Where Did All the iPhone WebApps Go?

Sure, there are still plenty around -- plenty of good ones even -- but back before the App Store, before Apple released the iPhone SDK, WebApps were the development platform for the miraculous new mobile wireless platform.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML) were the only tools needed, Steve Jobs told us, to make delightful, dynamic applications for the iPhone. And -- by the way -- every web developer already new how to use them! As a bonus of sorts, Apple provided some simple URL handles for things like telephone numbers, and some attributes and sample behaviors that helped optimize the iPhone experience.

For a while there was a torrent of WebApps, from re-purposed websites like FaceBook and Amazon, to original content and even games. Some were great, some were okay; it depended how well the idea suited the WebApp platform.

Now, 9 months post-iPhone SDK, 6 months post-App Store launch, post 15,000 apps, and we don't hear much about WebApps anymore. Almost three months ago TiPb asked if WebApps had a future. Three months later, is the silence we're hearing our best response?

Palm has now announced their new webOS platform, which is similar to WebApps but runs locally as well and should -- though we don't know the details yet -- provide far greater hooks into the smartphone system (perhaps somewhere between WebApps and Native Apps, like Widgets). Could this kickstart the iPhone WebApp developers back into gear?

Anyone out there make, use, or find a killer iPhone WebApp lately? Know of any in the pipeline? And where do you think WebApps will be another 3 months? In another 6?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

Apple Releases iPhone SDK 2.2.1

Next up →

Whatever Happened to the iPhone's Push Notification Service?

Reader comments

Where Did All the iPhone WebApps Go?


I have to admit that I don't really use web apps at all anymore. Native apps can do more and with easier user interface IMO. I am even starting to get used to the native app built in browsers in apps like Tweetie and NetNewsWire and spending even less time in Safari. With integration with clipping and instapaper in those apps it actually is better than bookmarking in safari anyway. And it goes without mentioning that these apps are sometimes more stable than safari still :-)
Good observational post though. I am really interested to see the comments to see if there are some webapps that I should be bookmarking and visiting more often.

There are plenty of good web apps out there. My fav's are the UK Train and Cinema times apps from The Mac Box (http://themacbox.co.uk/iphone/).
It's also a great time to develop web apps with a number of competing frameworks. My company uses WebApp.Net (webapp.net.free.fr/) to develop applications for clients but there's also the popular iUI (code.google.com/p/iui/).

I was never really into web apps even during the entire year we suffered with no app store. I don't know but I only ever tried a few out and was never that impressed. I preferred to just book mark my favorite sites on the home page.
Since the app store I haven't even thought of web apps. And today a lot of the more popular websites have not just "mobile" sites but now iPhone specific versions that are really great. Other than those I am addicted to native apps from the app store.

There's an app on the apps store called 'webapp' which connects you to exactly that, webapps on the Internet. It has a list of most of them classified by category and allows you to save your favs. You may also submit any app that you find but that is not listed. I like assessing the webapps from one place and so far it works for me. The only thing really is that the number of webapps are limited and many suck. However foe the .99 cents the app cost, the risk is very low IMO.

I find that most movie native apps are so bloated, so I use Fandango we app. It's simple and effective. I use it when I decide to go watch a movie. Other than that, I find no real use of web apps any longer.

This is a very interesting concept. I don't think that webapps will go the way of the Pony Express, but the trend is showing that people want to have one touch access on their iPhone/iTouch (even though they could do this by adding the bookmark to the homescreen...but that's another story).
As for me, I prefer to have a native app as offline access is important for me. I'm a consultant and can spend many hours on a plane with no internet access, therefore rendering webapps useless for me while in the air. I'm in no way saying that I don't use webapps (I use Gyminee almost every day), but native apps offer a better option for me.

Let's see, pre app store, i had jailbroke, but I still used Toodledoo's webapp, and I used some sort of accounting app, can't remember their name other than the fact they are based out of Spain- they now have a native app. Um gmail, which I still use. Long story why I dont use the mail.app. Used Weather Underground's web app for weather.
Now, I really don't use web apps much anymore. I however, did have a friend recently show me iTorrentRelay.com which is a torrent web based client, which seems pretty cool at least at the basic level.I Don't use it so I am unsure of the details around it.
Will post more if I remember them.

first things first "already new how to use them!" - small grammar mistake in there
Webapps will have a future, probably not such ad advertised one as the native apps have, but they do have a future. We must not forget that a optimised site is after all a webapp and there are lots of sites that could benefit from optimised version for the iPhone. I'm currently working on optimising the site that hosts an open dictionary for my native language (Romanian). I am also working on a VLC web interface optimised for the iPhone (similar to VLC Remote from the app store).

I bank with Wells Fargo, and they have an amazing online banking experiance! The web app they have works beautiful and seemlessly. Just look at what their log in page looks like.

Google Reader webapp for the iPhone is still the best and fastest reader. Of course, if you are subscribed to 5 feeds native apps may work for you but anything from 20 onwards makes the apps way too sluggish. Google Reader is lighting fast.
There is definitely still room for webapps particularly those that store large amounts of information in the cloud. Fast access / instant availability to data / no syncing.

Hi Cody--My Name is Chastity and I'm with Wells Fargo's Online Customer Outreach team. I just noticed your post about Wells Fargio's mobile banking app and wanted to thank you for sharing your positive experience. If you ever have feedback for our mobile team, feel free to email me at chastitywfb@wellsfargo.com.

Go back to ALD Xadax... Stop making excuses for her lazy, self entitled, rotten, spoiled, gum throwing, rude, jealous, arrogant, don't your dare interrupt her interview, nasty attitude. She is a basher when she feels threatened and she got what her poor product deserved. She is a back to basic biiiiitttch.