would mean that images, for example, are stored locally, all of your high-scores are local, and can synced at request – i.e. when a communication is made with the server. If a user has data turned off, the webapp will still work. This also addresses the issues with lag as data is already downloaded. As the comment before yours pointed out, most devices allow bookmarking which gets rid of the browser UI, the iPhone allows you to save a bookmark to your home screen and use it as an app. Apple have implemented it – and I’d like to say that this is the reason, but nobody can be certain.

  3. Posted 06/05/2012 at 12:20 PM | Permalink

    I have to say I disagree, Have you actually used any ‘Mobile Websites’ recently? In my experience, i have yet to find a mobile website that provides a comparable experience to a native App. For one, the speed of the app then becomes totally dependant on the speed of our internet connection. On the go in the UK this is just not feasible… I don’t want to wait 20 – 30 seconds to find an old tweet, when i can load an app instantly check back through the cached timeline, and find it instantly…

    Thats just one example, I can think of countless more. The Tescos mobile website for example, it’s a pile of S**t. (I’ve not used the App to compare) but the fact is that Mobile Websites more often than not take a ‘one approach fits all’ to present the same interface to the user regardless of device or platform, and that’s just absurd (much like the android OS, but thats a different rant). Now i know all these points don’t HAVE to be true, you can easily code a different interface dependant on browser / device etc, but the fact is that MOST companies don’t want the expense / bother of doing this, they’ll just stick up a standard mobile site and be done with it. And it’s crap!

    Just my thoughts on the matter, although you should bear in mind that I make my living by making Apps so i’m probably incredibly biased.

  4. Posted 08/05/2012 at 9:48 AM | Permalink

    Very interesting post. I have always had the opinion that apps will replace sites in the long run as they generally offer a great experience and can achieve things that sites cannot.

  5. Posted 02/07/2012 at 5:09 AM | Permalink

    Matt,
    Apps aren’t going away anywhere.
    The web is a nice proposition but it is lacking:
    * It doesn’t provide the governance of the app store
    * It doesn’t come with monetization capabilities for developers

    Without these two, there is no incentive for developers to build native web apps – the best you can hope for is an HTML5 website wrapped in the package of an app.

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