My Vanilla mobile vision (I'm allowed to dream in the general banter category)

rbrahmsonrbrahmson "You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one"NY ✭✭✭

Yes, I know, we don't need apps, there are those wonderful mobile themes, it's so much work for little gain, mobile development is not the same platform (who does php in mobile?) and probably few more reasons I forgot to mention.

But then I challenge anyone who uses a mobile device to commit to only use their browser on their device for email, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else they often use. Do this for a week and then come back here and tell me whether the dedicated app experience is not superior.

My fear is that the future of the platform is at risk. Not because of Facebook prominence but because of the move to mobile. I had this concern for a while and I just hope that one day we'll discover that unexpectedly the Vanilla team drop this capability on us (ergo the "I'm allowed to dream" in the title).

Today I stumbled upon this article from Computerworld about Google Spaces. The article also mentions Slack. Neither are exactly forum software, but they are close enough and both work on the desktop with native apps on ios and Android. There's even a saying by some that every software evolves until it contains messaging, which speaks of the power and need for conversations, a need fulfilled by forums. I suggest you look at the article not from the point of view of comparison to Vanilla but to see how close it is to forums.

This is a dream, don't blame the dreamer for his dreams are not under his control. Neither is he responsible for the stimuli the fast changing techno world throws at him. He is responsible for typing up his dreams and is now crouching in expectations of major counterblows☺

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  • whu606whu606 I'm not a SuperHero; I just like wearing tights... Moderator

    I honestly don't understand what capability you think is missing, that can't be added in a mobile theme.

    I'd say half our users (on my site) are from mobile devices and they all manage to do what they want.

  • rbrahmsonrbrahmson "You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one" NY ✭✭✭

    Hi @whu606 - as I wrote, until you cease using native apps in mobile and force yourself to use the mobile browser to do email and the rest you won't feel anything missing. But once you do you realize that the user experience is different. The king is not naked - all these companies who spent money on developing native apps didn't waste their money.

  • R_JR_J Cheerleader & Troubleshooter Munich Moderator

    Have you ever used facebook on your mobile browser? I have used when they had no app and I remeber that I was really excited then, on how well it has been designed. It's really fun to use it. And in fact I do not use the app, but an interface (called Tinfoil) which shows me the mobile page. I do this because I do not like to allow access facebook to all my private data.
    I do not want to talk bad about someone else, but I would guess that their motivation for the app is partly because the first thing they did when you used their app was downloading your contact list.
    For a company an app is a way to get much (very, very, very much!) more detailed information from their users than when they just open their home page. Your private data is the money you pay for "free" services today. An app allows to get more data/money than a web page. Easy like that.

    So much to my opinion why there are so many apps with no benefit over a web site.

    The browser nowadays has access to some of your mobile phones hardware: http://www.html5rocks.com
    What is missing badly are notifications, but this is on its way: https://www.w3.org/TR/push-api/

    I ask you the same question as whu606: what features/functionality do you think cannot be covered by a web page?
    User experience is just a result of design and functionality.


    whu606
  • hgtonighthgtonight ∞ · New Moderator

    I agree that apps can provide a better user experience by leveraging the native look and feel of their device. They can also provide intimate access to the device via hardware, files, and services.

    I understand this is a "dreams, thoughts, and discussions" type post, but I see no actionable items other than start developing an app. This is outside my, and I would assume others, wheelhouse and passion.

    I would suggest talking to some passionate ios/android/wp developers about using Vanilla as the backend for a forum app. You can use the existing API application as a restful backend.

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  • rbrahmsonrbrahmson "You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one" NY ✭✭✭

    It's obviously a matter of choice but I bet that given the choice most users use the app rather than a browser interface.
    I really like the Gmail app on my phone. Tried to use the browser version and it's not as good. My guess is that because the development environment is different they have different teams and that results in divergent implementations with the app team leveraging the best of the Android capabilities and the browser trying to leverage the browsing environment as best as they can within the screen size constraints.

