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How Mobile Apps Are Reinventing the Worst of the Software Industry

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the i-don't-want-to-rate-your-app-and-i-don't-want-to-tweet-about-it dept.

Software 333

An anonymous reader writes "Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Overflow, says the mobile app ecosystem is getting out of hand. 'Your platform now has a million apps? Amazing! Wonderful! What they don't tell you is that 99% of them are awful junk that nobody would ever want.' Atwood says most companies trying to figure out how to get users to install their app should instead be figuring out just why they need a mobile app in the first place. Fragmentation is another issue, as mobile devices continue to speciate and proliferate. 'Unless you're careful to build equivalent apps in all those places, it's like having multiple parallel Internets. "No, sorry, it's not available on that Internet, only the iOS phone Internet." Or even worse, only on the United States iOS phone Internet.' Monetization has turned into a race to the bottom, and it's led to worries about just what an app will do with the permissions it's asking for. Atwood concludes, 'The tablet and phone app ecosystem is slowly, painstakingly reinventing everything I hated about the computer software industry before the web blew it all up.'"

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But this time it's different. (5, Funny)

plopez (54068) | about 6 months ago | (#46338049)

A whole new paradigm. You just don't get it! There's no down side etc. etc.

Re:But this time it's different. (5, Funny)

locotx (559059) | about 6 months ago | (#46338063)

The sarcasm is strong with this one....

App permissions (5, Insightful)

sinij (911942) | about 6 months ago | (#46338061)

You don't need to guess what app is going to do with these permissions, you just assume it will abuse it, because it has no reason not to. What missing is ability to push back against unreasonable permission requests without having to root your device. Both Apple and Google dropped the ball on this.

Re:App permissions (0)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 6 months ago | (#46338129)

Settings -> privacy

Apple didn't drop the ball on this. Not as hard as google, at least.

Re:App permissions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338241)

Right. Apple. Just because they don't tell you and they deny it doesn't mean they're not doing it. They even got caught doing it and had to push a special "patch" to encry^W fix this problem with their OS.

Re:App permissions (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 6 months ago | (#46338149)

You say that as a person who would understand and care to do that(i.e. someone who could use the permissions from the developer side). You do not represent the normal user, who if they care at all, will at best go "Ahhh, don't use that"

Re:App permissions (1)

xvan (2935999) | about 6 months ago | (#46338267)

You say that the normal user, who can press the "accept button" on the permissions form, couldn't understand that by unchecking a box, a particular permission is denied?
Don't worry, put the scary check boxes on an "advanced" option, so that no app is broken by mistake.

Re:App permissions (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 6 months ago | (#46338431)

They wouldn't understand why pieces of the application would throw exceptions that the app itself didn't know how to handle, since it was coded with certain behaviors as default, no.

Re:App permissions (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 6 months ago | (#46338593)

Best way I've seen that handles this well is an app that used to be for previous iOS versions to 6. Sure, the app can get your contacts, position, music, camera, and such. The contacts are randomly generated, same with the songs. The position was settable anywhere in the world. The camera would just give static when used.

That way, the app gets whatever permissions it wants... but what it gets is useless garbage.

I wish there were a utility for Android that did similar. LBE Privacy Guard used to, but it hasn't been updated in ages... and LBE Security Master (the translated successor) is hit or miss.

Re:App permissions (1)

berj (754323) | about 6 months ago | (#46338557)

There's nothing to understand or care about.. If an app wants access to my contacts it needs to ask me. If I say no then it doesn't get access. If I say yes.. it does. The answer from the first request is remembered. If I want/need to change my answer I can go into settings and do so. But by default an application exists in a state of "can't access anything until the user approves".

I'm not sure how much easier it could possibly get for a user.

My main complaint is that there aren't enough categories. At the very least I want the ability to say which apps can and cannot access the network (both wifi and cellular.. preferably with separate permissions).

Re:App permissions (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 6 months ago | (#46338609)

Let's hypothetically say you support your app(yeah, I know, basically unheard of on phones, but bear with me). Do you really think you're going to be able to do a reasonable job of it, if you don't know which functions of your app users have enabled permissions for.

Ooops, your app crashes for the 3% of users who turn of contact searching. It's your fault, because you didn't tell them it was essential(except you did, and they disagreed)

Re:App permissions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338221)

The reason for most of the seemingly unnecessary permissions is to support in-app advertising.

Hey, I didn't say it was a good reason!

Countries whose Android Market began w/o payment (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338401)

And one reason for in-app advertising is to get applications into countries where Google was slow to add payment processing. Apple, on the other hand, would open an iTunes Store in a country before selling iPhone and iPad products there.

How did Apple(iOS) drop the ball? (5, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46338385)

What missing is ability to push back against unreasonable permission requests without having to root your device.

Apple did a great job with iOS in that regard - not at launch, but at this point it's pretty good. You are asked AT THE TIME THE APP TRIES TO ACCESS a resource like your photo library, contacts, location etc. if you want to allow it.

