This is my second look at the debate between native apps vs web apps. When I wrote on this topic before (that post can be found here), i focused on presenting both side of the debate. I’ve started to think about this debate again after recently listening to the Search Engine Podcast episode “Tim Berners Less: The Search Engine Interview“. While the browser is king on computers, when it comes to mobile devices, it’s still not clear which type of access to the internet will dominate.
When the topic came up in the interview, Tim Berners-Lee was clearly in favour of web apps. He argued that they are much more open, accessible and because of hyperlinks, much more connected than native apps which tend to be propriety and closed. I also got the impression from the interview that Lee believed that creating content and accessing that content anywhere from any device through a web browser was much more empowering as individuals can continue to be both content creators and content consumers while native apps, created by developers for sale, are really more geared toward content consumption.
I myself tend to use native apps more often on my mobile devices. I find that native apps continue to be better formatted for my screen and when I do want to consume content, it much simpler to access and view through a native app. With regards to content creation, native apps are beginning to feature better content creation tools as developers are catching up in creating native apps that are contain greater functionality. This post, for example, has been written using the WordPress iOS app and I notice that more and more creation tools are being added with every new update of this app.
That having been said, when it comes to the organic nature of the Internet experience through a web browser, native apps do feel clunky and closed. One just can’t flip from page to page, from one varied piece of content to another in the same fluid, serendipitous way on a native app that one can on a web app. Finding and adding the links on this post, for example, is too painful an experience on the native app that I preferred to flip back to the web browser on my computer to add them.
I guess the biggest challenge for web apps to to offer the same experience on a mobile device as they do trough a web browser on a computer. The biggest challenge for native apps could be to add more of an organic feel and make browsing through various forms of information more fluid and open.
Both native apps and web apps are improving all the time. Currently, my choice of apps is dependant on rhe device I use as I prefer using native apps on my mobile devices and web apps on my computer – I tend to go to the better experience on each device. What are your thoughts and preferences?