Links Don’t Open Apps
Are you having trouble convincing people that they need to develop a mobile web site as part of their overall mobile strategy?
I have a solution for you. Ask the people you need to convince if they do any of the following:
- Send email to their customers?
- Participate in social media?
- Search engine optimization?
- Advertise online?
Each one of those marketing efforts is based on links. And links don’t open apps.
It seems like a basic concept, but the fact that links can only reliably open web pages is often forgotten.
This is one reason why mobile web has to be part of every company’s strategy. When someone encounters a link via an email newsletter or shared via a social network, they should be able to view that link no matter where they are and no matter what device they are using.
Technically True vs. Practical Reality
Inevitably, when I talk about how links don’t open apps at a conference, someone who wasn’t in the audience will point out that on some platforms like iOS, you can register URL schemes to open apps.
While this is technically true, it isn’t practical for most communication because:
- Not every platform offers equivalent functionality. On Android, the way to invoke applications is intents which works very differently.
- Even if you could somehow create the same url scheme on every mobile platform, the url would only work if the user had your application installed which you can’t guarantee nor control.
While saying that links don’t open apps isn’t “technically” true, it is a practical reality.
Power of Hyperlinks
The realization that links don’t open apps has triggered for me a renewed appreciation of the power of hyperlinks. When people talk about the differences between native apps and mobile web, they usually talk about difference like performance, cross platform development, and other technical factors.
Rarely do we talk about hyperlinks and the power it provides the web. No native platform will be able to replicate the universal utility of links any time soon.
We should stop worrying about whether or not native apps can do certain things better than web technology, and instead talk about what makes the web unique, powerful, and universal.