Why Apps Are Evil – iOS and Android

Many people have not learned from computer history.  We reached nirvana and now we are headed toward an internet where a few large corporations control everything.  The trend toward apps is allowing to slip back into a world where a few key players (Google/Android and Apple/iOS) control everything.

A short history lesson

In the beginning there were Unix mainframes, then the “Personal Computer” became available.  There was the Apple and the Apple II, there were the TRS-80s, Commodore 64s, and a few others.  If you were a game developer and wanted to support all platforms then you had to build your software from scratch for each computer.  If you were a customer and had the fortune of owning all these computers and wanted to play this game on all of them, you would have to buy a copy of the game for every single computer.  Computers simply did not talk to one another. Then the big guns in town (IBM) entered with there first personal computer and it was a huge hit.  Soon copycats of the IBM PC came out and the world divided into PCs with DOS and Macs.  Microsoft had to develop Word and Office for both and once again, if you owned both a Mac and a PC you were forced to buy two copies of Office, one for each platform.  The world was a mess.  Then along came Netscape with this new fangled thing called a “Browser” that allowed normal people to use the internet.  Suddenly, there was a better way to do business.  Instead of having to write software for every computer out there, you just put it on your robust Unix mainframe and allow everyone to use it with the Netscape browers!  Then when new computer makers came along, they did not have to beg big companies to support their computer, all they had to do was provide a browser and then all the servers in the world became accessible to them!  Anyone could set up one of these servers and provide a valuable service to the world, either for free or for a fee and there were no gatekeepers.  If some big company didnt like your website, there was nothing they could do – it leveled the playing field.

Why apps are reversing 3 decades of progress

First of all, when most people throw around the term “app” they dont realize that its just really a brilliant marketing term.  What an “app” is in actuality is software written for a specific operating system with the distribution tightly controlled by one corporation – currently Apple or Google. An “app” needs to be written for a specific operating system and there is little similarity – by design.   With browsers, we have a universal democratic platform where any computer can access any server thru a browser.  With apps, we have a corporate controlled development and sales environment.

Censorship and Control

Apple and google have tight control over which apps are approved and how they are sold.  These companies make the 15 pages of rules and the developer has to agree to them.  If Apple decided that they wanted to charge me $10,000 to have an app listed in the fitness category, nothing is stopping them.  If they wanted to exclude anyone who had a similar Android app, they could. Apple can and has censored apps.  You simply cannot sell your app unless it goes thru their store and THEY have to approve.  Lets say I made CustomMealPlanner an app.  I have all kinds of nutritional types, most of which I never personally use or like but I do my best to provide the healthiest meal plans given the constraints that the user wants.  Lets say that steroid users wanted a nutritional type because their nutritional needs are different and I made a nutritional type called “steroid-user”.  Apple could and probably would block me from selling my app.

Wasted Work

So lets take my CustomMealPlanner as an example, lets say I want to “make an app”.  Well, thats not one task, its two – Android and iOS.  Not only that, soon there will be other competitors and there will be three or four pieces of software to write to “write an app”.  Apps are a lot of wasted work.  Think about how many times you are annoyed by your phone telling you that here is an OS upgrade and you have to upgrade.  Every time there is an OS upgrade on your phone, the app software has to be tested and/or modified to work with that new OS release – days or weeks of work.   With as often as these stupid releases come out, it quickly becomes a full time job just to maintain an app – even without adding a single feature.  OK, so if I want scoobysworkshop to “have an app” I have to hire a full-time iOS/Android engineer ($140,000) just to keep the apps running.  On top of that, the website needs to kept because there will always be desktop users.   I am just one person.  I write content for my website, I write video scripts, I film and edit my videos, I run the sweat4heath forum, I write software tools like CustomWorkoutPlanner and my bodyfat calculators.  My life is to short to waste time doing stupid app updates – I would much rather be working on new features that people need and want.   If I hired a senior engineer to do this, then I would have to charge for the apps to cover that $140,000 per year in expense.  Yes, there are some “meta-platforms” that allow you to make one app that works on both Android and iOS  – Iconic and Progress Web Apps are an example.  With these, the problem remains – you have twice the work because you still have to duplicate the entire server/browser functionality on the app meta-platform and constantly update it with every new iOS or Android OS release.

Browser, the universal interface

The more popular the iOS and Android apps become, the more power that Apple and Google get.  Once they get developers locked into their platform, Apple/Google owns them.  We are heading to a future where you will be forced to choose which one the internets you want to use – the Apple-Internet, the Google-Internet, or the Amazon-Internet.  Support universal access – USE YOUR BROWSER, NOT APPS!!!!

Why there will never be a Scoobysworkshop app

  1. Because I refuse to have my software controlled or censored by either Google or Apple
  2. Because I want everyone, on ALL platforms to be able to use my software tools
  3. Because its WAY too much work for near zero benefit

When apps are AWESOME!

There are some certain cases where an app can do things that a server based solution with browser access by the public cannot.  There are a number of sensors in modern smart phones: GPS, altitude, acceleration, temperature, and the most important and sophisticated sensor on any modern smart phone – the light sensor, also known as a camera.  A killer app for a smart phone will rely heavily on one or more of these sensors.  For example, a navigation app will use both the GPS and the acceleration sensors to provide turn by turn directions – this is simply impossible via server/browser.  Another example of a killer app is Instgram which uses the camera.  If the function you are trying to give users does not rely on one of the above sensors for its primary function then it is STUPID to do an app and much better done via a traditional website accessed by browsers.  CustomMealPlanner does not use any of these sensors for its primary function; therefore, it is stupid to put it in an app!