    I read somewhere that at some point when Google had less apps in their app store than Apple they tried to push html5 as "the way of the future" and that the chrome os and it's own app store will eventually obsolete phone/tablet apps. But even they succumbed to the market reality.

    My own lack of creativity and inventiveness as to what features I need that cannot be done on the Web is immaterial to where the market shifts. It is not me or you who control the market, whether we think the market is right or wrong. BTW, just to ensure I am understood, by market I mean the users, not us, and even more the users who are not yet our captive audience. Growth is where the new users could come from, and they are increasingly in the mobile app paradigm. That last sentence, IMHO, is the key.

  • whu606whu606 I'm not a SuperHero; I just like wearing tights... Moderator
    edited May 2016

    Each to their own.

    However, also bear in mind that we and our users also make up part of the market.

    If people can't come up with concrete and convincing reasons why

    native app > mobile

    then I doubt there is going to be a big market impact.

    And if a native app forum solution outperforms Vanilla, fair play to it, but I doubt I would bother switching.

  • rbrahmsonrbrahmson "You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one" NY ✭✭✭

    Well, as you say, to each his own. I'm not sure which one I'll use, I just hope we (the Vanilla community) won't miss out on a growing market.
    Thanks for your and everyone's feedback. Hope someone in Vanilla gives this a thought.

  • LincLinc Director of Development Detroit Vanilla Staff
    edited May 2016

    There's two big concepts here:

    1. A mobile app is a huge investment.
    2. Forums are fundamentally decentralized.

    To the first point, our roadmap for this year is full of changes that fundamentally alter our platform, so this is a particularly inopportune moment to pursue this. Also, we are not currently staffed to undertake such a project. I'm also unsure there is a business case for this; it's not a request we're getting from our clients.

    To the second point, you point at a bunch of centralized services to show how mobile apps are the clearly superior way forward. It's an entirely other matter to make apps for independent entities. Are you proposing that we have a customizable binary that developers independently get cleared for listing in the app stores? I don't see any other way to do this and meet the branding needs of organizations, yet do we really want to support that entirely new, parallel software workflow? Look at how many people have trouble just installing and maintaining our web software. Now we're a mobile apps company too?

    I agree with your overall concerns about the slickness of mobile vs. the web. But stepping into this area asks more questions than it answers, and I don't currently see anyone in the community doing more public problem solving than wishing.

    Shadowdare
  • R_JR_J Cheerleader & Troubleshooter Munich Moderator

    Just in order to get a little more insight if there might be something useful, I've just downloaded the xda app.
    I think those guys should know what they are doing and so I hope they've done a good job: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.quoord.tapatalkxdapre.activity


  • rbrahmsonrbrahmson "You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one" NY ✭✭✭

    @linc - I am not suggesting a solution because (1) as you can see, there is not yet an acceptance that there is a problem to solve, and (2) it is not my place - I'm not privy to your internal strategy, what you have considered and discounted, etc.

    All I am saying is that there is a growing number of users (not yet on Vanilla) that do more of their work on the mobile app platforms and that seems to be the growth market. That lead me to concerns about the long term viability of browser-only forum platforms. The key phrases are growth market and long-term. By definition long term does not mean right now, just before it's too late.

    @R_J - I haven't played with the XDA apps (there are two), but XDA seems to be a very technical-oriented forum, not necessarily representative of the wide market. That said, here is what I found on the Android Play store:
    The XDA for Android 2.3 app is in the 1-5 million installs band (Google doesn't give exact numbers) and the one you pointed to (XDA Premium) is in the 500,0000-1 million band. The new one requires a higher version of Android. Based on the url you can tell that both are based on Tapatalk (probably private labeled) which on its own is in the 10-50 million installs. There are other forum apps on the play store (here is a subset of the list - I have no clue about them or if they really are generalized forum apps: Forum Runner, EZ Forum, One-Plus Forums).

