October 03, 2012

The New York Times Launches HTML5 Web App for iPad

Today, The New York Times released its new HTML5 Web app for the iPad. The program is now available in addition to the company’s native iPad app, and the question is: how will they compete?

For an app-imitator that lives on the Web, the competition is steep to measure up to the native app, and some suggest the HTML5 version pales in comparison to the smoother, more seasoned Apple (News Alert)-compatible version.

Director of the Nieman Journalism Lab Joshua Benton described a few problems with the Web app, saying the new version “doesn’t feel nearly as smooth or app-like as its native iPad app. It feels a bit like an older version of Android (NewsAlert) – scrolls are a little jerky, taps a little less responsive.” 

Basically the Web app feels a bit less developed than its predecessor and competitor.

The difficulty of creating an HTML5 experience that will work similarly to a standard app is sizable, as Web developer Nathan Heuning pointed out on his Twitter (NewsAlert).

Tweeted Heuning: “Web developers, it’s a simple rule: never, ever hijack my device’s native scrolling. It will always be a worse experience. #always.”

The NYTimes is a big enough company to have a dedicated following, made up of readers and users who will have high expectations and demands of the app, so even small problems will create big frustration.

Do not discount the NYTimes Web app entirely, however. The bad does come with some good, including two brand new features: Trending, and Today’s Paper.

The Trending feature is a view of the Web app you can choose to see the “most popular New York Times articles trending on Twitter in the past hour,” according to the site.

With this new view, the Times has built upon its standard social ranking of its stories based on most popular, most e-mailed and most blogged. It now includes Twitter in the mix, using the Times R&D Lab’s Cascade tool.

The Today’s Paper feature is an attempt to recreate the experience of reading The New York Times in print. The view sections out the app into Front Page, International, National, Business Day, etc. – within the layout of a print paper.

Benton describes the view as “a print replica without being an actual print replica,” and points out something interesting about this view on the web app: it ends, just as a normal paper would. There is no infinite scrolling or clicking associated with Today’s Paper, so when you finish reading the sections, you’re done. This calls back to a time when print newspaper was the only way to get the news, and seasoned readers of The New York Times are likely to appreciate and use this view with that in mind.

The HTML5 Web app is “available exclusively to and Tablet subscribers, All Digital Access subscribers and Home Deliver subscribers,” according to the site, which means it is not available to non-paying customers. This also means that paying subscribers at the lowest tier, which is $15 per month for the for smartphones, cannot get the service either.

If the Web app catches on, bottom-tier subscribers may level up and pay more, but The New York Times – and other companies interested in launching HTML5 Web apps – will have to wait and see. 

Want to learn more about HTML5? Then be sure to attend HTML5 Summit- a DEVCON5 Event, collocated with ITEXPO Austin 2012 happening now in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at HTML Summit. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Braden Becker


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