Apple Broke The Internet

We almost made it

The last decade has been the decade of the Internet. The focus of our lives shifted from the local to the global. Our applications transformed into services. The desktop application made way for the website, the web application, accessible everywhere. We almost made it.

In the web development community, there has been a lot of commotion over Internet standards. These are the standards that define how web applications should be built. Up until 2005, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the dominant browser, but it was broken. It didn’t adhere to the standards. Microsoft didn’t need to. They were the only game in town. So developers built for Internet Explorer, and not for standards.

During the second half of the decade, web developers had to support multiple browsers. When building the site, they had to resolve the Internet Explorer’s quirks along side Firefox’s rigid support for standards. Slowly, Microsoft realized it was losing market share, and it updated its browser. Now all four major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome) support the standards fairly well and it is much easier to develop web sites. We almost made it.

Ubiquitous, accessible services, from any browser on any device. Almost.

One iPhone To Rule Them AllSteve Jobs Delivers iPad

The iPhone changed the landscape for web applications. With the AppStore, the rich capabilities of the iPhone, and the lack of Flash, it made a lot of business sense to build an iPhone application for the service. YouTube, Facebook and even your local bank, all doubled-up their efforts and brought you an application to go along with their corporate website. It’s just this one, very lucrative, market, you see.

The smartphone war is just beginning. Android, Windows Mobile 7 and Symbian^3 are coming out as well, each with it’s own set of devices, software tools, application store and no apparent standards. Internet standards have just become obsolete.

The mobile Internet is coming, but it isn’t coming with websites for mobile devices. It’s coming with application for mobile devices. Being a service provider just became a whole lot more complicated. The company now need to support four or five different applications (including one website) so their customers will be able to use our service and pay us money. Installable software. So 90’s.

Net Neutrality Took One For The Team

With these events over on the mobile side of things, I’m extremely amused by all the fuss on the Net Neutrality front. Don’t get me wrong, I think Net Neutrality is extremely important, I just think we’ve already lost the battle.

The iPhone had 99.7% of the mobile application market in 2009. It’s too expensive for most service providers to support more than a couple of product lines. They have a website and an iPhone application, so they abandon the mobile website or any other device.

Net Neutrality tries to protect the openness of the Internet, so we all get the same access to the Internet, no matter which Internet provider we are using. I may get neutral network access from my Telco provider, but I’m not getting any neutrality from my device provider. It’s a good thing most services have a website, so I can always find my content there, but there are some iPhone specific services that are not accessible on any other device. So, in our day and age, where does the Internet stop: at the router, at the browser or in my device? I’m sure we don’t want to regulate these devices or services. I just wonder if there’s any point in pretending we can preserve the notion of the free and open Internet.

We almost made it, but Apple broke Net Neutrality with the iPhone.

  • Sagiv

    Actually – the iPhone has a pretty good web browser (safari) integrated very tightly into the OS. You can even put links to webapps that look and feel just like ‘regular apps’ on the ‘desktop’.

    As I see it – Apple aren’t the ones to blame here – but the service providers that for some reason yet unclear to me decided to build iphone apps instead of generic webapps.

  • http://omergertel.com Omer Gertel

    You are right, the browser is very good, however Apple is deliberately limiting it were it competes with applications.
    For example, the lack of Flash support, is used to block online gaming and online video.

    Read more at Both Sides of The Table.

  • http://innovationimitation.blogspot.com/ innovationimitation

    Hi Omer,
    you raise an interesting point – as always politicians are far behind current technological reality. But maybe its for the best, we wouldn’t want to choke innovation every time there is a concern for consumer’s long-term benefit.
    That being said, I don’t think that Net Neutrality discussion is rendered obsolete by today’s mobile web, since it’s concern is less to do with end-consumers, and more with small service providers. Once telecoms are allowed to filter and prioritize content that goes through their pipes, we will end up with Web becoming Cable TV. Myriad of start-ups continually inventing and innovating will be replaced by corporations offering you Web-packages (get basic “news-and-weather.com” package for free, pay for premium “TweetYouFace.com” entertainment)

  • http://omergertel.com Omer Gertel

    This is a fine point you make. Net Neutrality is aimed at the service providers, not at the consumers. I’ve realized this only a little bit after posting this blog post. Still, telecom blocks all sorts of applications, and control what you can install on your device (like blocking Skype). If apps are the default method for mobile devices, instead of websites, I’m not sure the end user is protected yet.
    Has there been any ruling about blocking VOIP, etc.?

  • http://innovationimitation.blogspot.com/ innovationimitation

    I remember reading some time ago that FCC got involved in the case when Apple blocked Google Voice app for iPhone. Don’t think they will go as far as getting some regulation in place, but at least they made an audible request for clarification of Apples practices.