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FreePint BlogApps - a retrograde step?

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By Tim Buckley Owen


Remember when you needed some information and you'd simply visit a website to get it? Now, with the internet available from such a plethora of devices, you’re likely to have to download an app first. It feels like a backward step – but how much longer will it last?


Remember when you needed some information and you'd simply visit a website to get it? Now, with the internet available from such a plethora of devices, you’re likely to have to download an app first. It feels like a backward step – but how much longer will it last?

Yet just as’s managing director Rob Grimshaw revealed (to paidContent) that digital subscriptions to the Financial Times were on the point of overtaking print circulation, the paper also announced the launch of its Windows 8 app. Downloadable in preview from the Windows Store, it “extends the FT footprint across all three major tablet platforms: Windows, Apple and Android”.

Meanwhile rival Thomson Reuters has further strengthened its own mobile capability with its acquisition of Apsmart. It hopes this will allow it to deliver even more “expert-enriched content … through the interfaces that professionals want on the mobile devices they use”.

With so many products and interfaces now available, it’s no surprise to see a maturing "Find Your App" industry. Facebook, for example, has just started rolling out (in the United States initially) an App Center, based on personalised recommendations which it claims will ensure that only high quality social apps get listed.

It’s happening in the business-to-business market as well: Infosources Publishing’s Mobile Apps for Law has recently launched an RSS feed just to help people keep up with newly released apps for legal research and utilities. You can see why such a service is needed: It already has over 900 apps in its database.

But that’s a drop in the ocean compared with the 600,000 mobile apps to which Apple is gatekeeper. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is about to release a new way for app developers to track who uses their software, with the aim of squaring the circle of providing useful data while better protecting users’ privacy.

It’s all good news for info pros – offering plenty of opportunity to add value to their organisations by keeping track of it all. But it still sounds like a bit of a retrograde step.

When the pioneering online market research database MAID migrated its entire content to the web in the 1990s (abortively at the first attempt, as it turned out, but to the astonishment of people in the industry) a key rationale was that it did away with the need for a specially installed proprietary interface. Now, though, it seems that the mobile app has brought us full circle.

Alex Kutsishin of mobile website designer Fiddlefly recently told EContent Magazine that “there is a better way to do things… that does not involve clunky downloads”. He’s self-interested of course – but is it only a question of time before he’s proved right?


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Tim is an information skills trainer and writer on the information industry with over 40 years' experience in the profession. His career has encompassed information management, writing, editing, training, government policy advice and corporate media & marketing.

Besides writing for FreePint, Tim runs courses for training providers and private clients on enquiry handling, abstracting & summarising, information packaging & presentation and information management. The sixth edition of his classic handbook Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is published by Facet Publishing. You can find details of Tim's training services at

Tim can also be reached at

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