New York Times experiments with HTML5 iPad app

New York Times

While the New York Times has been firmly on the native app bandwagon, it’s now showing some interest in web apps with Tuesday’s launch of an experimental HTML5 app for iPad . The app, which only works on Apple’s Safari browser, is available to digital subscribers of the NYT’s Web + Tablet and All Digital Access plans.

The app allows users to consume content in a number of ways, including a trending section that lets people see what’s popular on Twitter from the past hour. There’s also an option to access TimesWire, a firehose feed of all the content on in reverse chronological order. Users can also view today’s stories by topic headings or see across all of the sections of the Times.

The limited nature of the web app suggests it is just a way for the Times to test the waters of HTML5 as it continues to develop its native apps. But it is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. By launching a web app, the Times can avoid paying Apple’s required 30 percent cut for in-app purchases on subscriptions. It also helps the Times improve on its “NYT Everywhere” initiative, which aims to make NYT content available on third-party platforms. And it also makes sense in light of  new Pew data that suggests news consumers are using the web over mobile apps.

The move follows similar steps by the Financial Times, which abandoned its native iOS apps last year to focus on HTML5. There was speculation that other publications would follow the FT’s lead, though that hasn’t really happened in a big way. The Boston Globe last year launched last year as a paid HTML5-based web app. The Times was quick to point out that it’s not looking to skirt Apple’s rules on subscriptions.

“We wanted to test the web app among an engaged audience of NYT subscribers, which made the iPad a natural choice. This is the first step, but the HTML5 format does allow us to explore the idea of launching Web-based apps other platforms in the future,” a Times spokesperson told the Verge.

The web app doesn’t have the performance of the Times’ native app, but it gives the Times more options as it considers how it wants to distribute its content and how consumers want to consume it.

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