Reading John Gruber’s Native Apps Are Part of the Web feels like reading a George Orwell novel. Gruber argues that native apps are simply alternative interfaces to HTML, but that they both connect to the same back-end. Therefore, they are part of the web. What he’s describing is a client-server app, which was the predecessor model to web applications. As an industry we abandoned the client-server model in the late 1990’s because web applications were less expensive to build, more maintainable, and less brittle over the long-term.
John says “users love apps”. True, unless they’re not available on the users platform of choice. Take, for example, recent flights that I’ve been on where in flight entertainment systems have been replaced by iPads and streaming video. What if you don’t have an iPad? The helpful folks at the airlines will rent you an iPad for your trip. I know I love shelling out extra cash to airlines to watch a movie.
“Developers love apps”, Gruber writes. It’s true that developers love the revenue opportunities from apps, but they don’t love the fragmentation that multiple proprietary platforms require – APIs, marketplaces, media formats, etc. As a developer, your choice is to invest three or four times as much to have apps on multiple platforms as a single HTML app would cost; provided of course that all platform vendors implemented HTML5 to a consistent level. And they don’t. Sigh… feels like Netscape vs Microsoft in 1995, doesn’t it?
The promise of HTML5 was that we could finally get to a unified and rich app model across all operating systems. Too bad that didn’t happen.
No, those who love native apps the most are the platform vendors. Apps make customers sticky to platforms. Apps are the walled garden that deny users freedom of choice.
Welcome to AOL… circa 1994.