App to App Handshakes

I wrote a post a few weeks ago asking when and if we would have a mobile web that acts and feels like the desktop web. The discussion was fantastic and I have a lot of takeaways and to dos from it.

In the environment we are in today, I see the mobile OS as the foundational app and I see the third party apps as features in that OS. This view comes from Tim O'Reilly's Internet Operating System construct adapted to the mobile environment. In effect, the mobile OS has assumed the role that the browser plays in the desktop web.

The cool thing about the Internet OS with web apps as features is that the features are interoperable. I post a picture to Instagram and push it to Twitter and it comes through as a picture (or it did until the kids started fighting). I find something I want to buy on Etsy and I check out on Paypal. You get the idea. Web apps pass data and users back and forth easily.

That is not true on mobile today. Even on Android where sharing is baked into the OS. It is a lot worse on iOS. But its bad all over the place.

If you post an Etsy item to Facebook and I want to buy it, I click on the link in Facrbook mobile and am taken to Etsy's mobile web app where I am not logged in and its a pain to buy. I want to go app to app to Etsy's mobile app where I am logged in and its one click to buy.

This morning I was at the gym listening to the Django Unchained Soundtrack on my phone in the SoundCloud android app. I decided I wanted to make Trinity my song of the day on Tumblr. I hit the share icon, up came a list of apps, I selected Tumblr, and I was taken to the Tumblr app but as a link share. I wanted an audio share.

Maybe all of this app to app handshaking will be solved one by one by the third party apps. I already have an email out to SoundCloud and Tumblr to let them know about that last thing.

But a better approach would be for the mobile OS vendors to build really great data and user handshaking into the OS so third party developers can implement it without having to talk to each other each time they want their apps to work together intelligently.

We have two options. We can make the app centric mobile environment work more like the web or we can make the mobile web more like apps. I suspect we will do both. As a user I can't wait for both to happen.


Comments (Archived):

  1. AlexBangash

    Great post as always, Fred. I love soundcloud and love AVC even more. Integration between is Apps is truly horrendous.I have a horror story to share on Facebook and Android. My wife posted a picture on her Facebook using my Android. It completely messed up my contacts, which now had her “friends” as my top contacts. I had to initiate a hard reset to synch with my gmail contacts.Even now my Android does not pull all my contacts. I agree with you that Android, though more ubiquitous, is worse that IOS in my experience too when it comes to integration. This is a pity because I ditched my iphone for an Android, since I use GMAIL, Google Calendar, and Docs.I think we will probably see app centric mobile environments become like the web first before we see mobile web like apps.

  2. Brad

    I enjoy the enmity between apps. Sometimes too much integration gives me a big brother fear. The one that I do not mind is disqus, all new sites should use it. But once Facebook started posting every article I read on my timeline, I spent a day in checking all the sharing inside of Facebook.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Facebook has trained a lot of people to be afraid, and to distrust.

  3. David Semeria

    I suspect this current lack of interoperability has less to do with technology and much more to do with protectionism. Expect to see the kids fighting even more in the future…

    1. kidmercury


    2. Matt A. Myers

      Exactly. They all want to monetize and control / direct traffic that they have. It’s in part to avoid traffic leaks or other negotiating power. Twitter was more open than they are now because their ecosystem, as it seems from what Fred has said before, that they needed to close things up for the safety and existence of the ecosystem.

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        Twitter has always “windowed” visits to other sites inside of their own app, so that you never leave the Twitter app. I could never see them sending you away to other apps.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Instagram recently removed the ability for Twitter to embed pictures from them. This lead to traffic to Instagram increasing dramatically. Now the question is whether Instagram would have been able to go as viral as quickly if people didn’t fluidly see the photos in their streams – if it would have reduced convenience enough..

          1. Luke Chamberlin

            But that traffic is still inside of Twitter’s webkit (browser) window. They would never link you to the Instragram app (I think we are in agreement, I’m just clarifying).

      2. fredwilson

        The pendulum has swung too far at twitter. They were too open for their own good. Now they are too closed. It always happens. The Dems got too liberal for their own good. Clinton brought them back to the center. Now the GOP is too conservative for their own good. Maybe Christie brings them back to the center. At Twitter I am hoping Costolo brings them back to the center.

        1. LE

          Along those lines we now have Eric Schmidt visiting junior over in North Korea.

