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posted by mattie_p on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the why-get-the-milk-for-free-when-you-can-buy-a-cow dept.

The Guardian has an article about the usage stats of apps and the Web on mobile devices.

The prediction that mobile web use would overtake apps has been disproved by data from analytics firm Flurry ... The idea that people will shift from using native apps on their smartphones to using HTML5 websites offering the same functionality hasn't played out ...

They don't say where that prediction came from, but I could have told them it was dubious years ago. For most users, apps are simply more convenient. I'd bet that a lot more Android and iOS users know how to find their app list than know how to find their Web bookmarks.

But personally I go to significant lengths to avoid apps that I think should just be websites instead. One reason is security; I don't want to be running someone else's code just so that I can read their text. But is my attitude correct? With web browsers having so much functionality these days, perhaps using a dedicated newspaper app with just the "full network access" permission would be less of a security risk than visiting that same newspaper's website using Firefox for Android, for example? Bear in mind the latter also has permissions for the camera, microphone, GPS, NFC, device accounts, 'run at startup', etc.

Also from the article:

For Google, the indifference of smartphone users to the mobile web in favour of apps presents a problem because in general it cannot follow users' activity inside apps ... The search company has begun an initiative offering links to in-app content for Android developers which it will be able to index.

Is avoiding Google another reason I should learn to love apps instead of the Web?

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bob_super on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:27PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:27PM (#25212)

    "Is avoiding Google another reason I should learn to love apps instead of the Web?"

    For me it's the opposite. Apps a whole lot more intrusive than browsing.
    Browsing only track where I go. Apps want access to everything on my device (because of unnecessary feature X).

    But I browse in "desktop" mode from my mobile devices, because most mobile sites are just badly laid out, IMHO.

    • (Score: 2) by edIII on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:13PM

      by edIII (791) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:13PM (#25236)

      Yeah, I'm pretty much in agreement there.

      While Firefox on Android might have more permissions enabled, that doesn't mean that a particular site will have access to them at all. Web browsers have their own security too.

      Just about everything online can be tracked anyways, so that is not a Google centric issue for the consumer. I have a page open right now with over 200 ads blocked, and a combination of 12 different trackers, beacons, and widgets blocked. Google is responsible for a fraction of that.

      I would much rather have a single app that has security wholly unrelated to the Android permissions paradigm and connects up to resources over the network for simple consumption.

      The biggest issue you already mentioned. HTML5 works perfectly fine and we can create wonderful applications using it. Mobile SUCKS as a user interface and cripples what you can do with the web period.

      I don't care what people say. That goofy little stupid screen on most smartphones, especially the tiny iPhone screen, isn't suited for anything other than very simplistic information presentation, and throw information density out the window. You really do need a mobile specific site design for your website and that's not as easy as it sounds. I'm sure others will chime in about how it is. If it really was, then websites would be better at it. Obviously, it ain't, so it's not.

      Unless you are a teenager with tiny fingers and 20/20 vision you need something else, and native apps on mobile devices are typically much higher quality interfaces than browsing web sites.

      You must have good eyesight still to use desktop mode from a smartphone and be able to see anything, let alone touch the tiny buttons :)

       

      --
      Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
      • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:24PM

        by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:24PM (#25240)

        > You must have good eyesight still to use desktop mode from a smartphone and
        > be able to see anything, let alone touch the tiny buttons :)

        That requires a lot of zooming and scrolling (on the phone only, since my tablet has an HD screens), but on average less than the tedious linear mobile versions of the same sites. YMMV.

        What doesn't vary is that the desktop version of the same site essentially always has more comprehensive information, and less "clicks" to get to it.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by camaro on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:33PM

    by camaro (584) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:33PM (#25216)

    I despise mobile apps for sites. Every single one of them seems to want to nag me about their wonderful mobile app. NO! I just want to browse your site and maybe only once! NO! I will not install your stupid app. Now go away!

    Oh, and why would I clutter up my device with a dozen apps when I can have a few bookmarks in my browser?

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Marand on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:44PM

    by Marand (1081) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:44PM (#25221) Journal

    But personally I go to significant lengths to avoid apps that I think should just be websites instead. One reason is security; I don't want to be running someone else's code just so that I can read their text.

    So your mobile browsing is done with JavaScript turned off, then?

