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The Media War Against the Mobile Web

December 5th, 2012 - 7:13 am

You’re a major newspaper and you have an official app in the App Store. Good for you. The Hill has one, too. I know this because when The Hill detects a mobile browser, it puts a tasteful banner ad at the top off their standard web page, telling me so. It seems every other news site with a custom app announces their delightful app with an unavoidable notification menu you’re forced to click through. Every. Single. Time.

(I’m happy to report that PJMedia’s app doesn’t commit any of these sins, and that our website doesn’t annoy you with endless notifications about our app. We seem to be the exception for newsy organizations.)

If you’ve used YouTube on your iPad since Apple and Google parted ways, you know it’s a hot mess. When YouTube still had its own app, every video played. That’s no longer true, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. Menus are jittery, and scrolling is terrible. I suspect, but cannot prove, vindictiveness on Google’s part. Either way, YouTube just isn’t very usable as a web page on an iPad.

What’s happening is the “appification” of the tablet web. Corporations, especially media corporations, want their websites to work like apps. Failing that, they want to force you to use an actual app. The reason may be an attempt to build walled gardens around their websites. The web is open and messy and people hop from one site to another without much thought. Get them in an app, and they’ll have to leave the whole app to get back out. “We’ll have the world’s largest audience of lazy, low-information tablet owners — and we’ll charge them One MILLION Dollars! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”

It’s a shame, too. The first time I surfed the web on a tablet, it was something close to a revelation. I was holding the whole internet right there in my hand, and it responded effortlessly and immediately to my touch. It was… shiny.

Since, webmasters and hip IT departments at the big media companies have taken that experience away, in a vain attempt at fixing what wasn’t broken, and at trapping us in app silos from which there is no escape. The result is a big crap sandwich for the audience, and I refuse to take another bite.

So if you need me, I’ll be at my laptop.

(Thumbnail PJM homepage composited using an image from Shutterstock.com.)

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