Monday, April 5, 2010

How Do You Like Your Facebook Served?

Day 4 of Wayne Sutton's 30 Days of YouTube continues the discussion on native versus web applications. To put it plainly, Wayne compares the use of applications on handheld devices like the iPhone, iPad, or Blackberry.

If this already sounds too technical for you, let me ask you this one question. Using your handheld device, do you prefer to access Facebook through an application or via the web?

If you answered the question stating an application, then you are a supporter of the "native" application. This means you have to install the "app" on your device.

If you answered the question stating via the web, then you are a supporter of the "web" application. This means you do not have to install any "apps" on your device, because everything is accessible through the Internet browser.

Personally, I like the web over a native application. I find that my Blackberry Curve has a memory problem. Jumping back and forth between UberTwitter, Facebook, Google Mobile Apps, and Foursquare can put my phone into a coma. The only course of action is to restart the phone. Seven and a half minutes later, once the phone reboots, I can return to the business at hand.

Instead of running a bunch of native applications, I prefer to use a single web browser and access everything I need. Additionally, I restart the phone only once a week, not five times a day.

Don't get me wrong, native applications are not all bad. In fact, I still use a number of them throughout the day. Most notably, I use Gmail and Foursquare.

At the same time, web applications are also limited. If we take Google Reader for example, accessing feeds using a Blackberry means I can only read, share, star, and keep unread. I have no options to share with note, like, or send to a particular site.

Functional restrictions may be caused by a number things like Internet speed, operating system, or device limitations. As those devices plug into the 3G, 4G, and Wifi network, the speed needed to deliver content more quickly will allow for capable devices to provide a better user experience.

From a developer's point of view, I also prefer the web over a native application. For starters, my team can focus on one product all the time. This means we can spend our limited resources developing enhancements for our customers. Second, we keep our costs down because we only focus on one product. For me, this provides a competitive advantage.

The future of native and web applications looks bright as long as there are handheld devices available to support them. With the recent release of the iPad, applications like the Netflix streaming video look even more attractive than they had before. Isn't this an exciting time to be alive?

Until next time...

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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