Financial Times just disclosed early results behind its newly launched web application and the data suggests a shifting trend from the apps ecosystem, in which Apple’s iOS mobile platform leads, to web apps, which can be accessed from any browser on any platform. According to the publication, whose native iOS app was removed from Apple as the Financial Times did not want to play by Apple’s 30% rule for subscriptions, its web app has garnered not only more traffic than the native app that it replaces, but that readers were also clicking on more links as well.
Since the web app had debuted, Financial Times reports that there are about 700,000 visitors accessing its content through the web app. In a Reuters interview, managing director Rob Grimshaw says:
“People who are using the app are spending much more time with the content,” he said. “They are consuming about three times as many pages through the app as they are through the desktop in an average visit.”
It’s interesting to see the shiftin usage here. Apple had debuted its first smartphone in 2007 without native app support. Instead, the company heavily pushed developers to create web apps, but at the time mobile broadband technology and HTML5 was not mature enough to support the constant need for data connections. Moreover, web apps also had limitations and we didn’t have the kinds of apps, productivity tools, and graphics-intense games that we do today with native apps, and Apple had soon after changed its position and released a developer toolkit to help iOS developers create native apps, paving the way for Office productivity suites, GPS and navigation apps, and games with rich graphics that leverage various different sensors and multiplayer game play.
The success of the App Store helped revolutionize the smartphone ecosystem and developer community. Prior to Apple’s involvement, developers building for rival Windows Mobile and Palm OS platforms leveraged third-party app stores, like Handango and Pocket Gear, and those third-party app stores charged a hefty fee, sometimes hovering around 50%; Apple made it easier for consumers to access apps and charged less with a 30% cut while at the same time simplifying the transaction process for consumers by implementing a system-wide DRM that didn’t need to rely on serial numbers, complex passcodes, and other active tools for anti-piracy.
With the success of the Financial Times, there is an emerging shift that’s taking place. With content producer either unhappy with Apple’s App Store policies, or the price that Apple is charging, they are turning to open standards to release their products or content. Prior to Financial Times, Playboy had released its publication to mobile platforms by using a web app rather than a native app due to Apple’s position against having pornographic content in its App Store.
The upside to this discussion is that consumers win with web app because you’re no longer locked into Apple’s ecosystem. Instead of buying a native app for iOS, you can just buy a web app and that web app will work on most major platforms if you decide to switch later. This way, you carry your purchases with you when you decide to change to a new platform, like from iOS to Android or Windows Phone 7, for example.