to HTML5: show me the money

Maybe HTML5 will indeed make the technology stack for iPhone apps obsolete. But Greg points out that there’s nothing to substitute for the business stack:

Beyond the technical capacities of native vs. web apps, I think we underestimate the value of the ecosystem of small app business that Apple has created with the store.

Sometimes the web makes things free as in “liberated” but sometimes it makes things free as in “worthless”.

I don’t want to turn into a closed source anti-freedom reactionary, but there’s got to be some place in here for a business model for app makers.

What could we put in HTML5 that would support that?

How about an app-installation app? It would enable any developer to make their app available, handle payment, and install the app. There could be more than one of these. Or how about an in-app payment engine that enabled seamless transactions?

Are these feasible? Would they have an impact?

The world of Windows developers is full of small shops that make a decent living. They have to live in Microsoft’s shadow, and under the shadow of Microsoft’s falling foot sometimes, but even so these developers may well be happier and do better work than many of the no-$ projects on Sourceforge.

4 thoughts on “to HTML5: show me the money

  1. The app installation app you describe is basically: an app store!

    Functionally, the service lets us: find something, pay for it (unless it’s free), get it. So, Apple has done a lot to make all three of those dimensions work together: findability, ease of payment, ease of “installation.”

    I think Apple is weakest at that global “find something” kind of findability–it isn’t that easy to find apps or content via iTunes. In contrast, for example, Google and Amazon have a lot going for them in helping people find things across big webs of choices.

    Ease of payment is key: Apple gets people to have an account with an associated credit card, and then certain interactions via iTunes trigger charges, without us having to re-enter credit card info or establish a new account.

    Amazon, Google and PayPal each provide similar services across the web, with Amazon’s tie-in to its own store being the most like iTunes.

    A big part of the future for the Apple App store is in-app purchases like buying books. And that seems like a good example of how it’s the platform rather than the app format itself that’s enabling people to pay for things.

    “Installation,” in terms of being HTML, is interesting–not so much because of any fine line between remote and local apps, but because of the idea of a collection of things (apps) that Apple has introduced with the iPhone.

    It’s really findability again: having a set of things installed is about having a simple way to browse and organize “your things” more than it’s about having something be truly local vs remote (e.g., many iPhone apps don’t work at all without a remote connection–they are “installed” but almost like bookmarks to something online).

  2. There are actually several alternate app download mechanisms for the iPhone platform, from the installers of the jailbreaking scene (Cydia, Installer, etc) to PhoneGap apps that simply display a list of web apps to websites that are simple landing pages. Given that the iPhone platform supports local web apps (via manifests for caching, local storage, the navigator object in Javascript, web page app launcher icons, etc), I don’t seen any significant problems with installing web apps on the iPhone today. Download and play Neven Mrgan’s Pie Guy if you don’t believe me.

    However, to return to the original question of whether HTML5 could (or should) include anything that creates a business model for app makers, I say no. HTML5 is (should be) a technology standard, not a way to directly make money. Who runs the HTML5 App Store? Who charges the user and passes on money to the developer? The W3C? Looking at it from another way, there’s no reason you can’t drop in PayPal, Amazon FPS, or something similar to your web app and charge for the app or special features (in-app purchases) today.

    Of course, the point is that Apple has created a system where the technology is tied to the platform API which is tied to the discovering, sales, and delivery mechanisms. The general web doesn’t have this, both to its detriment and benefit.

    I’m sure I went off on a tangent and Greg simply meant that people are more willing to pay for iPhone apps than for web page content. In the end this is a psychological issue more than a technical issue. HTML5 can’t be made any better to make developers money directly from users.

  3. How about at least authorship? Isn’t there scope to include in HTML5 a standardised means of indicating authorship and providing some kind of non-http link to the author, e.g. a digital signature (that only the true author is able to corroborate).

    Future business models are more likely to be about the users making deals with the author (paying them directly), than purchasing copies or licenses from authorised resellers.

    Obviously, with (free) software, there is a lineage of authors and teams thereof, but each deriving author can indicate the authorship of the work they built upon as well as their derivative – thus enabling the entire provenance of the work to be traced.


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