From IndieWeb

App typically refers to a native app, usually a less functional version of a web site that is restricted to one or more proprietary platforms, but may also refer to the .app top level domain setup by Google that requires HTTPS.

How not to

If you have a webapp, please avoid prompting the user to switch to using a native app. This is such a user annoyance that XKCD made a comic about it:


"Try our app! It's exactly like our webpage except its not always bugging you to try our app."[1]


Native apps have disadvantages compared to webapps.

apps break linking

  • Content inside apps is not linkable. If you find a news article on a website, you can link to it and share it by passing the URL around.
    • Or in the rare case of app deep linking being implemented, it's slow, doesn't zoom, etc.[2]


  • Apps have potential security vulnerabilities: instead of simply rendering text in your browser and executing sandboxed JavaScript, apps have the ability to use device APIs including accessing the phone and address book functions. Apps have been known to upload a user's full contact list details.
  • Apps use up storage space on the device. The app for BBC or CNN or the New York Times will sit there and use up the sometimes limited storage space even when not in use. Websites leave cache data and cookies, but if you don't visit a site for long enough, it'll just disappear from your device. This is inherently unscalable. There are billions of websites: should each one become an app? You wouldn't download an app on your desktop or laptop computer just to look at a website: why do it on a mobile phone?

Why you might need an app

  • Known found that their most common request was for an app, for offline use and better posting of media like large photos and videos. This has been echoed by many of their customers.

We may take issue with the above for ideological or technical reasons, but customer / user demand usually trumps these concerns.

  • Mobile browsers are typically very bad at uploading large content. Web audio APIs are flaky, and the browsers often crash after several uploads.
  • It is impossible to upload a 1GB video using a mobile browser over a cellular connection - but an app can manage the upload intelligently.
  • Video and audio compression is easier in an app than in a browser.
  • App interfaces are typically more responsive.
  • Push notifications are easier in apps (although modern web standards are making it easier to send asynchronous push notifications across platforms).

In short, the web is great for cross-platform content consumption, but mobile web browsers are often suboptimal at providing publishing assistance.


app top level domain

.app is a top level domain that requires HTTPS and was opened to limited registration on 2018-05-01, with availability to the general public on 2018-05-08.

See Also