If web apps are so good, why did Apple ditch them for the App Store?
Apple is currently in a tough spot in Australia after drawing the attention of local antitrust authorities to the way it operates the App Store. Authorities are concerned that Apple controls the App Store and is the only way to get apps on iPhone and iPad. Apple, however, begs to differ. You can use web apps instead, he says.
After first pointing out that the App Store and the iPhone aren’t the only games in town – you can use Android and the Play Store, for example – Apple goes on to say that while you’re all in on its stuff , you are not afraid. The web is here!
Even if a user only owns iOS devices, the distribution is far from limited to the Apple App Store, as developers have several alternative channels to reach that user. The entire web is available to them and iOS devices have unlimited and uncontrolled access. A common approach is for users to buy and consume digital content or services on a website.
Except that’s not quite right, is it? Apple tried to go the web apps route with iPhone, before finally deciding it wouldn’t work and launching the App Store instead.
The demand for a way to build third-party apps for the iPhone was booming. During WWDC 2007, just before the launch of the original iPhone, Steve Jobs announced Apple’s response to a development platform: Web 2.0 + AJAX (now known as HTML 5). Web applications were the “go-to solution” he offered. He pointed out that no SDK is required and that web apps can look and function like the built-in apps. They could even use URL strings to call phone numbers or initiate emails.
And of course, people have created web applications. But they were far from ideal. In many cases, they sucked. Of course, a lot of the apps in the App Store are also mediocre, but at least they have access to all of Apple’s APIs and frameworks. Web applications? Not really.
In October 2007, Apple CEO Steve Jobs told the world what was to come. And it was the App Store and an SDK. The rest, as they say, is history.
Let me say it: we want native third-party apps on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in the hands of the developers in February. We’re excited to build a vibrant third-party developer community around the iPhone and enable hundreds of new apps for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware, and advanced software architecture, we believe we’ve created the best mobile platform ever for developers.
Fast forward 14 years and Apple now wants Australian authorities to believe web apps are just misunderstood and yes you can really use them to shop around the App Store.
I have no problem with Apple defending itself and would be worried if it didn’t. But web applications? Truly?
Modern web apps are of course one step ahead of anything that was possible in 2007, of course. Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are nice and all. But they still have a big problem – I’ll let Overcast developer Marco Arment explain what it is.
Maybe the Australians are right after all.