          1. fredwilson


        2. panterosa,

          Life has two forces only, polarity and periodicity.

    3. Akshay Mishra

      Protectionism doesn’t seem the right answer to me.If that were the case then none of the services mentioned above would allow “Share” links at all on their websites – after all it allows traffic to be driven to your service doesn’t it?. At the app level, it makes sense to allow that. But I do think it is a technology issue as well as an issue of opening up APIs (at least at a B2B level).Fred’s title is instructive – “App to app” – technologically, it’s never going to happen that way (ie app-to-app communication on a single device) – the security risks are too high.However, “App1-Service1OnWeb-Service2OnWeb-App2” communication can happen quite easily – it’s just a matter of the owners of Service1OnWeb and Service2OnWeb realizing the symbiotic advantages of having this connection.

      1. phonon_moderator

        App->OS level Service->App seems fair enough and is happening already on Android at least. Are you saying its too risky for the paypal type example?

        1. Akshay Mishra

          Yes, for a financial transaction, I wouldn’t use such a service (even if baked into the OS) – the target app might be malicious (or may have been hijacked).

          1. Aaron Klein

            Doesn’t have to be. You hit buy on Etsy, it swaps you into the PayPal app where you see that you’re authorizing $x to Etsy (verified seal), then swaps you back to complete the purchase.You wouldn’t have either app installed if you didn’t trust them.

    4. William Mougayar

      Yeah, the kids see it like traffic regulation.If I block users here, it’ll divert traffic over there. But sometimes the detour is a pain, and sometimes you get to see a new scenery that you like and you don’t mind.

    5. fredwilson

      I get that for the big kids. But not the little ones.

      1. LE

        “not the little ones”You know what I say to that. The little kids will grow up and do the same thing.

        1. fredwilson

          Sadly my experience suggests you are right. Even my own kids. Uggggggh

          1. Matt A. Myers

            This all reminds me of a comment I made that you suggested I turn into a blog post … from almost two years ago. Wow. Time. It flies.Re: The Independant Web –

        2. Richard

          The tug of war of open vs closed is cyclical.

        3. kidmercury


        4. Dave W Baldwin

          Yes, most will, but that is do to being acquired. There will be those who stand for a bigger vision that requires not falling into that trap in order to achieve the bigger disruption.

      2. David Semeria

        Good point Fred; perhaps an opportunity for the little guys to diffirentiate themselves?

      3. Matt A. Myers

        All the little ones want to be big, no? Or at least how do little ones find funding? By aiming for the stars to show they’ll get all grown up and big like the other big kids..

    6. ShanaC

      it creates user problems though. the interface is too limited to not allow for interoperability

    7. andyidsinga

      right – app interoperability is great when the company is on the attack and scaling up, but once they own something big to defend a different mindset takes over.

  4. Brandon Burns

    The mobile environment, in practice, isn’t as app centric as we think it is:

    1. iggyfanlo

      Think that’s an eCommerce/web 1.0 thing. We’re conditioned to behave in a web environment for these functions including search. For games and social we use apps

    2. kidmercury

      that study is based on a data set of 5,000 US users. too small of a set to draw a meaningful conclusion from. based on my own experience, i’ve never pulled out my credit card and typed in the info on a mobile; all my mobile shopping comes from companies i already have a laptop relationship with. by the time i’m ready to make an isntant mobile purchase from them, i’ll be willing to download the app for the convenience. but maybe that’s just me, i’d love to see more data on this.

      1. LE

        The starbucks app is great and Apple’s passbook is great. Much easier than taking your starbucks card out of your wallet you just scan the barcode on the screen. It is a little problematic though if you want to reload your card. You have to renter your starbucks password and who remembers that. So you end up doing it at the office which is much easier.But that’s not even what you are talking about I understand. What you are talking about maybe is what I had this am. I realized I needed some things that I would normally get from CVS and would like to simply hit a button on my iphone and have them delivered so I didn’t have to stop at the store to pick them up. That is definitely something that is doable and will be figured out. Likewise it doesn’t seem to be a big deal to be able to have a transaction to any number of places and not have to type in a credit card number on your phone. They will figure that out and some middleman will take a % of that transaction.

