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With the newest versions of the two most popular mobile operating systems, iOS 9 and Android M, third-party native applications will be able to respond to URLs, rather than a web browser, enabling deep-linking into applications. Tapping a link to a tweet will open Twitter’s official application and display it there, if the application is installed, rather than navigating to the tweet in the default browser.
This has some major implications for what we think of as “the web,” and how we build experiences for it. I don’t think “the web” consists only of websites. I see everything we build that is connected via the internet as “the web.” As John Gruber said:We shouldn’t think of “the web” as only what renders in web browsers. We should think of the web as anything transmitted using HTTP and HTTPS. Apps and websites are peers, not competitors.
The things we build are—and should be—peers, but the shared language of the web, the URL, has not been fulfilling its “universal” promise. And yet, the universality of the web is what makes it one of the greatest technological achievements in human history.
After championing progressive enhancement for so long, we know that not all experiences are the same—nor should they be. I see URL-enabled applications as the next level in the progressive enhancement approach: those with the associated app installed will be sent to the app, since we might reasonably assume that’s their preferred experience, those without the app installed (or without it available on their device altogether) will be sent to the website.
I’ve talked before about not drawing such hard lines between experiences, and about letting operating systems handle the parts they can handle best. Application deep-linking is a great example of both. Another level has been opened up for our progressively-enhanced experiences, and it’s up to us to take advantage of that.
“Cool URIs don’t change.” Even cooler ones work everywhere.
Seattle-based band Ever So Android are an indie rock trio who have played all over the western USA. Their energetic live shows pack venues throughout the year in their hometown, but recently, they performed their single 'Moment' for a different crowd: a small crew of filmmakers armed with Samsung NX1 and NX500 cameras, led by director Brad Strain. Read more
US-based startup Light has officially introduced its L16, a portable device packed with 16 individual cameras, ten of which capture an image at the same time at different fixed focal lengths. The resulting photograph is a composite of all the individual images combined, with a final resolution of up to 52 megapixels. An earlier prototype of this camera was shown off this past April. Read more
The iPhone 6S doesn't look too different from the iPhone 6 that it replaces, but its camera module has been significantly improved. Now offering 12MP and snappier performance, the camera on the iPhone 6S is impressively capable. We've been out and about with the new phone, taking plenty of pictures in a range of different situations. Click through to see our gallery of real-world samples
Sony Corporation is to split the part of its business that makes imaging sensors away from the Devices segment that it currently comes under, to form its own company called Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation. Sony has said that the degree of autonomy that the new company will enjoy will allow it to react more quickly to changing market forces and will encourage the business to grow more quickly. Read more
Manfrotto has launched the Pixi Evo, a miniature lightweight tripod with two-section legs and five adjustable steps. The Pixi Evo represents a design update over the original Pixi mini tripod, and is designed, in part, to support entry-level DSLRs with large lenses. Read more
PIX 2015 has given us the opportunity to do something we've wanted to do for a long time: present awards recognizing the significant bits of photographic gear that have been announced in the last year. We handed them out last night, see which products were winners. Read more
Paper books and vinyl records: they’re not just for hipsters anymore. I’ve tried to hold back on commenting on this cultural shift toward more analog products, because it’s such an easy target for jokes. But I think it’s time for us to face the inevitable: there’s a very peaceful and quiet revolution happening right under our noses. And those of us who work in software have to start paying attention to it.
The evidence for this shift is all around us. Craig Mod’s recent essay on reading made a big impact online. In Future Reading he describes his journey there and back again—from paper books to going all-digital for many years, to an almost unconscious shift back to paper. What’s interesting about the article is not only what’s there, but what’s not. Gone is the nostalgic longing for “the smell of books” that is the butt of so many jokes. In its place we find arguments for the tangible benefits of reading non-digital books—their permanence, their design, their readability.
Closer to home, a friend told me recently that he went back to buying CDs because he needs the physical reminder of what’s in his music library. Digital music just kind of disappears once the files go “in the computer.” As for me, I’ve been bearing the brunt of my friends’ ridicule for a while now, since I went back to buying vinyl records. Yes, I think they sound better than digital music, but my reasons also have a lot to do with permanence and tactility—it’s an activity I can enjoy with my daughters, and something that will hopefully bring back positive memories for them once I’m long gone and they sort through their (inherited) collection. And I’m clearly not alone in this.
