The Financial Times, in a bold move, launched a subscription-based mobile web app that will allow them to bypass the App Store and Apple’s impending 30% subscription tax that is due to kick in at the end of the month.

The Financial Times put up a very interesting technical Q&A on why they chose to develop a web-based app instead of a native app. FT neatly summarizes why they pursued a mobile web strategy over a native app strategy, as well as the challenges involved.

You can read the full Q&A here, but here are my key takeaways from the article:

  1. FT developed for the web for two reasons: the ability for users to see new features and changes immediately; and to save time and money on development and maintenance.
  2. FT views native apps as a bridge technology until web apps mature.
  3. Web standards are not owned by any one company and are universally supported whereas native apps, in FT’s terms, are like “building a train for a particular gauge of track”.
  4. They also note: “App stores are controlled by their owner and may apply charges, rules and policies which are never a constraint with HTML5, distributed purely via the web.”
  5. Since web development can leverage a lot of existing development tools, design of an HTML5 app can be faster and more efficient.
  6. They also pointed out two challenges. One was that they were breaking new ground, and two was properly optimizing the experience.

It’s refreshing to see a big brand come out and show that a web-based mobile app can be every bit as good as a native app. It’s also refreshing to see a big brand not give into the app store hype and take the bold step of developing for the mobile web.  You can view the app on an iPhone or iPad by going to http://app.ft.com.

FT’s observations confirm what we’ve seen developing for mobile, and I’m convinced that mobile web apps are not an experiment, but a trend that will grow over time as more companies recognize the benefits of developing for the web over the rules and constraints of the app stores.