      2. ShanaC

        i have, particularly for tickets for things

    3. iggyfanlo

      My guess is that this behavior is a relic of Web 1.0 where we buy and search like the web. But we’ve been conditioned to play games and be social thru apps. Consumer behavior once set is hard to change

    4. fredwilson

      For browsing the aisles I suspect that is true. But not for checking out.

  5. awaldstein

    Easier is better. The more ubiquitous the handshake for me, the consumer, the happier I am.Raises a side topic that is worth another post.The intersection of seamless handshakes and a few nets monopolizing log ins on the web is making it harder for companies to get found. And likewise cool products sitting coming out of 012 with not enough customer data to know whether they just missed the behavioral bullseye or just no one knows what they do.Getting found is getting harder. This is the problem to solve for this year.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      It’s fluidity, reducing friction. This has been a recurring theme over the years.


        Did you find ever someone for your programming needs?

        1. Matt A. Myers

          For my current ones, yes. I’m always looking out for future possibilities though which is why I tried connecting with you.


            Cool, thx. I’m always on the lookout for possible business opportunites too.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            I need a quick way to get to know more about you before I can invest more time figuring out if it can work. 🙂


            I think the problem is I offered to tweak HealthRMS to be used as a backend to the proactive health initiative you’re working on..If you’re wanting to outsource the development of something else from scratch. That’s a different situation and needs a different approach..I just need to know which you want to do so that I can pitch it correctly. It’s all on my shoulders I just don’t know what to do next..Are you wanting to do a project from scratch or use a pre-existing backend?

    2. LE

      “making it harder for companies to get found””Getting found is getting harder. This is the problem to solve for this year.”Suggest people try some old school ideas. A physical mailing where a number of apps or websites get together to mail a cardpack or a small magazine with an ad per page or ad per card is doable. It’s not just paying google .15c, $5 or $20 for a click which is not a conversion.Clutter has always existed in the traditional world and companies have always had to stand out. Mfg. reps were hired to go out and hit the street with products manufactured by OEM’s and the like and they visited vars to make them aware of the products so they would push them on their customers. And there were trade shows (and still are in some industries).Of course it’s not going to be as cheap or nice as being able to get essentially free social media hits or a short lived viral video or link from a major site. But it will work as long as you aren’t giving away your product for free.So I guess it totally depends on when you say “cool product” do you mean “cool product” that I don’t pay for or “cool product” that I pay for and whether it is a 1 off consumer purchased product or a product for business etc.

  6. kidmercury

    you’ll get app to app, but on a limited basis. meaning imagine an app store with 1/100th the number of apps, but all of them are app to app and everything is tightly integrated. i believe amazon is headed down this path and is the strategic leader in the mobile game.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Really curious why you think Amazon is in this position?

      1. kidmercury

        they are basically curating the android ecosystem for their target customers and providing the corresponding benefits in doing so (setting the stage for app to app integration, malware-free platform, easy to search store) while being a fork of android dramatically reduces their costs to make their entire offering very competitive in terms of price.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Ahh right. Thanks. You jogged my memory. I’ve not followed up into how they’ve evolved that ecosystem though. They certainly have the traffic and consumer data. It will be interesting to see how they differentiate from Google. Facebook I don’t see even as a competitor in the future based on how they’ve been going..

        2. markslater

          LOVE amazon. As a developer who’s company uses AWS and SES, as a consumer who purchases, as a music listener who has all his music in the cloud, as a brit who needs ribena ordered in bulk……

    2. fredwilson

      I can see that happening. Will they all be amazon apps?

      1. NicolasVDB

        I hadn’t thought of that. Today amazon mobile remains kindle-centric. But the day they make mobile part of AWS, with all the cool tools they got us used to over there, including these app handshakes, Amazon could really become a major player in the mobile ecosystem

      2. kidmercury

        jobs’ original vision with iOS was to not have an app store at all but rather to negotiate partnerships with key apps and have a tightly integrated environment. i think ultimately what will emerge is something between android anarchy and jobs’ original vision: an app store that is highly curated. in my opinion, they might not be all amazon apps, but they will need to meet stringent curation criteria to get the OS access they’ll need, and will be subject to deletion at any point. i think you’ll still be able to put any android app on there, but it wont have the deep integration unless it gets the stamp of approval from each platform operator in question, in my opinion.