If you change you mind later, you just go into privacy settings and control access to any of those items to shut down access by apps you might suspect are misusing things (or you know they are, as can be the case with push notifications)

I agree with your point, but Apple has done a good job so far in helping users push back to whatever degree they desire.

Re:App permissions (5, Insightful)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | about 6 months ago | (#46338403)

How did Apple drop the ball, exactly?

I've had apps ask me permission for my GPS, microphone and photos all individually. I've rejected allowing all those things at various times for various reasons with no problems. I've gone back and given permission later, or denied permission when I didn't want that functionality any more. Every app that requires location services asks me individually at the first moment it tries to use them if it's okay. If there's a flaw with the Apple system, I suppose you could say that it's that you get the same questions over and over again, or that apps that absolutely require certain permissions (photo editing apps need access to your photos, duh) can't get them automatically. (But honestly, I don't mind answering that question.)

I test-drove a Nexus 4 for a week, and it really grated on my nerves that I had to give permissions at time of download, couldn't revoke any of them, and had to take it on faith that the app would play nice. No. Ask me for each individual thing, ask me each time.

Condition people to just click OK (5, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338651)

Ask me for each individual thing, ask me each time.

I thought such "mother may I" behavior was exactly what Apple's Mac commercials made fun of. (Cancel or allow? [youtube.com] ) Condition people to just click OK, and they'll OK anything, no matter when or on what platform.

Re:App permissions (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 6 months ago | (#46338441)

That's the Uninstall option.

I haven't missed a single app yet that I rage-uninstalled in retaliation for them pushing me an unwanted notification.

Re:App permissions (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 6 months ago | (#46338509)

AOKP has App Ops. I'd prefer a more active solution, but it's great for removing GPS and contact requests from flashlight apps.

Captain Obvious (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338071)

http://i2.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/002/658/cptobvious.jpg

Kinda Like Stack Overflow Questions and Answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338077)

We hate most, that which we see in ourselves.

What can be done? (2)

Kensai7 (1005287) | about 6 months ago | (#46338115)

The question is... what can be done to stop and revert this horrible trend? Developers need to further promote current and future web browser standards so we can have all the fancy functionality of the apps in a web page. It doesn't always work, but it should be the long term goal.

Re:What can be done? (4, Insightful)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 6 months ago | (#46338163)

98% of the functionality of these apps could have been done in a web page in '98.

Re:What can be done? (4, Insightful)

Kensai7 (1005287) | about 6 months ago | (#46338223)

I suppose 98% of the rest 2% can be done today in HTML5. :)

Re:What can be done? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338425)

I suppose 98% of the rest 2% can be done today in HTML5. :)

I don't see how. Mobile web browsers still tend not to support getUserMedia (camera and microphone access) or WebGL (3D graphics).

Re:What can be done? (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about 6 months ago | (#46338575)

Often it is done in HTML5 too, by the same people. I've uninstalled several websites' apps because the apps were actually less featureful, slower, and buggier than just using the website in a mobile browser. A common organizational reason for this is when the mobile app was contracted out to a third party dev shop as a one-off. When it first came out, it might've been on par or better than the mobile site. But then it never gets updated, because it was just an outside contract job, while the website is actually maintained and quickly surpasses the bitrotting mobile app.

Re:What can be done? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338275)

Close, 100% of the functionality of every web-page-app I've seen could have been done with raw HTML (not even a mobile page) if the pages were being written to convey information rather than as some art-school D+ student's "vision" of how things should look.

As such, I equally blame the "web artists" (not artists who have web pages, I like them, but people who see web pages as their art), Adobe (after getting so many web sites hooked on Flash, they stop supporting it for mobiles), and the app-authors who think that having 3 feature-reduced apps for a web artist's page is a sign of ability.
Added disclaimer, I use some web-page-apps when they add features I actually like which cannot be done as well through HTML. As an example, the Wikipedia app's "what am I standing next to that someone wrote an article about" button (not the official button name).

Re:What can be done? (4, Insightful)

labnet (457441) | about 6 months ago | (#46338359)

98% of the functionality of these apps could have been done in a web page in '98.

Exactly this. I'm so sick of going to some special interest forum, only having the page hijacked by, would you like to install our app. Wtf. Apps are becoming like web urls, but not as convenient.

Re:What can be done? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 6 months ago | (#46338209)

"what can be done to stop and revert this horrible trend?"

Angry mob finding developers and beating them with soap in a sock will certainly do it.

Re:What can be done? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338461)

Pennies in a sock make a much more pleasing sound.

Re:What can be done? (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 6 months ago | (#46338271)

Developers need to further promote current and future web browser standards so we can have all the fancy functionality of the apps in a web page.

As a developer, why would I want to do that? Lots of people will pay for an app. Almost no one will pay for a web page.

Re:What can be done? (1)

Kensai7 (1005287) | about 6 months ago | (#46338357)

Web pages can have privileged (behind paywall) content as well.

