Tom Insam

Intents vs First-mover advantage

If I want to share an URL to Instapaper on Android, and it’s implemented the nice generic “share” button, I can do so, even if the author of the sending app has never heard of Instapaper, or I have no internet access to make the required “add” API call. If I want to do the same thing from an iOS app, I have to hope the sending app has built-in Instapaper support. I have to log into Instapaper (using a password, how quaint) in the app concerned. With a few exceptions, I have to have internet access when I want to do the share.

This gives Instapaper huge early-mover advantage on iOS. If I want to compete, it’s not enough to write an app and web service. I have to persuade every app maker that can share urls to include my app, making their app more complicated, adding options to their app, confusing their users.

Last week, Google Plus for iOS added a feature - if you have Chrome for iOS installed, Google Plus will open links in Chrome rather than using the iOS browser. Apparently other apps may be doing this as well soon. The thought of having to choose my preferred web browser in every single app installed on my phone (except for those apps that don’t support it and therefore will be wrong) fills me with the fear. Will I have to do the same thing to let me use some hypothetical Google Maps application later? How about email clients?

Do we need some 3rd-party library that will know about all possible web browsers and maps clients and email clients and read-later clients, and twitter clients, etc, etc, etc, and standardises this “open in” behaviour? I can’t see that such a thing would violate any particular Apple rules. I t would just be a huge pain in the neck and horrible to use.