Welcome to the post-appstores era

exciting times ahead for web developers

When I started my company adsy.me 17 months ago, I had no idea we would end up leading the html5 advocacy movement. We had no preconceived plans in the early days to ship our “application to create applications” as a mobile WEB app. Actually we were about to go the hybrid way, just as most web developers do it when it comes to web-based apps distribution, i.e. wrapping your creation inside a web viewer connected to the core functions of the device.

But when I saw what my co-founder Alexandru Petrisor was able to achieve with web technologies (html5 / css3 / js) inside a mobile browser, I just said: wow, wtf, it simply rocks, let’s do it this way! Let’s create the best mobile web app ever, with such a good UX that anyone who wouldn’t see the browser window around the content would just think: it’s a native app! I’m not a developer myself, I’m just a (very very) heavy user of mobile services and I approached this venture as the average Joe. If adsy.me would do the job properly as a web app, we would release it… as a web app. It would be our credo: #noappstores

It was by no means an easy job, believe me. To craft a mobile web app so that it pleases the uber-demanding average user, accustomed to the fluidity of native apps, is a real labour of love. We were lucky to have on board an iOS (me) & an android (Alex) fan, so we had no preference in terms of platform optimization: adsy.me had to work exactly the same way on iOS6+ and on android4.1+ platforms to equally please both co-founders.

Every single stage of the development was a huge challenge: the import & cropping of pictures at lightning speed using custom-made compression algorithms, the responsiveness of taps (far better than the usual jquery mobile laggy experience), the smoothness of scrolling in the feed, the swiping between pages, calling & hiding the keyboard without breaking the app container, the beauty of transitions, the initial loading speed, the local storage, the upload & retrieval of pictures and plugins, the orientation issues, our magic touch function to create hyperlinks between pages as if you were using a fluo marker, etc etc. What a journey! And it’s only the beginning…

We started by crafting the app optimized for smartphones, the smallest device. We iterated tens of times, modifying the flow, changing the position of the icons, the intro, the publication stage and many more aspects of the UX, removing anything we could while building a truly deep & sophisticated tool, which would be interesting both for kids and professional designers. Compromise after compromise, we released a first version in private beta earlier this year. Then, before starting to properly spread the word, we worked for 3 months on porting the UX to desktop PC (& tablets), replacing touch by clicks and adapting some UX elements (for instance to customize content on mobile you tap on an element, to edit, you long press. You can also rotate & resize using two fingers. Whereas on PC we give you four handles at the corners of a bounding box to edit/customize/rotate/resize).

On April 16th 2014, we released our cross-platform web app on iOS/android smartphones / tablets and on PC. We reached 2,000 registered users on May 6, 3 weeks after launch. And the early feedback has been amazing. We see use cases that we wouldn’t have expected: a cinema from Puerto Rico sharing their programme including trailers from Youtube, parents creating apps about their kids activities, teens telling the story of their recent vacation or creating a school essay, an irish Hockey Club recruiting new members, NFL fans highlighting the best players of the league, someone inviting friends to a BBQ, a church in New Zealand sharing their agenda,… Beyond the content creator, we also designed a fully fledged social network where users can follow each other, like & comments apps. We want to offer content creation, distribution & promotion.

Some people see in adsy the Geocities (meets Hypercard) of Generation Touch, but with good taste (no blinking marquees). We don’t know yet what it will become 5 years from now (wish us the rise & not the fall of the ill-fated Geocities) but one thing is sure, I’m intensely proud of my developers, Alex & Iulian, their dedication and their resilience, and I’m convinced we have taken the right decision to go web and openly distribute adsy.me on the internet rather than confining it to the walled gardens of the appstores. The user experience is so much better: one tap/click access, no download, no waiting time: instantly create & enjoy great looking content across platforms. We believe that we will soon enter a post-appstore era (and even, one day, a post-app / post-smartphones era, as recently envisioned by Evernote’s Phil Libin).

And the funny thing is that by taking this rather bold decision, we’re, in a way, paying tribute to the original vision of Steve Jobs, back in 2007, a few weeks before the iphone launch. I will keep his wise words as the “one last thing” for today, see the video below.

Enjoy adsy.me #becreative We love the #crazyones.