All of these thoughts have been swimming in my head as I reflected on what I really want to talk about in this column: the idea that “software is never done.” This has become a rallying cry in our industry—a way to push ourselves to constantly make things better. We use those words for anything from excuses to ship terrible MVPs, to arguments with engineers about why we need to move that button 3px to the left. Some of the consequences of this meme are good. Continuous, incremental improvement is a good thing. But there are also some bad parts.
It isn’t that long ago that software actually was done when it came out. Only a couple of decades ago, new operating systems showed up on a CD-ROM and we made VHS videos about how to use them:
When Windows 95 came out, it was done. Yes, there were some patches to it, but they were few and far between, and in general quite difficult to come by. But of course, then the internet and app stores happened, and suddenly everything changed.
The thing about “software is never done” is that sometimes the software gets better, but often it does not. Talk to any long-time Evernote user about the product changes over the past year and see if they’re able to contain their rage. Take a look at the recent release of Paper by FiftyThree and how this beloved product has become close to incomprehensible. Last night I just wanted to watch something, but when I turned on my PS4 I had to wait ten minutes for it to update. I have no idea what changed. Everything still looked the same. But hey, software is never done. Even our updaters need updates sometimes.
Contrast this way of looking at the world to the architect’s view of the buildings they design. Here is Jennifer Fraser in What I Bring to UX From Architecture:
As an architect, the implicit permanence of designing a building carries with it a sense of responsibility… I can’t help but wonder if we would have better designed products if some of that responsibility and sense of permanence of architecture found its way into what we do as user experience designers.
And here’s Tony Fadell, talking about the creation of the Nest thermostat:
Fadell looks out at the Manhattan skyline and says that he always wanted to be an architect; that buildings stay beautiful forever but digital devices are quickly obsolete. “You look at hardware or software five years later? They’re crap. You would never use them again. People use architecture all the time.”
His voice rises. “What is our form of architecture? What is the thing that lasts of beauty?”
So I wonder. I wonder what would happen if we felt the weight of responsibility a little more when we’re designing software. What if we go into a project as if the product we make might not only be done at some point, but might be something that lasts for a while? Would we make it fit into the web environment better, give it a timeless aesthetic, add fewer unnecessary features, and spend more time considering the consequences of our design decisions?
All of this brings me back to the analog revolution. I’m fascinated by our renewed passion for things that are permanent (warts and all) and tactile. I think we need to take that trend seriously, and it needs to influence the way we make.
To make this more concrete, I think we need more software that has ties to physical objects. I know we’re a bit disillusioned with the “Internet of Things”—and for good reason. But I know we can do better. Designers like Josh Clark have been thinking and writing about this for a while. It’s within our reach to bring some physicality to some of our designs.
Most importantly, I think we need more software that’s done—not all of it, just more of it. Just like we’re always going to have prefab buildings to serve a particular function at a particular time, software that continues to change and improve pushes us forward and is absolutely necessary. But maybe it’s ok for that app you’re working on to be done. And by going into it with a realization that it’s going to be done some day, you might even make something that lasts for decades.
We don’t have to give up on digital products, or fight the analog revolution. But we must learn from it, take what’s good, and throw away the rest. And on that note, let’s at the very least agree that dragging a file into a trash can isn’t nearly as satisfying as crumpling up a piece of paper and throwing it over your shoulder
Day one of our PIX 2015 re:FRAME speaker lineup wrapped up with a moving keynote presentation from Cristina Mittermeier. Read more
Adobe has released Camera Raw 9.2, introducing a local version of its new dehaze adjustment. ACR 9.2 also adds support for the DxO ONE, though not for the camera's SuperRAW files. Other cameras supported by the update are the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II, Sony Alpha 7S II and Leica S (Typ 007). Read more
Today Microsoft not only launched two new smartphones with PureView camera, but also the latest incarnation of its high-end Surface Pro tablet capable of running full desktop apps, such as Adobe Photoshop CC or Lightroom. Read more