4 min read
Over on the Intercom.io blog, Paul Adams discusses the "end of apps as we know them":
How we experience content via connected devices – laptops, phones, tablets, wearables – is undergoing a dramatic change. The idea of an app as an independent destination is becoming less important, and the idea of an app as a publishing tool, with related notifications that contain content and actions, is becoming more important. This will change what we design, and change our product strategy.
Specifically, he discusses cards: containers that include content and actions on that content. The latest iterations of the iOS and Android notification centers introduce this as a dominant paradigm. What used to be a list of text notices has turned into a stream of widgets, each with their own contextual information and set of inline actions.
This makes a ton of sense for apps on a mobile device, which are typically software agents that retrieve information for you in the background, and serve it to you in a lightweight way. Your email app gets your email, your calendar tells you about meetings you have coming up and new invitations, and so on.
But it's also an interesting thing to think about in the context of web content. Kevin Marks has been talking about cards for a while, and they start to become very interesting indeed when you begin to subscribe to content from disparate sources (rather than, eg, homogenous user accounts on a single site like Facebook or Twitter).
In a fully-decentralized system, which is what the web really is, each node can be running its own software with its own capabilities. Each user profile and content source can be running its own platform, and can make different content types and actions possible.
We've been trained to think about interactions on social content as being one of the following:
This is because, almost without exception, we participate in social silos and monocultures where everybody is using the same platform. When everyone uses the same software to power their content, everyone has access to the same content types, and everyone can use the same interactions.
If everybody you interact with is using a different platform, however, there's suddenly the potential for everyone to have access to different content types with different actions associated with them.
- I can click on a bread recipe and say that I've made it.
- I can play a game and save a high score.
- I can respond to a Yo with another Yo.
In this context, your subscriptions begin to look like app notification cards. Each piece of content on your friends list has a common container, but it might contain completely different content - and completely different buttons to interact with it. The source of the content becomes responsible for the form, content and logic of your subscription. And the line between a subscription and a notification blurs into nonexistence.
For this to really work, we need a common framework for authentication between the source and the reader, that's flexible enough to support custom actions. For apps, the device operating system provides much of this framework. For the web, something less hardware-centered is required. I believe that many of the indieweb technologies can provide this support. (It's also interesting to think about Chrome's notification experience in this context.)
Just as apps are becoming integrated into the fabric of the mobile experience, social content can become more integrated into the web. Imagine a single page containing all of the content you want to subscribe to, in all its disparate forms, ready for you to interact with it in a contextually appropriate way. Because it's the web, you can remix it: some might consume it as a stream, while others might consume it as a wall of cards, and others still might build animations or lightweight dashboards. Think of them as social snippets, ready to be combined into an active feed that can be configured for your needs.
Just as apps are learning from the web, the web can learn from the way apps are becoming elements in a much more seamless experience.