With Instant Apps, Google Aims to Make the Web and Apps One
Let’s say A tech-savvy friend who uses the latest smartphone apps texts you a 360-degree 3D photo of the new parking facility of a big mall. You don’t have that 360-degree 3D photo app, and frankly, you don’t really feel like downloading heavy app in your mobile phone. If that is the case you’d just have to give up on seeing that big panorama in all its glory. But Google wants to change that. It wants to give you a way to view that photo from inside the app without ever having to download the app in your mobile.
This brings to a couple of questions. How do we make it possible for people to access a wider range of apps, seamlessly? How do we help developers reach more people? Answer to this question is calls Instant Apps. Google recently unveiled what it calls Instant Apps—a new breed of software app that arrives on your phone almost instantly without a lengthy and heavy download. With Instant Apps, a tap on a URL can open right in an Android app, even if the user doesn’t have that app installed. The trick is that these Instant Apps are in fact tiny slivers of a larger app that handle very small and particular tasks—such as panning through a 360-degree photo.
The basic idea is simple: when you click on a link, if that link has an associated Instant App at the URL you get a tiny version of that app instead of the website. It works because developers can “modularize” their apps so they only serve you the parts that you need for whatever you clicked on — points on a map, a video, some home listings, a payment system, or whatever.
Now think on it further: Instant Apps could help developers avoid all the problems they currently experience in the app store: instead of installs or trying to climb the rankings, they can just let a link get shared around on Twitter. But the Google Play app store is still around — one of the reasons they’re so fast is that Google is delivering these apps from their servers, and Google Play is intimately involved in approving and publishing these instant apps.
As a developer, you won’t need to build a new, separate app. It’s the same Android APIs, the same project, the same source code. You’ll simply update your existing Android app to take advantage of Instant Apps functionality. In fact, it can take less than a day to get up and running for some developers, though the effort involved will vary depending on how your app is structured. You modularize your app, and Google Play downloads only the parts that are needed, on the fly. And when you do upgrade, your app will be available to more than a billion users on Android devices.