The mobile tech landscape is incredibly overwhelming. Choices are brewing everywhere that range from new HTML5 technologies, native app development methods, and all sorts of CMS stuff (content management systems). As it stands, there are millions of apps available to download on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc. On paper, it seems like the obvious paradigm to build a mobile presence around. However, FiddleFly CEO Alex Kutsushin is convinced that the native app will die over time. LTG had a chance to talk to the executive as he breaks down his reasons of an app-free future.
First off, what exactly is Fiddlefly?
Alex Kutsushin (AK): FiddleFly is a platform for building mobile sites that don’t compromise how it should appear on your device. We have not found a platform powerful enough or even flexible enough to do the things we want to do on mobile. That’s how FiddleFly was born. Think of us as the Photoshop of mobile site development.
With more people downloading apps to their devices now, why do you think the native app will phase away completely?
AK: The reason why the native app will cease to exist in the future is because it is something that is hardwired to your system and right now we’re getting away from hardwire and into the cloud. And I’m not talking about just the internet. Think about the evolution of phones as it they went from being hardwired to being wireless. Same thing with the internet. Same thing with technology.
Quickbooks and Adobe products are something that you buy on the shelf or download from a website. Both are great products but you still have to go through the motions of installing them on your system. Now, obviously those are complex programs but for the apps we see today; they’re being installed on mobile devices and still having to deal with login and all that other stuff. But why do that? Why go to a store [like an app marketplace] where we have to download, ask permissions, ask for a login [if applicable] and possibly push updates to the app as well. Instead, why not build a mobile site? We’re having a complete experience browsing and interacting with content by just going to a mobile site.
Today, I landed on a mobile site asking me to download an app. I could’ve seen the same content on that site without having to download anything.
So, do you think that there isn’t going to be any scenario where someone will have to build a native app in the future?
AK: For now, I think it will be both. I don’t think there’s going to be a need for a native app specifically. If everything you can get done can be done over the web, why not through a mobile site? Now, there may be some things that you may want done through an app but I’m not sure what those things are. I can think of games since those kinds of things are heavy and would take a while for that to load and you may not want to wait. However, you and I both know that if it gets to the point where the internet is fast enough to load detailed graphics and logic, we can see just as fast a response time as a native app. At that point, we’ll just be logging in and just playing our games. It just makes more sense.
In general, I think the native app will be around for now but it will take some time before we start to see it fade away. It’s one of the main reasons why Fiddlefly is working and continues to be in business.
So is Fiddlefly basically just HTML5 being pushed through the mobile browser?
AK: Yes, but we’re more than that. We’re a mobile web platform. We work similarly to the Adobe platform. Fiddlefly is a platform for building, deploying and managing a mobile web business where we license to designers, developers, marketers, print companies, etc. They can manage hundreds of projects that can be built through our own platform that are basically web apps or simple mobile sites. Sure, what we build is making use of HTML5 but how you build it and deploy it is another story.
Essentially, we want all smartphones to access what you’ve built rather than have them stuck in a platform.
Carbyn is doing something similar. Last year, I saw them at TechCrunch Disrupt. They’ve built an ‘HTML5 OS’ that makes use of the browser. How does FiddleFly diffentiate?
AK: I have never heard of Carbyn but I can tell you that our current clients make good use of our accessible tools. Many of them comment on how powerful the tools are when they’re trying to create the most flexible of layouts and interfaces for their mobile sites. And since it’s a mobile site, any smartphone would have access to it.
Update: Synacor acquired Carbyn for $1.1 Million in January 2012. Synacor then went public for $75 million the following month after receiving a $17 million Series C round back in 2006.
How about Tiggzi? Ever heard of those guys?
AK: I know Tiggzi. We have plenty of people who have spoken to and have been in touch with Tiggzi. For those people we spoke to, they said they couldn’t use it for what it needs to be. Obviously, they [Tiggzi] do what they do best but for something more custom that’s where we come in. We’re basically the Adobe Photoshop of mobile site design. FiddleFly is the platform for professionals. Period.
That said, how is Fiddlefly doing in terms of overall growth of subscribers and clients?
AK: We are growing fast and multiplying every month. Our most basic and decent month in growth is over 250%.
Impressive. At LTG, we’re continuing to grow as a media outlet and part of our own growth includes going mobile. Convince me that Fiddlefly is the way to go in terms of providing a mobile presence for LTG.
AK: I’ll do one better, I’ll show you.
Within seconds, Kutsishin took me through a walkthrough over Fiddlefly’s service. The interface was completely done through the browser but the appearance of the builder looked desktop-like in appearance, especially when maximized. Part of the ease at which the site was being built was done right off a conceptual prototype through a Photoshop. Kutshishin then showed me a step-by-step process on how quickly he got a prototype of LTG’s website on the mobile web in a couple of clicks but also showed off the flexibility of the layouts which included linked buttons, text, lists and forms. Adding in assets from a variety of sources didn’t seem to be a problem at all.
Below is a video similarly demonstrating the same feature sets that Kutsishin showed me. The service itself had the ability add widgets and preview the mobile site in a matter of minutes:
Commentary on HTML 5 mobile development vs. native app
After the walkthrough, I gathered my thoughts on how I’d take LTG mobile. It seems overwhelming that a ton of media outlets are left with a variety of choices for mobile delivery. If someone’s in charge of a network of sites, a developer’s initial inclination is to have everyone run a consistent architecture across all his/her properties. Yet it actually makes sense to run a variety of architectures to support mobile delivery.
HTML5 and native is something I’ve been debating in my head for awhile now. Most of the debate between the two is focused on different technical features that very quickly delve into minutia. But I think my decision will come down to the type of traffic LTG has. As of this writing, LTG is still growing and we get direct traffic (i.e. bookmarked) so we’re hoping the LTG brand will carry into the native app. Now, after talking with Mr. Kutsishin, part of me wants to implement both native apps and an HTML 5 mobile view. Initially, my big question was how much would one be willing to spend. Prior to meeting FiddleFly, there are only two choices: complete and cheap or custom and expensive. Thanks to FiddleFly, that question no longer needs to be asked now that developers can build what they want for a mobile site and not break the bank.
In the future, look out for more interviews and developments as LTG delves into the businesses that drive technology forward.