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Mobile First becoming Mobile Primary?

May 29, 2015

inbox

Does anyone else have concerns about services that require a mobile app before letting you use them in a browser?

Examples include Instagram and Inbox by Gmail. I’m sure there are many others.

Mobile devices are great, and I’m fine with folks building web sites with mobile access as a primary design concern. But, at least at one time, web sites and html were intended to provide device neutral access to data and services. That neutrality enabled multiple browsers and devices to be introduced as needs changed and new capabilities expanded. And that flexibility encouraged innovation.

Mobile apps developed for specific devices, browsers or operating systems change that equation dramatically. As things now stand the availability of apps can have significant impact on the success of new or alternative devices or browsers. How much of Blackberry’s struggles in the handset marketplace are related to major players like Instagram and Google not providing apps? Of course that can be a chicken-and-egg problem where the publishers can legitimately claim a market is too small to develop for. But that was never a concern in the age of pure html. [One can argue that world went away with the introduction of Internet Explorer 6, but that’s a different rant.]

As a related aside: The browser on Blackberry 10 behaves as expected when presenting a text-based web page, with word wrapping and text sizing based on the size of the screen. On iOS the browser attempts to render the page as it would appear on a desktop browser, even if that makes it too small to read without zooming and scrolling. And that’s how Google assesses mobile compatibility.

I’m not sure if this is just the rant of an old guy or if this is a legitimate concern for future flexibility and innovation in tech. Your thoughts?

David

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