Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The NY Times & HTML5: "This Is A First Step."

I felt a tiny burst of joy on my morning commute today when I read that the New York Times was going to launch an HTML5 version of its digital edition. Then I had a cow when I discovered that it was iPad only.

I Tweeted disapproval with my usual reserve:

I also wrote to the Times, which quickly responded:

"We wanted to test the Web App among a highly engaged audience of NYT subscribers, which made the iPad a natural choice," spokeswoman Linda Zebian wrote back. "This is the first step, but the HTML5 format does allow us to explore the idea of launching Web-based apps other platforms in the future."

Indeed it does. The question is, why wait and do even a tiny bit of damage to your street cred as a leader in the digital arena? And invite unfavorable comparison (as I did) to the Financial Times, whose HTML5 app works great on both the iPad/Safari and Nexus 7/Chrome/Jelly Bean?

@OttoBerks had a thought:

This makes sense, and hews to the Times' reply.

It just all seems a little strange. Sure the Android universe isn't huge in tablets, but it is huger than iOS on smartphones (and, guess what, the FT web app rocks there as well).

Why rush — especially since it doesn't seem to be an end-run around the iTunes store; the Times will continue to make the app available, unlike the FT, which pulled it to save that 30% fee.

The Times has lovely iOS and Android apps — the latest upgrade for the Nexus 7 makes it leaner and more navigable. But the appeal of using HTML5 — apart from the cross-platform advantage the Times has forgone for the time being — is that you are better able to lay things out and, more importantly, apply updates dynamically. For a news app the latter is critical and the former an increasingly nice-to-have, since one of the features of the paper itself is the ability to offer nuanced hierarchal clues besides just top-to-bottom headlines.

I'm looking forward to seeing this new Times app on my iPad, when I get home tonight. But it would be AWESOME, New York Times, if you could knock out the Android version by the time I take my evening commute ...

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