        1. Modernist

          where does microsoft fit in? lol

        2. markslater

          it feels lie the app ecosystem on both platforms is like what the ‘twitter ecosystem” was like in its early days. Millions of apps – doing very small iterations on top of a sweeping change in behaviour (in this case mobile from PC) – at the end of the day wont the best just get integrated in to the mobile OS?

          1. kidmercury

            absolutely… is for that reason that i believe in the long run platforms will setup funds to finance the development of apps built on them, with the ones they like ultimately being acquired and this being the “exit” that rewards the founders…..we’ve seen some steps in this direction with the fb fund, although i think there is still much room to go

          2. markslater

            you also have the Kleiner Ifund. But is this the twitter bait and switch?go ahead – go crazy building on our platform…..we’ll watch you add users to our OS and then we’ll pick the winners for integration, alienating the app developer environment and marginalizing the business opportunity?

    3. markslater

      can yo give an example? i am trying to visualize this

    4. andyidsinga

      hey, Kid, speaking about amazon and mobile strategyThe other day ago, as I was lamenting the 2yr hardware upgrade treadmill and wanting a 5yr cycle myself – I realized that amazon is probably im a great position strategically vis a vis hardware.Given that they are heavily content focused – if they can continue to deliver and generate revenue by selling content viewable on old devices – they do very well. This would imply they would also keep the base os on these old devices performing nicely – a long tail app or movie could be priced the same even though the old hardware is not available any more. Also, along long tail lines, they would encourage app developers to address the full array of devices in the the wild ..vs just the shiney and newest object.What do you think?

      1. kidmercury

        i think they are going to try to get to a point where the hardware is like a subscription; perhaps you get a new free hardware gadget each year (once you renew your subscription), or perhaps you have the option of exchanging your old one for the new model each year with a renewal of your prime subsription.

        1. andyidsinga

          Hmm.. thats definitely an interesting take. What would they do with all the old gadgets then?

          1. kidmercury

            perhaps recycle the hardware, repurpose it

  7. Luke Chamberlin

    For SoundCloud to post an audio link to Tumblr, all three parties (SC, Tumblr, the OS) would have to know about each other’s API requirements for a special class of sharing called “audio”.Everything mentioned here is technically possible. But I wonder about the incentives for the various apps to play along. Facebook for example, do they want to make it easier for you to use other services? I’m not so sure.A simple implementation for links could be, the OS gives you an option to open links in a browser or in the app. So, you click a link and a menu says “Open in browser” or “Open in app”. Native apps then would have to detect and route urls meant for the web, which do not match routes inside the app. That work would need to be done on their end.Maybe the OS to solve all this will be the new Ubuntu phone, debuting at CES this month!

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Tumblr has a lot of promotion power. They could integrate Soundcloud and help promote them – but why would they give that away freely? I’m not sure what Soundcloud can offer in return. Not saying it’s good or bad. It prevents fluidity though – a topic I’ve written / blogged about in the past.

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        That’s why I think Fred’s point about the OS as intermediary is a good one. Currently the OS (Android in this case) knows how to share basic urls (links). If you could teach the OS that there are different kinds of links (photos, video, audio), it would make sharing those kinds of unique media easier and apps like SoundCloud and Tumblr would have incentives to work with the OS. They would then work with each other because they both work with the OS.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          I think it likely boils down to a big chicken / egg problem.

          1. Luke Chamberlin

            I don’t think it’s a chicken and egg problem. The OS has to move first. The apps can’t implement a sharing spec that doesn’t exist. Maybe I’m not explaining my proposed solution well enough.

      2. fredwilson

        They have already made that decision. Soundcloud is deeply integrated into Tumblr on the web. They just haven’t replicated it on mobile very well yet

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Oh okay, cool.

    2. fredwilson

      I would like to try an ubuntu phone. And a Firefox phone too.

      1. ShanaC

        unfortunately you would have to do the install yourself.


        I like Firefox but “Zed’s dead Fred, Zed’s dead.”.The internet integrated OS is here and you should be glad of it. There was no need to restrict MS from integrating IE into Windows years ago it just stunted innovation. Now we have it and let’s not mess it up..There truely is not need for a browser anymore (from a technical standpoint). I really need to get you in front of eMOS. I wasn’t able to find funding Fred and I know I didn’t ask you but it’s really become a moot point..The browser was a great “intermediate” step in the evolution to internet integration. But, it’s a thing of the past now. Let it go away gracefully. Don’t let it become one of those “hangers on”.