    If not, your distinction is largely* irrelevant, because you're still running someone else's code to read their text. Not only that, you're also trusting code from every advertiser those sites use, too.

    * Assuming a reasonable list of app permissions, versus trusting a browser's JS implementation to be safe

    • (Score: 3) by bob_super on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:46PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:46PM (#25223)

      What is "a reasonable list of app permissions"? Is that a breed of unicorns?

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by MostCynical on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:59PM

        by MostCynical (2589) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:59PM (#25231) Journal

        "reasonable app permissions" are those you set - although you have to have Cyanogenmod installed to have that sort of control.

        --
        "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:22PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:22PM (#25628)

          XPrivacy (via the Xposed framework) does this as well, allowing you to provide apps with false information.

          • (Score: 2) by Open4D on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:39PM

            by Open4D (371) on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:39PM (#25880) Journal

            Interesting, thanks. I knew this kind of thing was possible with unofficial Android distros. But it looks like all I would need to do to get the "Xposed" framework (and therefore "XPrivacy") on my device as it stands is root it.

            There's a GPLv3 zero-cost version [github.com], and a couple of "Pro" versions [xprivacy.eu] with extra features.

      • (Score: 2) by Marand on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:28AM

        by Marand (1081) on Thursday April 03 2014, @06:28AM (#25354) Journal

        I don't know if that deserves +1 Funny or +1 Sad Truth.

        However, even with slightly unreasonable permissions (sometimes due to data mining, sometimes due to devs not knowing better), you probably give the app less data than you can (and do) via JS in a browser. The site potentially has every permission the browser itself does, plus access to all the usual tracking tricks like tracking cookies, images, JS link crawling, etc. to learn about your browsing habits.

        Which was ultimately my point: you can see what permissions the app wants beforehand, and in theory you also benefit from others testing the app and finding issues, but you're blindly trusting the website and any third parties it uses (including sleazy advertisers that are known to spread malware via their adverts) to run anything they want, with the potential for it to change every site load without you ever knowing it.

        What makes that a safer option than running the native app and viewing (or controlling, as was mentioned about cyanogenmod) permissions before deciding to trust the app?

    • (Score: 1) by Open4D on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:59PM

      by Open4D (371) on Thursday April 03 2014, @09:59PM (#25891) Journal

      So your mobile browsing is done with JavaScript turned off, then?

      No, so the security argument in my anti-app attitude may be on its last legs.

      But there is still the 'universal Web = good' and 'device-specific app = bad' argument, so I'm still holding out for now ...

      • (Score: 2) by Marand on Friday April 04 2014, @07:15AM

        by Marand (1081) on Friday April 04 2014, @07:15AM (#26077) Journal

        But there is still the 'universal Web = good' and 'device-specific app = bad' argument, so I'm still holding out for now ...

        I'm of two minds about that, personally. In general, I prefer native and cross-platform, especially if it's more complicated than a basic webpage. I don't like seeing everything rebuilt to run inside a browser. I like native email clients, RSS readers, word processors, etc.

        However, for basic information display, I'd prefer webpages, rather than reinventing the wheel by making an app that does little more than display a single webpage with less control of the experience.

        (That's an ideal preference thing, of course; it's completely ignoring the javascript vs. app permissions considerations I mentioned before)

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by combatserver on Thursday April 03 2014, @12:32AM

    by combatserver (38) on Thursday April 03 2014, @12:32AM (#25269)

    Considering The Guardian uses Flurry to gather data about it's own users (Flurry, by the way, is the same company that Rovio (Angry Birds) uses for it's data mining), it doesn't surprise me that The Guardian is trying to help polish Flurry's image--after all, The Guardian is the rag that originally (and ironically) published the original article about Rovio/Flurry involvement with the NSA. A belated "Oops" on the part of The Guardian--nothing more.

    From The Guardian's Privacy Policy...

    "Please visit audiencescience.com/privacy.asp, quantcast.com/privacy and flurry.com/privacy-policy.html for the privacy policy of our online behavioural targeting technology providers ."

    They're ALL after your data, and they want it to better control you.

    --
    I hope I can change this later...
    • (Score: 2) by bucc5062 on Thursday April 03 2014, @01:34AM

      by bucc5062 (699) on Thursday April 03 2014, @01:34AM (#25283)

      An honest question to this "and they want it to better control you"...how?

      How can they/do they control me when collecting this data? Understand, I am in agreement that collecting data about me sucks and I do what I can to limit it, but in the end, control?