Willingness to pay differs per medium (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338467)

ShanghaiBill's point, as I understand it, is that end users are more willing to pay for "privileged (behind paywall) content" if it happens to be delivered through a dedicated mobile application than through a web page in the built-in browser.

Re:Willingness to pay differs per medium (1)

Kensai7 (1005287) | about 6 months ago | (#46338515)

Are more willing because it is a rarity to have a well-designed mobile page that has the same functionality as an app, even if today's standards allow it. I blame both developers and manufacturers of OSes (Apple, Google, etc) for that. In order to lure customers to their systems they privilege functionality that otherwise could be universal.

Re:What can be done? (1)

unimacs (597299) | about 6 months ago | (#46338711)

Which most people will not bother to pay for. Like it or not, people think of nothing of paying a few dollars for a mobile app but feel web content should be free.

Re:What can be done? (1)

N0Man74 (1620447) | about 6 months ago | (#46338701)

Developers need to further promote current and future web browser standards so we can have all the fancy functionality of the apps in a web page.

As a developer, why would I want to do that? Lots of people will pay for an app. Almost no one will pay for a web page.

As a user, why do I want to buy an app to mostly work like a browser bookmark?

Re:What can be done? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 6 months ago | (#46338817)

As a user, why do I want to buy an app to mostly work like a browser bookmark?

Beats me. But millions of people are willing to do exactly that.

Noo Need to Take Action (2)

Anna Merikin (529843) | about 6 months ago | (#46338477)

This is what a bubble feels like to users; to dispassionate observers, the similarities to the 1997-1999 period are striking with respect to the hubris of software writers/producers/peddlers. The general public does not like to be so coerced, and, eventually, use some relatively minor but well-publicized event to abandon the scam.

Someday, abandoning apps and maybe the internet itself will seem cool to youth. Why not a network made up of only known friends? It would be the ultimate clique -- a paradise for 15-year-olds.

History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes (thankyoo Mark Twain.)

Re:What can be done? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 months ago | (#46338525)

I think that mobile has been re-inventing the worst problems, and it's not just because of the apps. Getting an upgrade for an Android phone doesn't happen very often, sometimes never depending on which phone you got. Every phone from every different manufacturer has different features and completely different UIs, even if it runs the same operating system. I haven't had to reboot my computer in months (other than updates), but I frequently have to reboot my phone. Run-away apps can be hard to pin down because the entire phone becomes unresponsive. Everytime I look at my phone I feel like I'm being sent back 15 years in terms of user experience.

Re:What can be done? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 6 months ago | (#46338601)

The question is... what can be done to stop and revert this horrible trend? Developers need to further promote current and future web browser standards so we can have all the fancy functionality of the apps in a web page. It doesn't always work, but it should be the long term goal.

But then it runs into trends that conflict with goals of other people.

See the DRM debacle the W3C was considering. The general solution was to not have DRM in the spec, but to force developers to "make an app" instead.

And when developers do that, people complain they could've done it on a web page.

Ironically, developers wanted apps - Apple was more than happy with web apps but developers weren't, which is why iPhone OS (back then) 2.0 introduced native apps. (Apple pushed for stuff like location services, sensors and even camera to be accessible in HTML5).

So no, there's really no good solution. Don't want mobile apps? Then you'll need to have stuff like DRM added. Want those DRM seekers to just make an app? They will, then others see it as a way to protect their content as well, and it spirals both ways.

Re:What can be done? (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 6 months ago | (#46338865)

I know of a lot of companies where developing and maintaining an app is cheaper than doing the same for a mobile website, where they have to keep better track of things like bandwidth and security. Having said that, I've also seen a lot of instances where a mobile app ends up being nothing more than a glorified browser that can only access their mobile web page, which I guess is a cost-effective method of getting an app out to your audience fast.

Like it or not, people expect websites and services to be available as an app. They probably also use their phones home screen as a traditional bookmark system, where they can launch the service without having to first open a browser.

I'm not going to argue that the system is technically better than simply having mobile site for people to access, but the current system isn't really the result of lazy or shortsighted developers who don't understand what people want.

Understanding Software History (0, Troll)

idontgno (624372) | about 6 months ago | (#46338131)

Atwood concludes, 'The tablet and phone app ecosystem is slowly, painstakingly reinventing everything I hated about the computer software industry before the web blew it all up.'"

In other words, when the herd broke out of the corral. But now we're getting the livestock rounded up and fenced back in where they belong. We'll even let them think they're choosing which fenced pasture they're going into, but by God, once they're in, they're staying in. Free Markets demand well-constrained consumer herds! Barbed wire was the ultimate victory over the Wild West!

To which I say, "Moo! It's nice in the Android Paddock."

In other news... (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 6 months ago | (#46338143)

Like everything else in the world, there are multiple accepted standards, nerds rage, film at 11.

Bright Phone (1)

epine (68316) | about 6 months ago | (#46338183)

I simply don't install applications on Android that ask for abusive permissions, which pretty much puts my phone back into the stone age. I don't need the project right now of installing a root kit, tweaking non-standard security settings, then wondering whether the next glitch is something I have to fix myself.

