App-tastic! Browsing the net with apps

August 22, 2010

Something has happened in the last few years. We’ve slowly started to abandon the world wide web as we know it and latch on to a different way of navigating the internet… the world of apps.

Apps are of course small applications for you computer which use the internet to access information for you. It could be a twitter client like Tweetdeck, or maybe maps like Google Earth. Perhaps a phone call through Skype or maybe just a plain old e-mail client like Outlook.

But app usage is on the increase and a big reason for this is smartphones. I’ve recently taken the plunge and brought an iPhone. I use this online all the time, but not very often for web browsing, more often it’s for apps. I still connect with Facebook, twitter, google, amazon, WordPress, IMDB, last fm etc. But it’s not through the iPhone’s web browser, it’s through apps.

And why not? The Facebook app for iPhone works like a dream with the touchscreen, unlike the clunky web version which is hard to see on a small display. Likewise I can browse and buy products on Amazon a lot easier through the iPhone native app rather than trying to use their website which is clearly designed for a mouse.

So is our new-found love of apps driven solely towards the ease of use they give us on mobile devices? It may well have started the trend, but I think it’s no-where near the end.

Just yesterday I was browsing the web and came across many ‘apps’ which I’m now a member

of.Some of them were extremely useful like Instapaper. With this app, whenever I find an article I’m interested in, but don’t have the time to read, I can click a button in my browser and save it for later on my instapaper site. I can also archive these so I can keep the links for future reference, rather than clutter up my desktop with them

Another helpful ‘newspaper-esque’ app if paper.li. Twitter and Facebook have seen us sharing links like never before on the net, so many in fact that it’s easy to lose track of them. What paper.li does, is look at all the links shared on your Twitter/Facebook feed and organise them into a daily news sheet for you to read, including any video’s and pictures in their own sections. It’ll even organise the links into sections such as politics/arts/lifestyle etc. It’s a really simple way to catch up on your days social networking!

Then there’s the more fun apps I’ve been playing with, the most prominent one being GetGlue.This is basically Foursquare for what you are doing. Players ‘check-in’ with what they are watching/playing/reading and can therefore start a conversation with others who are doing similar things. As with Foursquare you collect points and stickers for achieving certain things in the game. As well as this, GetGlue has a recommendation system for other movies/books/games/music you might enjoy based on what you do most. And of course Facebook and twitter integration is included.

All of these apps also include mobile versions so you can connect wherever you are.

And this is why the web is changing. We are able to do new things, in a safe and clean environment. We can do everything we need to do on just a few sites or no sites at all. There’s no need to search the web any more.

In fact this article in the Observer goes as far as to say that we are destroying the web with the use of apps.

I personally don’t agree. There’ll always be a place for the web (for example, ‘The Rich, Harsh Poet’ isn’t getting its own app anytime soon), but it will be used less often. Why shouldn’t it be? If I can access the data I want in a quicker, safer and easier environment, why shouldn’t I?

Long live apps, the future of the internet!

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Wave goodbye to Google’s Wave

August 5, 2010

Yesterday Google announced it was discontinuing it’s largely misunderstood ‘Google Wave’ service.

It’s been a rocky year for the service which was tipped to be an e-mail killer and a facebook rival. Wave let you do everything you could with e-mail and social networks (apart from the EVIL Farmville) as well as some groundbreaking technology. You could share maps with people, write on things in real-time with them, drag and drop files from your computer straight onto the net. It was everything Google offered in one massive package. So why didn’t it succeed.

As far as I’m concerned, it was too much too soon. I consider myself to be quite good with technology, yet it took me a bit of time to work out exactly what to do with Google Wave. When I did get to grips with it I thought it was fantastic, but then comes Wave’s other, bigger problem.

Awareness. Simply not enough people used the service. As with most new Google technologies, it was invite only for a long time. Although this got the cyber-nerds like myself interested in the site, it missed the general public who were satisfied with their Facebook’s and Twitter’s. They didn’t need Google Wave and Google didn’t do enough to make them want it.

I liked the site, but hardly ever used it as I simply didn’t have enough other friends who used it.

It is a shame to see Google give up on it. Perhaps they need to spend a bit of time re-thinking the idea because the service could one day work, it just takes a bit of getting used to.

Google have said they will use the technology from wave elsewhere and people using the site, will be able to until the end of the year, but for now, it’s time to start waving goodbye to one of Google’s only failures.