It’s Better in the App and Other Lies


I've seen a few conversations on Mastodon the last week or so about why we have so many apps rather than decent mobile websites and why we're shown "things are better in the app!" banners (and who's fault is that website?!). I've been thinking about this on and off for a long time. I don't like that Apple hold all the keys to distrubting an app and I'm a big fan of the open web. I do beleive there are good reasons for native apps in some cases (specifically native features not available in browsers) but not everything needs an app. I think there are three different reasons this is happening so much.

Gobbling data

This is the obvious one. It's a lot easier to collect data from a native app than it is from a website. On an app I have very little control over what requests are made, blocking ads, that kind of thing. So of course companies want to use apps to collect this data.

Making money

This one applies more to indie developers than it does to big companies but I'm certain people are more willing to pay for an app than access to a website. As an example, Callsheet could be a website but would people pay $9 a year for a website? I don't think they would.

People want apps

This last one is at least a little bit on Apple with their "there's an app for that" ad. A few years ago I ordered a washing machine from AO and if I was on mobile the only way to track my order was to download their brand new tracking app. I contacted them about this and I was told they made the app because lots of customers were asking for it.

Just think about that for a second: people want to download an app just to track deliveries of their white goods, something which most people order at most once a year. This is bonkers to me. They did eventually fix the deep link so you could track from the website on mobile.

In some instances it's become impossible to do certain things on mobile because the app doesn't support the feature (for example, buying ebooks on Amazon) but I never get redirected back out