Net effect, so far as I'm concerned, is that the smart phone has not been invented yet.

I've always considered the Brights movement [wikipedia.org] to be tragically misnamed (almost cringe-worthy) but at this point I'd have no problem carrying around a Bright phone where the device's intelligence was on my side for once.

Re:Bright Phone (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about 6 months ago | (#46338201)

Google's fault for not allowing the USER to have control over permissions, I should allow the permissions, not the app.

SecurityException (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338491)

I should allow the permissions, not the app.

That was possible in Android 4.3 until Google pulled it when applications started crashing due to an unhandled SecurityException.

Re:Bright Phone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338513)

You allow the permissions at install time.
You can also review the app and say the permissions are not acceptable.
Many people seem to have done just that for Linkedin. Now let's see what happens...

Get an iPhone (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46338847)

I simply don't install applications on Android that ask for abusive permissions, which pretty much puts my phone back into the stone age.

Well why not own an iPhone then? What the hell is the point of having a smartphone unless you can take advantage of the world of applications?

On an iPhone you can deny any app anything you like and it will still work just fine. Don't screw yourself out of the modern era for no reason.

That is not the worst... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 6 months ago | (#46338193)

What is truely awful is DLC or "in app purchases" Honestly writing a half assed app then extorting money from your users is the path of the scumbag.

Dont be a scumbag developer.

Re:That is not the worst... (1)

Cinder6 (894572) | about 6 months ago | (#46338317)

Some apps do it well. It's just unfortunate that so many do it poorly.

Re:That is not the worst... (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 6 months ago | (#46338827)

That or bugging your friends on Facebook (assuming you are on Facebook) about the app. I'd hold up Where's My Water 2 as an example here. The first Where's My Water was a fun game. I bought the full version and they even came out with additional level packs which you could buy. No problem so far.

Where's My Water 2 comes out and it's advertised as free. Except, once you get to the end of the first area, there's a "gate" which you can only pass with three "keys." At first, I thought that the keys were items scattered in levels. Nope. Instead you earn them by getting Facebook friends to use the game (aka bug your social media friends until they aren't your social media friends anymore) or you buy them for $0.99 each. Of course, there might be additional gates scattered further on in the game and every time you reach one, you'll need to pony up or bug your friends more.

Whereas the first game made these purchases look like an add-on (additional level packs), the current game makes it look like you just get stuck unless you pay again and again. The big shame is that, otherwise, I really like the game and would probably have paid for a non-free version. I just don't want to pay again and again and again every time they decide that the next level in the game requires more keys.

Free market (-1, Troll)

NapalmV (1934294) | about 6 months ago | (#46338199)

Woot, this is "free market" at work, and you're not happy with the results? Is this slashdot, where "free market" gets prescribed for any and all ailments, or did I get redirected to some North Korean fake?

Re:Free market (1)

blindbat (189141) | about 6 months ago | (#46338537)

It's part of the beta.

Re:Free market (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 6 months ago | (#46338605)

Let's not be unfair now: Comrade Dice has clearly indicated that the people's wishes are being fully consulted, and the New Slashdot will only be rolled out in such a manner as to benefit us all.

iOS is not a free market (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338541)

Apple being the monopoly curator of the App Store runs counter to the sort of "free market" that Slashdot groupthink prescribes. So does the fact that until very recently, cellular carriers in the United States did their damnedest to hide the total cost of ownership of a mobile phone from subscribers.

Not very different from the web (2)

Alan Shutko (5101) | about 6 months ago | (#46338233)

Of the complaints, most of them apply to the web as well.

  • Millions of pointless apps/websites: yep
  • Fragmentation into parallel and incompatible app worlds: No, web does have an advantage here
  • Paying for apps became a race to the bottom: Yep
  • When apps are free, you're the product: Yep
  • The app user experience is wildly inconsistent: On Web, the experience for a single site is consistent across different browsers, but there's hardly any consistency between apps. On a mobile platform, usually there is more consistency between different apps.

The reason that mobile apps have been so popular is that in many ways they offer a better experience to websites. If Jeff wants more people to use the web instead, he should be learning from the successes of mobile apps and applying them to his websites. StackExchange has great content, but problematic UI, and it's got a really bad UI on mobile web. I'd love a more capable app version.

Re:Not very different from the web (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338325)

"Apps" are small programs that don't do much, but spy on you efficiently for the sponsor of the app.

Incompatibility Abounds (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46338419)

Fragmentation into parallel and incompatible app worlds: No, web does have an advantage here

I don't think even this is true. I have THREE browsers installed (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) because often I find a site doesn't quite work right on one but will work on one or more of the others.

As web developers lean on advanced browser features to become somewhat more app like, fragmentation is turning into a real issue.

What works in Safari but not Chrome? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338597)

Which web sites work in Safari but fail in Chrome? I'm trying to consider whether to switch to a Mac or not.

