Sep 27, 2011

Is There a Trend Towards Mobile Web?

Marsha Plat's picture
Marsha Plat
Director, User Experience

Many of us here have been interested in the idea of the browser-based mobile web. In June, we saw the  first really impressive example of this when the Financial Times moved from an iTunes app to a mobile website. What this means is that readers of this international, business daily will bypass Apple’s iTunes and access the app via the browser.

For users, this isn’t a big deal. For a straightforward, mostly-text reading, application the interactions are comparable to the iTunes app. Users get the benefit of not having to install updates and they can still create an icon on their home screen. Unlike others in this space, the team at FT was savvy enough to create an app that allows for offline reading just like iTunes apps. Tour the new FT app in this video below.

For the Financial Times (and possibly for Apple), it is a big deal. The FT has effectively bypassed the 30% cut that Apple takes from every sale. More than that they get guaranteed access to the user data that effectively fuels their advertising and therefore their business.

There are other business reasons for moving towards a web application. A web app is mostly built in HTML5 as opposed to say iOS for an iPad app or WebOS for the HP TouchPad or Android for a variety of devices. Steve Pinches from the FT stated in a blog post “developing multiple ‘native’ apps for various products is logistically and financially unmanageable.” As more tablets emerge, it becomes more expensive to keep up with the development costs. GigaOm has even more on the subject and adds that bypassing Apple also means that the publisher is truly independent and not subject to Apple’s editorial controls.

So is it a trend?

Aside from the FT, Playboy moved to the mobile web in May (probably to bypass Apple’s content restrictions) and there are rumors from TechCrunch that Facebook has something up it’s sleeve called Spartan. The reasons seem to be the same; control of costs, control of content, and most important, control of the customer relationship. Avoiding that 30% cut from Apple is also a nice perk.

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Marsha Plat's picture

It looks like Technology Review was inspired by the Financial Times. Here a great story of how they got there:

Flo's picture

Hello Marsha, I have this feeling of history repeating itself. I believe more than a trend it is evolution. In the begging we had different browsers and standards, websites were (still are) adapting until some order was established.

I believe without device's standards mobile web is the best shot for company's to be accessible to its users.

In this organic evolution relies the beauty of IxD. With creativity and innovation boosting better and different tablets, smartphones, smartTVs and smart-sci-fy-inspired-objects we have to keep up with what is better for both user's and client's needs.

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