So I read a load of shit yesterday. “Who needs the Web?” asks the New York Times after Instagram got bought by Facebook for a cool billion dollars.
Instagram needs the web. Path needs the web. Apps need the web. Fuck it, we all need the web.
Just because a successful product began its life as something other a website doesn’t mean the web is rendered obsolete all of a sudden. These things happen now that mobile has matured and companies aren’t simply translating their existing web experiences into mobile apps. Native mobile platforms are now a perfectly viable starting point for new products.
So let’s make a native camera app. In order to make a photo app, we kind of need to have access to the device’s camera and photo gallery. You can’t do that through mobile browsers (yet*). We’ll whip up our app, add some filters, add some edit modes, bedazzle the shit out of it, and put it in the App Store.
And then we wait. It’s only a matter of time before the users come flooding in. The users arrive and have some fun making some photos. But then what?
Oh yeah! The whole point of creating something is to share it. (Well, unless you created an intricate gold sculpture in secret for 14 years). Ok then, what are our sharing our options? We could have our users do a few things:
- Keep it to themselves. Ah yes, your users’ very own anti-social network. This is like taking pictures with a kickass 35mm camera then not bothering to develop the film.
- Shove their phones in people’s faces. This is like carrying a photo in your wallet and only taking it out to show off to your bar buddies. It can make you look like a crazy person.
- Share with the app’s user base. This is like putting your photos in a photo album and busting it out when family comes to town. Only special people get to see what you’ve created.
- Share it on the web. This is like sharing your photos with billions of people. Because that’s exactly what you’re doing.
You’d be a fool to not take advantage of the tremendous distribution platform that is the web. Instagram wouldn’t be the runaway success it is if they kept all the hipster photo goodness locked within its iPhone walls.
Everyone wasn’t invited to the party as far as Instagram’s photo creation was concerned (of course up until last week Instagram was an iPhone-only app), but thanks to the web everyone got to view the output. On social networks everyone could see how hip these photos were, but not everyone had the opportunity to create them. That added to the mystique and the hype. I personally think they played their cards right in that marketing game.
There You Have It
Native apps will never be able to claim complete ubiquity, however the web is slowly becoming a robust creation platform in its own right. Chew on that, but don’t go thinking this is an apples-to-apples comparison, because it ain’t. The power of the web is its ubiquity, and that’s something worth celebrating.
Focused creation. Ubiquitous distribution. Win. Win.