Re:What works in Safari but not Chrome? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46338663)

I don't use Chrome as my primary browser so couldn't say; it could be that would work for you.

I have ClickToFlash installed on Safari, and some websites simply don't work that way - that is one problem. But at times the sites formatting is just kind of messed up in Safari.

Re:What works in Safari but not Chrome? (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#46338775)

Which web sites work in Safari but fail in Chrome? I'm trying to consider whether to switch to a Mac or not.

Not many. Plus you can get Chrome for the Mac so it's not like you have to choose one or the other.

Re:What works in Safari but not Chrome? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338851)

My point was supposed to be that I can already get Chrome and Firefox on the computer I have, for just the cost of bandwidth. I'd need examples of web sites that work in Safari but fail in Chrome in order to have to switch.

Stack Exchange for Android 4 (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338579)

StackExchange has great content, but problematic UI, and it's got a really bad UI on mobile web. I'd love a more capable app version.

What do you think of Stack Exchange for Android 4 [google.com] ?

We're fixing this (4, Informative)

asa (33102) | about 6 months ago | (#46338251)

Firefox OS is trying to fix much of this.
https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firef... [mozilla.org]
https://developer.mozilla.org/... [mozilla.org]
The Web is the most successful platform of all time and we're leading the pack on bringing a the Web platform to mobile in a way that's integrated rather than fractured like the existing app store models.

Re:We're fixing this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338659)

I bought the first Firefox OS phone and it was largely unusable on the ZTE Open because of speed, no text completion and spell check. If this was available, on say, a Nexus 5, I might switch over again. Kudos on the ideas and designs.

Why Internet access? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338273)

A huge problem with iOS apps is that they all are given access to the Internet, with no ability to opt out (unless the user activates airplane mode before launching!)

Re:Why Internet access? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338613)

OMG!!! That's an even *bigger* issue with web apps. There's *literally* no way to opt out of granting a web app access to the network on which it resides!

99% of them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338291)

You have seen all the millions of apps?

Mobile app wisdom (4, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | about 6 months ago | (#46338369)

There's an old saying: To gain knowledge, add something every day; to gain wisdom, get rid of something every day. I'm not sure exactly how that is supposed to work (where does the wisdom come from?), but clearly you can choke your life if you accumulate too much stuff.

And that's really true for mobile apps, which can choke your phone. Two years ago my wife's phone (Android 2.x) became unusable, and I discovered that she had installed five or six dozen free apps, and many of them had installed service daemons. (Why do workout tracking apps, cookbook apps, or lightweight games need daemons?) She made an effort to purge down to just the apps she needs.

Even if you assume that the phone can handle all the apps, they still add chaff for you to sort when you are looking for the app you actually want to run.

P.S. Jeff Atwood's rant was good, but he missed one of my pet peeves: I will click on a news story link in a blog or Slashdot or something, and the linked site will pop up a banner: Hey! Don't you want to install and use our mobile app? Why no, web site I have never heard of before, I really don't want to download and install your app. I just want to read the one story, and at the moment I'm reconsidering even that.

Re:Mobile app wisdom (1)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | about 6 months ago | (#46338471)

I think the wisdom comes from knowing what is necessary and what isn't. Elegance is always defined by the lack of complexity, not by the addition of it. That's why the best code is as pared down as it can be--it does the most with the least.

It's an interesting saying; I've never heard it before. :)

Re:Mobile app wisdom (4, Funny)

steveha (103154) | about 6 months ago | (#46338489)

Now I feel silly. In my P.S. I said he missed my biggest peeve, when actually he started his rant there. By the time I reached the end of his rant, I guess my tiny brain had already forgotten it.

So feel free to point at me and laugh. Sorry about that.

Re:Mobile app wisdom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338539)

Haha. You.

Re:Mobile app wisdom (2)

houghi (78078) | about 6 months ago | (#46338721)

Even if it is a website I visit each and every day, I do not need an app for one specific website. Provide me wth a rss feed and mobile friendly layout and I am good to go.
Many others would not even need a rss feed. Just a different CSS when a mobile app is loaded and I am good to go.

At home I just do my banking via a website. Why would I need an app on my phone? Why not the same website? They already have that developed. They already have people working on that. It works on multiple platforms. Just use that.

Remote check deposit (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338785)

At home I just do my banking via a website. Why would I need an app on my phone?

So that you can use the phone's camera to scan the front and back of a paper check or cheque that a friend or relative has given you.

Why not the same website?

Because mobile web browsers tend not to offer camera APIs.

Re:Mobile app wisdom (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 6 months ago | (#46338873)

As a web developer, I don't see why any website should need a mobile app. You can use responsive design and make your site look like a mobile app when viewed on a mobile device while still looking like a normal site on laptops/desktops (see the Boston Globe's website for a good example). Users can even put shortcuts to websites on their home screens with an icon so that it looks like there's an app when all that really is happening is the website is loading in the browser. I have yet to see a reason for a plain website to need an application.

