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April 23, 2011

With iApps Surging, Apple Seemingly Abandons Web Apps

Considering the dramatic success of Apple's App Store for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, it seems remarkable that at the 2007 introduction of iPhone, the device was not set up for third party native applications, with Steve Jobs and crew suggesting standards-based Web apps were the way for developers to design for the device. A June 2007 press release gushed over secure and reliable apps designed on Web 2.0 Internet standards, but by July of 2008, the App Store launched as part of iTunes, and hundreds of thousands of apps have found their way to iDevices. Meanwhile, the Web Apps directory on the Apple Web site has atrophied, not having updated in nearly five months - while competitors such as Google push for Web app development inside Chrome.

The Web Apps directory on Apple.com looks much like the iTunes App store, Mac App Store or other application directory, including the Android Market, with "Most Recent", "Most Popular", "Alphabetical" and "Staff Picks" across many different categories, including "Games", "News", "Social Networking" and others. But if you look at the most recent content, you don't see anything new since December 3rd 2010, and Puck Billiards, posted on November 30th, has enjoyed the exclusive Staff Picks position for the entirety of the duration.

Puck Billiards Has Been Featured Since 11/30/10.

Prior to the directory's freeze, staff picks for Web apps were issued every few days. The staff picks page shows other highlighted apps posted November 18th, 29th, 30th, December 2nd and 3rd and then nothing. No mention of a change in status for the directory, or future plans. If you are a developer looking to submit a Web App, you can still do so, or provide feedback to the directory, but it's not completely clear anybody's listening.

Apple's Web Apps Page from a Previous Era Is Still Live

In contrast to the hundreds of thousands of apps on the App Store, Apple's Web Apps splash page mentions "over 1700 web apps to flick and scroll through", but this page too is clearly in the dustbin of history. The 1,700 number was live as of January 2009 (according to Archive.org), made even more antiquated with no mention of the iPad, referring only to iPhone and iPod touch.

iOS has been an incredible platform, an extremely lucrative one for Apple and its developer community. But the silence on Web apps makes it look as if they just walked away. The right thing to do would be to close submissions, shut down the page, and put up a note saying the directory won't be updated.