Bye-bye Browser (?)

For more and more online users the device of choice is a mobile device and for more and more of these users  ‘Apps are the Web and the Web is Apps”.

Applications (Apps)  for mobile devices can be downloaded and installed in seconds. These apps focus on certain needs and perhaps half a dozen of Apps meet the daily online demands for you and me.

With Apple’s planned App store for laptop and desktop computers  these devices join this philosophy, too.  So what about the future of Websurfing using classic browsers? And what about the future of complex Websites offering many levels of browser navigation and tons of pages delivering information?

The discussion (the fight) is under way and the users will decide.

For information suppliers like statistical agencies this issue is of huge importance.

How to ensure the mission for public information and democracy given such developments in the online world?

– with traditional websites?
– with (small) Apps (or Widgets) with specific, user-focused information portions?
– or both (for how long)?
– with integration into existing Apps or platforms where people are, like facebook or Google?

There are already today some interesting developments in statistics’ dissemination giving partial answers.

So have a look at:

CBS iPhone App (search CBS Statline in the iPhone App store)

And also some of the widgets like i.e.

7 thoughts on “Bye-bye Browser (?)

  1. Glad you put that question mark in the title. I’ve been using iPhone for three years now and iPad for 6 months and on a daily basis I use only a handful of apps and then maybe another handful for the occasional special use-cases.

    Still the most amazing app on these devices is the web browser. Better yet its underlying open technology called webkit is used on Android phones as well as Blackberries. It is very capable and I’ve shown interactive graphics for it on this blog before.

    Why would I dampen the enthusiasm of developing apps for statistical agencies? Well, first of all there is nothing that couldn’t be done on the web and then why bother with the aproval process and the question of how to support the different app stores for iPhone, Android and soon Windows Phone 7. That’s a lot of effort with very little benefit.

    There are tasks that have to talk to the camera or to certain sensors that aren’t available to the web browser. In those cases distinct apps make perfect sense.

    But disseminating statistics can only profit when done on the web. Linking into apps is nearly impossible and linking out of apps is more cumbersome than necessary. And finally getting usage statistics out of apps is more difficult than on he web.

    So I’d encourage everybody to have look into their sites css stylesheet and maybe offer some special layout for small mobile screens or offer touch based events where it makes sense and get your web team a demo device of each to test on. I hear in some agencies iPhones are even forbidden …

  2. I appreciate the realism of visuell’s comments, but I wouldn’t close the door on this channel in a hurry. Given the fast pace of change, mobile apps is an area where partnerships with third-party developers could be the way for statistical agencies to go.

    One of the most useful apps I’ve got brings together Wikipedia and CIA Factbook information on countries around the world. Invaluable stuff when you are on the go and want to quickly check the GDP, population, etc of a country (and most importantly, where that ranks in comparison to others). If NSOs partner together with developers to integrate their latest data in useful apps, they can get the benefits of a wider audience without the costs of in-house development.

    As Armin has blogged before ( we may see in future more producers of statistics offering data through APIs – e.g. the World Bank

  3. Nice with all these comments about developements. It is really fascinating to try to imagine the meaning for official statistics.

    Just now I saw that “New Google APIs Console features a new Custom Search API” (

    I have a feeling this might be important in this context, considering that for example Eurostat and World Bank are testing/using Google Public Data Explorer for search and visualisation of statistics.

    A step forward for universal search of statistics in different media and channels?

  4. Check out this map from the New York Times for the current US midterm elections and check it out with your iPad *browser* this is so super smooth in terms of animation and touch interactivity that just couldn’t be any better in a native app.
    You can use the same link for your desktop browser no matter which brand and if you have flash installed or not.

  5. Just another snippet from “Information Architects” in favor of the browser:

    however exciting the app store might be—there is no rational reason to neglect the most obvious iPad news platform: The website. The chance that you sell your app will only rise if your have a strong presence in the browser—given, that it’s worth the money. Developing an HTML based news app is not just cheaper and faster, it also gives you more editorial and technical control over your contents. More importantly, HTML-apps are in many ways more convenient for the user: They’re easy to use, they’re more medium appropriate

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