Worst of all worlds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338375)

In the beginning, we had the mainframe and everyone used "cheap" dumb terminals to connect to it to run centrally installed applications.

Then we had the microcomputer and everyone used expensive computers and bought and installed applications locally.

Then we had the cloud and everyone used cheap computers and accessed centrally installed applications.

Now we have the mobile, where everyone uses cheap computers and locally installed apps to access information in the cloud.

POT (Personal Open Terminal) kode everyone can use (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338387)

right out of the box we have no secrets, we tell each other everything.... in some other dimension this works based on the integrity of us users on our own without 'supervision'. critical parenting overkill crud forced down our cpuS works poorly to say the least & is of insidious motive in origins of greed fear & ego based spiritless numerologist zionic nazi genocider types...

obligatory; slashdot only allows...... per day... deepending on how much ediocy that can be tolerated

Yay, choice! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46338399)

What they don't tell you is that 99% of them are awful junk

That's why we have consumer choice. You can select Apple devices that only have 98% awful junk.

Let's Recap (4, Insightful)

The Cat (19816) | about 6 months ago | (#46338415)

First, big software decided that the PC needed to become a television. Otherwise they would fail in their attempts to get your ass back on the couch.

By then, the PC was too far gone, because the heathens were actually building their own operating systems and programming languages! The horror! We might lose control of the demographics!

They needed a replacement for the PC, so they invented the smartphone. The smartphone is inferior to the PC in almost every way:

1. Slower processor
2. Less memory
3. Almost no storage
4. Slow, shitty, unreliable web access
5. Can't be physically networked with anything at all ever
6. Smaller screen
7. Atrocious, shitty, primitive, clumsy touch interface
8. Can't easily make use of any existing peripheral: printer, mouse, larger monitor, external storage, network
9. Fuckall battery life
10. Massively expensive on a capability-to-price ratio
11. Annoying royal pain-in-the-ass noisemaker
12. Makes everyone look like a jackass staring at it

Naturally, the general public, after being fed a thin gruel of third-rate marketing hype, decided to pitch 30 years of advancement overboard and charge-card their new tamagotchis by the Chinese freighter-load. They gleefully accepted the shitty web browsing, shitty interface and shitty battery life because they could compile monuments of narcissism in the form of 1000-entry selfie albums.

But that's not the best part!

You see, now that the manufacturers have TOTAL CONTROL of the platform (which is something they desperately wanted with the PC but couldn't engineer, despite Microsoft's roaring campaign of evil in the 1990s) they can tell you what programming language to use, what kind of apps to write and how much money you can make from them.

They have won. If you make apps, you are a defacto unpaid employee of Apple and/or Google doing exactly what you are told under pain of being kicked off the platform forever.

The rest of you spend all day staring at a 2x3 screen. I think we know what that makes you.

The results were rather predictable. Real programming and real programming languages have been largely exterminated. The idea of writing C on a development-centered operating system with a full suite of modern capabilities is dismissed by ignorant immature amateurs in favor of some kind of flimsy broken scripting language or worse.

Programmers have no real access to the hardware. Your code is trapped forever, and is useless anywhere else, since its built only for that platform's API. Its also pretty much guaranteed to be obsolete in three years because there will be no hardware to run it.

So we've made the software, the hardware and the developers disposable, and all the money goes to the phone makers, who are the only ones allowed to make anything of any real value.

The whole country staring at a screen which only displays what they want it to display. (The Internet is next)

Exactly the way they wanted it.

Re:Let's Recap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338705)

I mostly use my phone for browsing the web, reading email with an IMAP client, and reading DRM-free books. I could conceivably replace most of that with a wifi only e-ink device, assuming we ever get one that's an actual computer instead of some locked down dystopian shovelware like the Kindle.

Smartphone superior in every way (2, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46338829)

The smartphone is inferior to the PC in almost every way

For real users, you have that backwards. For the technical elite what you are saying makes sense. Lets go over your points:

1. Slower processor

More like FAST ENOUGH processor. For what most people do, the processor on a smartphone is now FAST ENOUGH to do the same things. .2. Less memory

ENOUGH MEMORY. If you can edit video and photos and write documents on a smartphone, it obviously has enough memory for most people.

3. Almost no storage

32GB is quite a lot of storage for what most people produce over a long period of time - and since smartphones are inherently networked devices it's kind of silly to complain about size of local storage.

4. Slow, shitty, unreliable web access

Less so than a PC. Often the PC web browsing has been exactly that when I was in a hotel room - until I tethered through my smart phone...

5. Can't be physically networked with anything at all ever

Which most people do not care about, and is an annoyance to set up. In that way it's superior not to have that option.

6. Smaller screen

It's enough for most people, especially the phablets.

7. Atrocious, shitty, primitive, clumsy touch interface

It's just different, and for lots of things people do (like scrolling/selecting) it is superior. It's also obviously superior to use touch over tiny physical keyboards, or there would still be a lot of devices sold with tiny physical keyboards instead of virtually none.

