Notifications and the Web

One of the biggest things I’m looking forward to with iOS5 are the revamp of notifications (even though they still seem a little feature-light).

I think notifications will be very, very important.  Notifications are what will influence user attention to your application in the future.  Creating an app is a great start.  Getting noticed in the app store is an even bigger win.  The end game though will be to capture the repeat user attention by keeping them glued to your notifications.

This of course can’t be done with a web application.  Think of what notifications will do to user habits.  How much time will a user have left after they check all of these notification?  Would a user switch to a browser to check for updates for certain services if an alternative delivered it directly?  It’s hard for me to believe.  Technology is becoming increasingly on demand, and fast fast fast.  Any barriers will quickly sink an application.

It’ll be interesting what comes out of notifications.  We talked a lot about the “stream” of information, but that was usually thought of as Twitter or Facebook.  Notifications, I’d argue, are even more powerful.  This isn’t a stream of just your social circle or news, this stream is (potentially) much more dynamic and functional.  Edit: Just thinking back to history, Facebook wasn’t really Facebook until it adopted a “news feed” approach.  Lots of people hated it, but it then started to take off to the point where it became addictive.  Could push notification have the same effect or personal devices?

Side Note: I’ve written about this before, but what I really want is an intelligent assistant.  An intelligent assistant understands me, knows what I want, knows my habits, knows my friends, but also knows what I don’t know but would to know.  This is the holy grail for a personal device.  Notifications are a digital assistant to a certain degree: different applications know certain things about me, and what I want to know about their specific service, and it would deliver it directly to me.  I just don’t know how if a ordered list of unconnected notifications would qualify as an “intelligent” assistant.. but we’ll have to see.

Storing in the Cloud

I just wanted to write quickly in response to a post I just read about the comparison of the 4 main cloud storage systems: iCloud, Google, Microsoft SkyDrive, Dropbox, and Amazon.

While the post was good (and thorough) there are really only two important items to consider when you are trying to determine the success of the file sharing in the consumer world: transparency, and availability. When say ‘transparency’, I mean a functionally transparent, or “it just works, I don’t care how”. And by ‘availability’, I mean how many places that I care about allow me to access my files.

Who wins here? Easy, Apple.  (Notice I did say “consumer” market. )

People have been frustrated for years, and they just want something to work.  This will be the single biggest concept that will drive computing for the next x years, and very few companies are really understanding it.


I’d like to go on a tangent for a second to address something I’ve been thinking about for a few years, but only recently can I see it becoming possible.  When are we going to replace file uploading in the browser?  It’s surprising to me this hasn’t already started to happen.  By many reports iCloud will give developers access from a website, so when can I start applying to jobs using the CV I created on my iPad?  I’m guessing, since more and more people are browsing with mobile/tablets, this will happen soon.

I am so startled

I am so startled

I am so startled

I finally did it.  I bought an iPad.  It’s a white 16gig iPad2, and it instantly changed my day-to-day life.  I expected it would, but I didn’t except it to scare me in almost an equally pervasive way.

I am a web developer, and I’ve always stood up for web applications.  I love the openness and the freedom programming on the web offers.  It’s almost a religion, really.

If web ideology can be considered a religion, then the iPad is certainly the first (second?) crusade against it.  What I noticed, as I was flipping pages in Flipboard, scanning my Twitter feed in the Twitter app, and decapitating zombies in Plants vs Zombies, was that I was using the web less and less.

What’s worse, was that I was annoyed when I had to open a website.  When using Twitter or Flipboard, ultimately you need to open the website to read the entire article, and… the experience is AWEFUL.  Websites are consistently inconsistent in terms of fonts and layouts, and 90% of the content other than the article are completely useless (more so than in the browser).  The relaxing, zen-like experience of Flipboard is suddenly interrupted.

This scared the begeeses out of me.  The diversity and openness was something I was dreading and not celebrating.

The second thing that scared me was the realization Twitter social sharing and Flipboard’s curating was replacing the link.  That is something I didn’t think possible.  Now I know what you’re thinking, the link is still there!  That’s how you got there in the first place!  True, but did I even know where the link was pointing to?  Did I following any links from the main article??  No and no.  Didn’t care.  But there must have been someone who originally shared the link tho, right?  Yes, true.  But I can see links being shared in the future primarily from a small group of content creators, or a small group of fanatical curators (hardcore users).

What scares me equally is the response from Google in all of this.  What is the Web’s champion company doing for the web?  Well they gave us Android, which… uses native apps as well.  It floors me to understand why they haven’t supported webapps along side of their native apps.  Would any know the difference if Google included webapps in the Android marketplace?  An end user wouldn’t.  One article seems to suggest that this could happen “soon”, but as this post was written over a year ago, I won’t hold me breath.

Now what scares me the most, above all, by far, is the web has an unexpected ally: Windows 8.  Yes, that’s right, Microsoft, who has hated everything about the web since the beginning, risked much, including alienating their loyal developers, to put HTML5 and Javascript (aka webapps) as the language running Windows 8 applications.   I tell my friends who buy a Windows PC that they “are betting on the wrong horse”; how can I not be scared that they seem to be the web’s only ally?

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the web is going anywhere.  This isn’t a “the web is dead” article.  I think there are some major holes in my line of thinking here.. but I think it highlights some issues we as web developers are going to have in the future, and maybe how the web will change.   It also makes me a little bit more hesitant in trumpeting webapps in replacements of software.  Not specifically because of technical limitations, but because Apple hates them, and Google won’t support them.