Remember mobile-only websites? They were those ugly, virtually text-only versions of your favorite site shrunk down and dummified to work on your no-resolution, no-bandwidth phone. Those were the days. And, as Bill Cosby once opined, "We were grateful." Luckily that period of time is behind us, right?
The truth is that we're dealing with new, neo-crap in our mobile browser. Deep linking, free browsing, and other things we have on our home PC are quickly being flushed down the toilet. Here's example one: Let's say I give you a story link to, say, Fast Company. I like to read, so my friends, frenimies, and colleagues always send me stuff via email, and I'll do the same. And, like many of you, I'm usually reading it on a tablet. So you get an email link to the story saying "iPhone 5 revealed!", you click on it excitedly, the story URL appears for just a second… and then you get sent to the Fast Company homepage.
It happens to me at least once a day, and every time I turn into the freaking FFFUUUUU! guy. Worse, blogs are updating more frequently than ever, so a new post on, say, the otherwise decent Complex Magazine website could be off the front page and buried somewhere deep within the article pile-on. You know what usually happens? I close my browser and delete the original link email. The end.
More concerning is the digital lockout happening on our tablets. Publishers are actually recognizing your device and deciding if you are allowed to access the content. A couple weeks ago I went to read the New York Post on my iPad. I used to be a regular contributor for it, and I still appreciate the funny, snarky tabloid style. As soon as I went to the website, however, I got a message that said, "Damon, you're not allowed to read this on your iPad browser. Go buy the pay-to-play app. Or go home and read it on your computer. Then we can talk." In other words, it's a paywall without the pay – just the wall.
The big problem I see here is that publishers are deciding what content we should access based on how we access it. Like we discussed last week, when it comes to accessing online content, apps are becoming more prominent than browsers. However, there is no reason why the user should be made to have an inferior experience while browsing on the tablet or, worse, be forced to use an app to access the Internet.
I'm guessing that (the tech-focused!) Fast Company will wake up and smell the deep linking, just as the New York Post will eventually realize that not everyone wants to be herded onto an app. In the meantime, if you see me making the FFFUUUUU! face at my tablet, you'll know why.