8. Can't easily make use of any existing peripheral: printer, mouse, larger monitor, external storage, network

You don't need a mouse with touch. Other than that, all your points are wrong - with AirPlay it's easy to take advantage of a larger TV. It's easy to print to any WiFi supporting printer with iOS, and it's easy to make use of any network I like (including VPN access).

9. Fuckall battery life

Excuse me? Most people use laptops these days, and smartphones have VASTLY better battery life than most laptops.

10. Massively expensive on a capability-to-price ratio

The fact that people are buying them even so shows that people value convenience over any of the points you raise.

Your other points are two stupid to respond to, as is the rest of your message - or presumably whatever you have to say in response.

The truth is that smartphones and tablets have saved normal people from computers being truly usable and useful only to a minority of the technical elite. You hate that normal people are able to use computers. Well I say, I want everyone to benefit from the power of computation and am not willing to make them suffer for it.

That's why I don't have more than 10 applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338423)

Most of what I need is on http internet. Some things aren't, thus I have about 10 applications installed on my phone. Everything else is useless/intrusive. Crappy applications with far more privileges that they should need seem the norm. They have no place in my phone--however the masses hardly pay attention to the latter one.

Wah wah wah! No one wants web apps! Wah wah wah! (2)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 6 months ago | (#46338433)

There may be a lot of mobile apps, and most of them may be bad, but unlike web apps, the goods one aren't clunky, fragile shit.

This is something that's bugged me about mobile (4, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | about 6 months ago | (#46338435)

The proliferation of unnecessary apps on tablets and phones. There are maybe 2-3 dozen businesses and sites I interact with enough each year to warrant their own app. The rest I interact with infrequently or they're not a high enough priority (e.g. Slashdot) that I need to be constantly updated to their latest offering and features (e.g. Beta).

The web browser model works really well for these low-priority interactions. I install an app on my computer for the important stuff (financial management, photo editing, code development, word processor, etc). But for all the not-so-important stuff, I install one app - a web browser. The browser then lets me make bookmarks to all those different low-priority sites.

But in their zeal to monetize and get a hold of your data, most companies have crippled or entirely eschewed the mobile browsing experience in favor of their own custom app. Many sites detect my browser is on Android and redirect me to crippled or dysfunctional mobile versions of their sites, when my phone is more than capable of using their full site. The result is whereas I have about 40 programs installed on my laptop and about a thousand bookmarks, I have over 250 apps installed on my phone and only a dozen bookmarks. Management of those apps is starting to become unwieldy as every day a half dozen of them report that they need to be updated.

I yearn for the days when all the less important stuff was just a bookmark in my browser. The browser was like a hub, and the connections between me and these less-important sites were like spokes. The hub-spoke model vastly decreased the number of spokes at my end. But by favoring or requiring dedicated apps in mobile space, these companies/sites have increased my workload and overhead by forcing me to maintain a lot more direct routes to their business/site.

Summary (1)

gwstuff (2067112) | about 6 months ago | (#46338443)

Mobile developers, don't make awful shit. Please.

Windows Phone (0)

DogDude (805747) | about 6 months ago | (#46338479)

I see this as being a real problem on Android and iPhone, because one needs to download a relatively large number of "apps" to get the same functionality built into Windows Phone right out of the box. Windows Phone has a lot fewer "apps" because there's obviously a smaller customer base right now, but also because fewer are needed in Windows Phone 8 than are needed in an Android or iOS environment.

Re:Windows Phone (1)

Kkloe (2751395) | about 6 months ago | (#46338859)

What kind of functionality do you mean?
I have a 2 year LG and and a S4, beside apps like chat/pic apps or games I cant see that I need more apps coming with the phone, maybe you are comparing the 400$ phones with the 100$ where they cram in android 2.3 or something

Don't see anything wrong with a few platforms (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46338481)

I totally agree that there are many apps that shouldn't exist, that are really websites (and that goes down to the fact that a lot of them are just wrapping browser pages).

But that doesn't mean that native apps do not have a good purpose as a complement to websites, in the same way that some websites have also built native applications. Sometimes you want to build something that needs enough UI or low level access to hardware, that a web app just isn't as good.

Mobile apps work when they are focuses and do NOT try to do everything a website does. Jeff complains about the Amazon app, but I actually think that's a pretty good app - because it's focused around why you might want to use it, which is to really quickly find prices for an item on Amazon. Is it faster to do so than to use the web site? For that one use, yes. So there it has succeeded.

This may sound odd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338483)

but I have a Nexus 5 and zero apps. I don't know why I would need an app. I don't play games. I can stream music via YouTube or via di.fm without an app. Hangouts is fine for texting. Like most people, I rarely even make actual mobile phone calls. I prefer texting or, even better, email. I'm a techie with almost 20 years in the industry.

