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Luming Yin @lumingyin
, 13 tweets, 11 min read Read on Twitter
Thread with screenshots: In America, mainstream native desktop (macOS or Windows) are in decline, and developers increasingly opt for building web apps or Electron apps. However, web apps vs. native desktop apps is a completely different story in companies such as China.
Music streaming: In the U.S., apart from AM/iTunes, no major music app is native. Spotify is Electron, Tidal is Electron, Amazon Prime and YT Music are web only. In China, all 4 major providers (QQ, Netease, Kugou, Kuwo) have native Mac apps, and they're all surprisingly good.
Social apps: Facebook Messenger has no Mac app, but both WeChat and QQ do. Slack is Electron-based, but WeChat Work is native, even supporting screen broadcasting. Twitter pulled its Mac app, but Weibo continues its support. So, native app for every mainstream Chinese platform.
Video streaming: Neither Youtube nor Vimeo nor Netflix nor Hulu build native macOS apps. All 4 mainstream Chinese video streaming platform (either original content or user-uploaded focused) have built macOS apps. They also share core, non-UI components with their iOS counterpart.
Productivity: The largest Email provider in China NetEase built a pair of native Mac mail and notes client while neither Gmail, Inbox nor Google Keep did. Two of the most popular dictionary services in China also have native apps and has features such as mouse hover detection.
Personal media: Google Photos is web only, Kantu (image categorizer and browser) and Jietu (image annotation) are native. There's also a slew of native video players such as Baofeng and IINA, where IINA is even quite popular globally.
Syncing and data: Dropbox's Mac app is sync-only and file management requires web UI. Both Baidu Cloud Drive and Nutstore have native apps for file management and sync. Google's AFT app is awful, but Smartisan's HandShaker is native, modern and well-designed.
Stocks and finance: All 4 major stock monitoring/trading platforms such as Tonghuashun have native Mac apps. However, American services such as Robinhood and Merrill Edge only have native mobile apps and desktop use fall back to web apps.
Internet and downloading: Major browser QQ and Maxthon ship with native WKWebView implementations. A multi-protocol downloader supporting HTTP, magnet and torrent named Xunlei is a modern Cocoa app. There are also lots of VPN apps to help users bypass censorship/geo restriction.
Native consumer desktop apps are in decline in the U.S., but thriving in China. When users are critical of subpar experience/performance or extravagantly large download sizes, they become vocal and ask more of developers. Then companies are incentivized to invest in desktop apps.
I wish this would happen in the U.S. some day too. I love web technologies - I use and enjoy a lot of web apps (such as Grammarly, Cloud 9 and Gradescope). Heck, Electron apps such as Visual Studio Code are one of my most beloved and commonly used apps.
Web apps are really cool and lots of them are really well done, but in many use cases, native desktop apps offer unique UX advantages and better system integration. If we all ask our vendors of more and become vocal enough, maybe native desktop app development would thrive again.
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