Offline apps

I recently saw a tweet to an old (2007) crudely named post by DHH on offline access:

“The idea of offline web applications is getting an undue amount of attention. Which is bizarre when you look at how availability of connectivity is ever increasing. EVDO cards, city-wide wifis, iPhones, Blackberry’s. There are so many ways to get online these days that the excitement for offline is truly puzzling.”

Six and a half years later this post was written by Team Hoodie about the idea of Offline First:

“Frequently not having any data connection in even the wealthiest and most developed cities of the world has led us to conclude that no, the mobile connectivity/bandwidth issue isn’t just going to solve itself on a global level anywhere in the near future.”

“We can’t keep building apps with the desktop mindset of permanent, fast connectivity, where a temporary disconnection or slow service is regarded as a problem and communicated as an error.”

I agree with Team Hoodie that offline is an often overlooked requirement: especially here in geographically sparse Australia where we get patchy mobile access, and lose all data connectivity as soon as we travel abroad (due to exorbitant roaming charges).

One of the biggest benefits I see in native mobile apps over HTML5 applications is their offline capabilities. For example, I love the TripAdvisor City Guides app which allows me to cache an entire copy of TripAdvisor for a city on my mobile device so I can use it when roaming abroad without any data connectivity or charges. To implement the same thing on their web site would not be trivial and/or may not even be possible. Offmaps is another hugely popular app that removes reliance to being online.

It’s easy to assume that the plane is the only place we don’t have connectivity (when in fact these days we probably do have some on there anyway), and I personally would love to embrace the offline first development philosophy.

Author: Alister Scott

Alister is an Excellence Wrangler for Automattic.