Camera access and 3D graphics (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338737)

To scan a barcode, you need an app. To do voice and video chat, you need an app. To play a game with 3D graphics, you need an app. The capabilities to do these (getUserMedia, WebRTC, and WebGL) are fairly new to HTML5, and mobile web browsers haven't caught up yet

We definitely lost something (5, Insightful)

thecombatwombat (571826) | about 6 months ago | (#46338531)

To paraphrase something a friend once said to me: "There was a time between 'AOL keyword [thing I'm interested in]' and "Search the App Store for [thing I'm interested in]' when the internet was a pretty cool place.

In 2007 Apple only allowed web apps on the iPhone (1)

unimacs (597299) | about 6 months ago | (#46338623)

and people were ripping on them for that, demanding that they open the platform up for native apps. Which of course they did.

You have to understand that from a user perspective a native app is often preferred to a web app. Within a web app, access to hardware features is limited and so is storage of local data. However there are ways to leverage web development knowledge and skills when creating native apps for mobile devices.

Does the current situation complicate things for people who want to deploy applications on different mobile devices? Yes and No. Nothing is stopping you from creating a web app.

Re:In 2007 Apple only allowed web apps on the iPho (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46338825)

True, technically nothing stops me from creating a web application, but error messages stop me from actually running it: "This web browser does not support the Stream API" and "This web browser does not support WebGL".

"We need an app!" (2)

wcrowe (94389) | about 6 months ago | (#46338643)

PHB: "We need an app!"

Developer: "To do what?"

PHB: "Well, I'm not sure. But we need an app. [Some other company] has an app. We need one too!"

Developer: "We could just create a mobile version of our website."

PHB: "But that wouldn't be an app. We need an app!"

awww poor jeff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338715)

looks like he's jealous of people more successful than him

Happy bunny place (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 6 months ago | (#46338745)

Mobile versions of web sites that "helpfully" add an overlay that reappears every time you scroll, blocking up to 40% of scarce real estate, which you cannot close, or piece of shit mobile sites like Washington Post that put up a smaller circle right in the middle of the fucking text, these programmers, who would be ashamed to show their face in 1978, should have their mother fucking brains splattered against a wall.

Die like pigs in Hell!!!!!

Re:Happy bunny place (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 6 months ago | (#46338861)

Mobile versions of web sites that "helpfully" add an overlay that reappears every time you scroll, blocking up to 40% of scarce real estate, which you cannot close, or piece of shit mobile sites like Washington Post that put up a smaller circle right in the middle of the fucking text, these programmers, who would be ashamed to show their face in 1978, should have their mother fucking brains splattered against a wall.

Die like pigs in Hell!!!!!

Seriously. Every fucking mobile site ever is trash.
How about you just give me the full fucking site and my browser will fucking handle the details? Maybe I'll need to zoom in or pan horizontally instead of just vertically, but it's still a million times better than dealing with "mobile" or "responsive design" horseshit.

Strong disagree (2)

jgotts (2785) | about 6 months ago | (#46338749)

I strongly disagree with the poster. We are in the best period of mobile apps, not the worst. During this period programmers are learning what can be done in the mobile environment and what can not be done well. The Android and Apple mobile environments are very much an exciting, experimental playground right now. The major problem cited is that mobile apps are inefficient, and that they slow down your phone. That won't be much of an issue in a few years, as processors keep getting faster and phones start to ship with 64 GB or memory or more.

Sure there are a lot of bad apps, but that's the point. Try out the bad apps, and learn what you should and should not be using your mobile environment for. Maybe what you originally thought was a bad app turns out to be quite useful for you. On the other hand, the most obvious mobile app might not be very useful. I make under 7 phone calls a week, but spend 4-5 hours per week using the Facebook app. At first I thought Instagram was fairly useless but today I use it more than Facebook. I don't fully know all of my use cases for my phone, but already it's an indispensible tool, and I find about 20-30 apps to be quite useful. Another 100 apps are marginally useful. The rest are as much an experiment for the programmers as for me.

The issue with permissions is being worked on by the Android developers. It's a separate issue.

In 10 years mobile apps will be quite stable. We'll have maybe 50 winners, and things will be quite boring.

Web blew it all up? (1)

vingilot (218702) | about 6 months ago | (#46338763)

'The tablet and phone app ecosystem is slowly, painstakingly reinventing everything I hated about the computer software industry before the web blew it all up.'"

Web blew it all up? Web sucks too.

Re:Web blew it all up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46338863)

That's the nice thing about Microsoft's dominance. You didn't have to guess what platform to develop for, you already knew which one would win. Now a days, your product could be great, but the platform you picked ended up losing, so oops. Back to the drawing board.

And yes, I agree, the web sucks too. It was a fucking stupid idea to rewrite Win32 apps to HTML/Lang Of the Day. HTML/Lang Of the Day still sucks after 20 years.

TL;DR (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 6 months ago | (#46338839)

TL;DR: "Apps" suck.

Welcome to computer software in the 10s. We've got all of the shovelware and hype of the 80s, but on your phone! With modern flashy graphics!!!
!If you want to get something done, you'll have to wade through a Mos Eisley of shit to find something useful.

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