Going fully web

Why I stopped making iOS apps after twelve years.

I have been working on iOS apps since 2009; I started with a collaboration with Wil on AudioScrub (née iLift), and eventually went solo in 2014. After twelve years on the App Store, I've decided it's time to go all-in on the web and would like to share what that means and outline the tradeoffs involved.

The spur for this change occurred years ago after the launch of my seventh app sonogrid. Although the project had iterations over several years, it mostly came together in the summer of 2018: I overworked myself for months, with incessant attention to detail, and was eager to present this to people I would meet during my upcoming trip to Colombia (they really love music there, and this app was for music lovers).

The app launched to a good reception online within various iOS music app communities, but to my dismay, most of the Colombians I met in person were not able to access it because Apple devices are prohibitively expensive there. I would offer to demo the app on my phone and let the other person play with it after: repeatedly, they would enjoy the interface and become immersed in a fun creative process, only to become disappointed on learning that it's not on Android. It was hard to resolve the contradiction between producing something I was super proud to share—a kind of magnificent zenith in my iOS trajectory—and realizing that only half the world can use it.

This was a bit deflating, and I wasn't motivated to do double the work just because of platform duopolies. Added to this was the more subtle but long-standing aversion to the 'review process' that native apps go through before appearing on the App Store: I was hesitant to invest further in an environment with little control and leverage over my own future, with a constant fear of 'reviewer rejection' and the rug slipping out from under me at any time. So I took a step back and haven't updated many of my iOS apps since then.

In place, I worked on various web components and put them together to create about a dozen web-based projects. Contrasting the experience between the web and native (i.e. iOS) worlds, I feel more enthusiastic about how the web is evolving. It can still be 'limited' in comparison to native apps, but that gap is gradually closing and most of my ideas already fit within what's currently possible.

Why you should choose Web over Native

Just to review, in case it's not obvious, there are some more commonly understood reasons for choosing the web over native:

The challenges of the web for developers like myself is to help people 'cross the chasm' that exists due to a lack of common patterns for interacting with apps:

There are plenty of people working to create open solutions to these 'missing features'; it seems like a solvable problem with time.

What it’s like making Native Apps

(Feel free to skip this section if you'd rather not hear me complain about Apple.) I'm sharing some negative aspects of my experience making native apps with hesitation, not to be a downer but because there might be people that aren't really familiar with the developer side:

There are obviously lots of positives to native platforms as well, but these kinds of things weigh down smaller operations like mine, favouring large companies with resources and time to deal with this ever-growing complexity.

Developing for Web

Despite the web's challenges, there's much that excites me about its future and some of these characteristics are intrinsic to the platform:

My iOS apps have been quietly free for a while. By mid February 2022, they will disappear forever; I'm not completely sure how this works—I understand you can continue to use them, perhaps even re-download them, but only if you already have it. I would like to eventually re-make them for the web (be welcome to join me or keep me alive). In the meantime, enjoy these apps while they last. I'm jumping headfirst into a world bubbling with new possibilities and excited to develop for the largest open pool of people on the planet.

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