Publishers these days have a choice when it comes to mobile: design for the mobile browser, or go the app route. Apps tend to allow greater functionality, but it’s a lot more efficient to create a website that renders well on both the desktop and mobile – hence the so-called “responsive design” movement.
Pushing for the web
Much of this functionality is the sort of thing a publisher can put into a mobile website itself – content sharing through social networks, read-later options such as Pocket, font resizing and so on – but Brow.si aims to make its addition easier.
It also introduces something that’s previously only been available on apps: push notifications. Without the user having to install anything, they can subscribe to notifications from all the websites they visit that are using Brow.si, and consume that content through the platform’s own reader. Again, users don’t have to create an account for this – they just need to log into a social network (Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) for sharing purposes, after which Brow.si will know which user is which.
What’s more, MySiteApp has become a WordPress VIP (see disclosure) feature partner, meaning sites using that publishing platform can easily install the Brow.si plugin. But again, that’s not all: as alluded to above, Brow.si is a platform in its own right, and it aims to help publishers monetize their content.
As MySiteApp CEO Gal Brill explained to me, publishers can add so-called “mini applications” that will only show up when the user activates the Brow.si toolbar. When the toolbar is swiped across the screen, it introduces new real estate below it, so the publisher could for example add a mini-app for the content recommendation engine Taboola, or they could even use this new space for traditional ads.
Mini-apps will be made available through Brow.si’s marketplace, and the company has an open API so third-party developers can help populate that marketplace with their own efforts.
It’s all very clever, and the simplicity of installation should give Brow.si a flying start. It remains to be seen, though, whether this sort of functionality will help publishers monetize their content on the mobile web. There are many variables at play here, from users’ desire for content-related push notifications (granularity seems to be lacking) to publishers’ desire for differentiated presentation.
That said, the addition of a new and relatively unobtrusive patch of mobile screen real estate for advertising purposes could turn out to be a welcome development.
Disclosure: Automattic, maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, GigaOm. Om Malik, founder of GigaOm, is also a venture partner at True.