The Evolution Of Apps

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Is everything moving full circle back to the Web?

It’s hard to get excited about something called, HTML5, but if you’re in the business of media, marketing and/or advertising, you should be excited. Very excited. The past few years have seen some very interesting shifts from the importance of websites to the importance of apps (need I remind you of the August 2010 Wired cover story, The Web Is Dead. Long Live The Internet?) to the pending dominance of smartphones and iPad-like devices. For years companies struggled with various screen sizes on various devices that needed to deliver content across various carriers with varying degrees of technological capabilities. While HTML5 doesn’t solve the complete Da Vinci Code that is this tangled web of wires across companies (both hardware and software) jockeying for position, it does offer some new and amazing capabilities that truly bring the digital experience to life.

HTML5 is changing our media.

In the past few months, both Amazon and the Financial Times have released robust app-like websites in an effort to circumvent Apple‘s ever-changing app store policy (more on this here: FT Bypasses Apple’s iTunes, Launches HTML5 Web App). Recently, Apple has changed their terms and service to ensure that they are compensated for any in-app purchases. This move has angered many media brands within the app eco-system, but much like the old saying about Wal-Mart goes ("the only thing worse than selling to Wal-Mart is not selling to Wal-Mart"), brands are stuck. The growth of Apple’s app store and not being present within that space is a fate (nearly) worse than death. How can any major media brand not have an app in the Apple app store? On a personal note, I was loving the ability to buy books through my Kindle app on both iPhone and iPad, and became frustrated that this feature set was removed because of Apple’s business reasons.

The Web becomes the big workaround.

Instead of Amazon, the Financial Times and others outright ditching Apple’s app store, they leveraged the power of HTML5 to create their own app-like environment and the results (thanks to the functionality of HTML5) are staggeringly beautiful. They now have more limited/skinny apps available through the app store (that are in line with Apple’s terms and services), while they are heavily marketing their own apps that are (essentially) new websites that completely bypass the app stores, but look, feel and react like the apps that everyone has come to know and love. For example, the Kindle Cloud Reader can be accessed by any internet connection and then all the consumer has to do is add a bookmark to the homepage of their smartphone or tablet. From that moment forward, it’s hard to tell the difference between the Apple-approved app and clicking the icon that will take you to the company created platform.

The new media can’t be stopped.

While many brands are rushing to put out these cloud-based apps on their own, it’s not hard to imagine a time in the not-so-distant-future where most brand spaces are simple and malleable. It would make sense if a media company could create one website that can then adapt and adjust to each platform instead of having to program a website, a mobile version, an Apple app , an Android app, etc…  So, while we’re not there yet (and HTML5 doesn’t cure-all), it’s probably going to be one of the next big leaps forward. In the meantime, being able to have the power to create an app that a brand or media entity can control, update and change on the fly (that isn’t beholden to another media entity) not only makes sense, but points us to a new day and age where brands can develop their own media and test the true market power to see if they do indeed, need an Apple or a Google in their corner to dictate their own success.

What’s your take on the evolution of apps and the media?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post called, Media Hacker. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


  1. The distinction between certain apps (especially for content) and web pages seems to be eroding. My own app (shameless plug) for The New small is, at its core, a WordPress site.
    The times we live in…

  2. It will be rather interesting to watch the shift from dedicated apps to HTML5 mobile sites that a brand can control directly and it’s great to see folks like Amazon paying the way.
    It seems like many marketers are only now beginning to understand that for some applications, a mobile site can offer all of the same benefits as a native app.

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