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Dear mobile web advocates…

November 14, 2011

Dear mobile web zealots advocates:

I feel like we need to talk. I know that you mean well, but lately you’ve rather been driving me around the bend. But luckily with a few small changes on your part I’m sure we can all get along. Specifically:

  1. Please stop saying that the mobile web will catch up to native applications Real Soon NowTM. You’re assuming that native applications are going to stay where they are, and, let’s face it, that’s just not happening. Last I checked Apple and Google are going all-out adding new functionality for native apps to leverage. Yes, mobile web apps will get access to new functionality over time. But “mobile web apps will improve” != “mobile web apps will catch up to native”.
  2. Please stop claiming that mobile web applications provide user experiences as good as native apps. Yes, mobile web applications can provide good user experiences. Google’s Gmail mobile web app isn’t half-bad, and I rather like what Amazon did with their Kindle Cloud Reader. But as good as native? Ummm, not really. If your goals are to provide a good-enough user experience while leveraging existing developer skills and minimizing cross-platform developments costs that’s totally cool; that’s an understandable goal. But please don’t pretend your mobile web app will provide an equivalent (or better) user experience to a native app.
  3. On a related note, please stop pretending that “looks like” is equivalent to “feels like”. Yes, it’s great that with CSS styling you can make a mobile web app look like a native app. But just because your slide deck of captured, still images looks like a native app does not mean that it will feel like a native app. Native apps are fluid and responsive and minimize latency. Mobile web apps? Yeah, not so much.

If you’ll make those small, simple changes to your behavior I’m sure we can all get along. After all, mobile web apps do bring a number of advantages to the table. If you’ll just focus on highlighting them instead of pretending to equivalence (or near-term equivalence) to native apps I think we’ll all be happier.


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