inessential by Brent Simmons

Native and Web Apps

John’s article Native Apps Are Part of the Web had me thinking about my own history of apps and their relationship to the web.

I fell in love with the web in the mid-’90s, and in the ’90s I worked on browser-based apps — Manila (a blogging system and CMS) most prominently.

In the 2000s I continued my love affair with the web, but I started writing native apps: NetNewsWire, an RSS reader which downloaded feeds from the web and displayed content in an HTML view; and MarsEdit, a native client for posting to browser-based blogs.

Later I worked on TapLynx, a framework for web publishers to create iOS apps, and then Glassboard, an iOS and Android group messaging app with a web backend (and even an HTML app).

These days I work on Vesper, which syncs to a web backend, and OmniFocus, which syncs via WebDAV.

Each of these is a web app in the http sense. NetNewsWire and MarsEdit even had HTML views, and Glassboard had an HTML-based version. For Vesper I even wrote a server, which was the first time in a decade I’d done server-side work.

Which is just to say that the distinction between native and web apps isn’t a true distinction. Since native apps are also web apps, and since native apps may also use HTML, the true distinction is between native apps and browser-based apps.

And I sometimes think about writing browser-based apps. I’m not anti. They’re cool, and I might write one again some day.