      I don't get swayed by ad, I'm not suckered into buying what I don't want so I'm missing control. I fear the NSA and my government using information to put me in jail, but I would hope that is the difference between google/FB/whomever tracking my interests and the government.

      Again, I do what I can to limit my public exposure knowing I have to balance convenience and privacy. Thoughts?

      --
      The more things change, the more they look the same
      • (Score: 2) by combatserver on Thursday April 03 2014, @02:41AM

        by combatserver (38) on Thursday April 03 2014, @02:41AM (#25301)

        Your question would best be answered not by myself, but by available information. A Google search for "behavioral modification patents" is a good place to start. Please, don't take my word for it--look into this yourself, as only you can convince you. But, I'll throw you a couple links to start with (derived from aforementioned Google search).

        http://www.google.com/patents/US20100297591 [google.com]

        http://www.examiner.com/article/subliminal-behavio r-modification-through-tv-computer-described-us-pa tent [examiner.com]

        Now, keep in mind that the easiest way to implant subliminal information through monitors is by not increasing the duration of images, but rather the frequency of those images being displayed. Google Glass uses OLED technology that has a refresh rate upwards of 100,000 frames-per-second. Handy, if you want to insert an image 10,000 times a second without the viewer realizing it.

        Combine this all with software that constantly pushes new "commands" to the viewer, analyzes the result, alters the "commands", etc, etc. Real-time, self-correcting behavioral modification.

        Here is an interesting document from Midlands Tech that discusses such behavioral modification in terms that can be easily converted into code for processing.

        http://www.midlandstech.edu/sbs/pilkingtonl/218uni t6.htm [midlandstech.edu]

        So, you see, you could be under the influence of such behavioral modification simply by viewing this response.

        --
        I hope I can change this later...
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:09AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03 2014, @03:09AM (#25314)
          how's google's patent really related to what you're claiming?
        • (Score: 2) by bucc5062 on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:15AM

          by bucc5062 (699) on Thursday April 03 2014, @11:15AM (#25452)

          I remembered that the idea of subliminal ads had been attempted early on on the field of Movie/TV and was quickly rejected, with laws being put into effect [soylentnews.org] to stop such action.

          So the idea of Google pushing 10000 images a sec into my brain is not possible for two at least reasons,

          1 - It would be quickly discovered and publicly renounced
          2 - It would be in violation of the law.
          3 - You'd have to be wearing Glass

          I can accept that product placement, constant ad placement can potentially have an effect on people, but this is why we have adblock plus, no script and such. To combat that effect. I am sorry, but I cannot accept your position on this nor give into the FUD.

          --
          The more things change, the more they look the same
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Silentknyght on Thursday April 03 2014, @01:40AM

    by Silentknyght (1905) on Thursday April 03 2014, @01:40AM (#25284)

    I'm generally opposed to duplicating a webpage in an app, but that said, the mobile web is generally bad. It takes entirely too long to load some news sites, and then they're crammed full of useless garbage and ads. The worst also have pop-up-like graphics, which are completely awful. That ridiculous level of nonsense isn't *usually* present in the app version, in my experience.

    Then there's all the mobile browsers, and how depressing it is that there's not "one to rule them all," so of course, I run 3-4 different ones...

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by knorthern knight on Thursday April 03 2014, @02:47AM

    by knorthern knight (967) on Thursday April 03 2014, @02:47AM (#25306)

    I'm migrating to UZBL http://uzbl.org/ [uzbl.org] as my desktop PC web-browser. Some websites see that it's webkit-based, and assume I'm on a tablet/smartphone/whatever and direct me to their mobile versions, which suck. Fortunately UZBL allows one to configure the user-agent string, so I lie about it being Firefox or something.

    While we're at it, here are 2 xkcd comics that are relevant...
    https://xkcd.com/869/ [xkcd.com]
    https://xkcd.com/1174/ [xkcd.com]

  • (Score: 2) by Open4D on Wednesday April 09 2014, @01:28PM

    by Open4D (371) on Wednesday April 09 2014, @01:28PM (#28759) Journal

    From http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/09/ software-internet [theguardian.com] :

    'The browser is the operating system' 10 years on ... on mobile
    Did Marc Andreessen really say that 'the browser is the OS', and what does the new information about app use on mobile mean for it?