  • Browser and native apps have been converging over the last few years. Its not going as fast as some people may have hoped, but the browser is the operating system of the future.

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  • rbrahmsonrbrahmson "You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one" NY ✭✭✭

    @Bleistivt - We can differ on our opinions about the future, but I don't believe that is the case any more. Just last week Google said that they will make their Android app store supported on their Chrome OS (bringing apps into what was supposed to be a browser-only OS). That is not a step that converges these operating systems, that is a step that confirms the long term viability of apps and unrealistic past prediction that a web solution is sufficient.

    I will concur with you (and perhaps others) that this is unfortunate for I clearly see the efficiency of having to develop software for a single universal platform (web). But the reality is not what I wish it to be...

  • LincLinc Director of Development Detroit Vanilla Staff

    @rbrahmson said:
    based on Tapatalk (probably private labeled) which on its own is in the 10-50 million installs.

    Tapatalk is a cautionary tale (novel?) moreso than a blueprint for success.

    I don't see a clear path forward with a generic forum app.

    @Bleistivt said:
    Browser and native apps have been converging over the last few years. Its not going as fast as some people may have hoped, but the browser is the operating system of the future.

    Indeed, and this is an aspect of Vanilla development I appreciate more and more the longer I'm here: planning, not chasing. Even if we need to go full-on mobile app, we're several steps from there. But we're moving that way carefully by addressing issues that help us either way (performance, architecture, API, and redesigned workflows).

  • phreakphreak VanillaAPP - White label iOS and Android App MVP
    edited May 2016

    I'm not going to join the "Importance of an App"-debate. To my projects it is not avoidable for several reasons that i outlined before in a similar thread. Mosr runners of mid to big size forums should be able to see something i call "The 2nd bloodbath for forum communities". Most of you who run a forum do know what i mean. If you have a forum and don't know... check your analytics from 2013 onwards.

    I've been using Tapatalk for 4 forums amd 8 apps and it was a nightmare... honestly don't touch that if you are running a not so popular forum software. Even if you run phpBB take a look at every step they took the last years. They are changing their business model all the time and they won't ask you before they do fundamental changes to the BYO apps. I think they already gave up supporting Vanilla also. And that's good. I don't know how many people got tricked into their horrible integration.

    I'm working with 2 developers on native apps for Vanilla and we are currently very far with the basic Vanilla functions. It's quiet difficult though as the API from Kasper, the JSON links and some scraping has to be done to get many functionalities working. We will also implement several plugins. I'm financing and designing this app. If anyone is honestly interested in a whitelabel, let me know. Once the new API will be out we will adept the apps to it.

    Here is a an older design draft for the iOS version. We are currently working on conversations and the integration of plugins. Android development has also started last week.


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  • rbrahmsonrbrahmson "You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one" NY ✭✭✭

    @Linc said:

    @rbrahmson said:
    based on Tapatalk (probably private labeled) which on its own is in the 10-50 million installs.

    Tapatalk is a cautionary tale (novel?) moreso than a blueprint for success.

    I don't see a clear path forward with a generic forum app.

    I completely agree that tapatalk is not the desired solution, my point is that despite its many deficiencies it has so many downloads which I think confirm the interest of the mobile users in a native app solution.

    If the conversation moved from "there's no need" to "the need is too expensive to address" or "there's no good way to address the need" then I consider the conversation a success for we're no longer in denial.

  • whu606whu606 I'm not a SuperHero; I just like wearing tights... Moderator

    Sorry, @rbrahmson, but who is in denial?

    Perhaps people don't accept your premise, rather than fail to spot what you appear to see as the obvious?

  • rbrahmsonrbrahmson "You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one" NY ✭✭✭

    But of course nobody should accept my premise, it's a free (and open) world. All I'm saying that the millions who downloaded the XDA apps even though it is powered by the deficient tapatalk should mean something. My opinion (just an opinion) is that it speaks of a need.

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