Professor, Designer, Husband, Father, Gamer, Bagpiper

I tweeted a complaint that Apple was taking too long (two weeks and counting!) to approve an app I'd submitted [1], and a friend replied:

While he was mostly kidding, the answer for me is 6 iOS apps before this one, and 3 on Android. Real shipped apps that I was involved in, not just programs written or versions of apps.

But those numbers are really small (this is over many years) compared to the discrete units of content I've created and shipped on the web. Blog posts; github repos; youtube videos; and on and on. This got me thinking about the pain and work involved in making "shipable apps."

Most people intuitively think about the difficulty involved in actually creating "the app" (a game, or AR demo, or whatever). While that's certainly a lot of it, this difficulty is imposed by the granularity and polish that apps need to have, a threshold that makes it hard to release small things.

Each of these apps was a massive amount of work, especially the levels and content in the two games (Nerdherder and ElectroTerrestrials), but also documentation and samples and support channels for apps like our AR-enabled web browser Argon4. So many details to worry about, so much content, polish and consistency. And making the whole thing have replay/reuse value.

Contrast this with web apps and demos. On the web, it's easy to create and upload small, compelling bits of content or interactive experiences that are informative, fun and/or useful (or, just weird). They don't need to be perfect (they can be fixed at any time), huge (its ok to do a single interesting thing, and if you want to add more, you can always create another page or site) or polished.

This last point is especially importaint: peoples expectations for polish on web content and "apps" is very different, and the amount of effort required to achieve that polish is vastly different. Creating apps is daunting for most people, and most of what they would produce would never be accepted into the various app stores anyway (too small, too unpolished, buggy, or worst of all, "objectionable" for some reason decided solely by the gatekeepers).

This is why I love the web and am working to keep it alive, healthy, and open in the age of Mixed Reality. To make sure we have a place where everyone has a voice and can share it, in small amounts as they see fit, without having to get anyones approval.

  1. The source for the app, our WebXR Viewer, is open on github, let me know if you see any issues. ↩︎

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