Thursday, October 25, 2012
Rethinking the App Model
The difference between Hacker News and this blog is that tomorrow, you're going to visit Hacker News, but you're not likely to visit this blog.
This distinction does not exist in mobile apps.
Mobile apps are downloaded and installed in an elaborate multi-step process. They're backed up and restored when you get a new phone. No effort is spared to make sure they stick around forever. Each app is treated like a box of childhood photos, a permanent possession.
What you get is endless screens of apps, quickly sampled, never discarded.
Mobile apps should move toward the browser model. You hear about something new. A shell of the app is installed and downloaded in one click. Assets are lazy loaded. Each app joins an unforgiving LIFO queue that wipes them out when they're not used for a while. You can pin apps that you want to stick around forever.
The big winners in mobile apps tend to be the companies that first won on the web: Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Pinterest, and so on. A great website can win because every other site is only one click away.
Websites are easy to get to, and easy to leave. In contrast, mobile apps are hard to get to and hard to leave. They shouldn't be.