  8. EmilSt

    Imagine where the world would be if it was united two thousand years ago… Like Aristotle and Alexander the Great envisioned…It’s the same for technology. Borders are bad. Unity, interoperability is good. There is enough space for competition between apps, platforms, services…Competition between “gated communities” is just lost of efficiency.

    1. Luke Chamberlin

      Competition is bad for efficiency? Competition is the best thing that ever happened to efficiency.

      1. EmilSt

        Of course competition is good for efficiency. Let me paraphrase. Competition is better when all participants are competing in one environment and not in gated communities.

        1. Luke Chamberlin

          Okay, I see what you mean now.

    2. William Mougayar

      There is a difference between Competition and Competitive Advantage. A relationship between one App and another could be a competitive advantage.

    3. ShanaC

      you need some borders for distinctness purposes

      1. EmilSt

        That’s how all begins.

  9. William Mougayar

    Maybe we need to start with the lowest hanging fruit: SHARING. Why isn’t there a Sharing standard, like a “Share This to That” for mobile.It should work the same across apps. Inside of it are the various Content Types to Display Methods. The standards protocols do the magic inside.Share This to That.This = image, link, text, etc.That = SoundCloud, Tumblr, Facebook, etc.Method = Embed, Pop-out, etc.

    1. jacopogio

      Best player to impose that (and with biggest advantage) would be the OS controller. #IwantItNow

    2. kidmercury

      android already has this as fred previously blogged:…iOS doesn’t though. oh well. 🙂

    3. fredwilson

      Move to a Android. Thats how sharing works in a user centric mobile OS

      1. William Mougayar

        But is it a functional share or just a link share? i thought you said you wanted an audio share, not a link share for e.g.

        1. fredwilson

          Its halfway there. Its needs to get smarter.

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            …and smarter is the key word

          2. panterosa,

            Customers are who demand features and smarter ways to use. We are on the services designed often more then the designers themselves. We are the new designers.

          3. William Mougayar

            But with the caveat that you need to make sure their ideas are representative of a large set of users, and not a niche one.

          4. Dave W Baldwin

            @panterosa is right. It is a matter of patience yet engaging a push. Currently, it seems the customer is thought of as ignorant and will just take whatever you give them. Market the true program that protects and frees them in the smoothest way possible will enable what is needed and on the level required. The turning point will be when it is said that Apple is having to play catch up.

          5. Panterosa

            William, for sure I think that the ideas should be good ones. But the demand will show you that no? How many people want as Fred says a better handshake from one app to next, or specifically feature x in abc app.This takes me back to a post Jerry did on the reverse pyramid of who runs your business. The customer runs it. It’s your job as the top person(now actually on the bottom) to make sure the customer has channels to be heard by so their needs get met. If you make new info easy to access digest and act on in your business, then you keep up with feature requests.No the customer isn’t always right, sometimes you need to design ahead of what they need to give it to them. Think of a beautiful suit needing a few alterations to fit you perfectly.

        2. Aaron Klein

          The app on the receiving end needs to be smarter, by looking at the contents of the link and making an intelligent decision about how to post it.Tumblr’s app even screwed this up manually. I was writing a text post and pasted my link into an A tag. It posted the HTML as text.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        I was going to state the same. It was very refreshing to see when I first started playing with my Android. It’s one step from being something fully useful where all applications can pull into it, and I imagine Google will have to include it to do such. There still is a problem of other devices (desktop) not being so interoperably-friendly – however that creates a bit of an opportunity, too.

      3. William Mougayar

        I pulled out my Android and compared sharing from SoundCloud with the iPhone and I see what you’re talking about. Android’s inter-app choices are better, but still can be improved further.

  10. Elia Freedman

    This appears to be happening in iOS at least. This article came out a while ago and is fairly technical:… in short, Apple made some changes in the latest OS to make views independent of their apps. The tested mechanism is email but much of Apple’s sharing infrastructure seems to be using this. Will this get turned on for developers? Likely at some point, once Apple is comfortable with it internally. This would make app to app communication seamless, hypothetically.I would argue, however, that the web is app to app and doesn’t involve the OS. Why does hitting the Tumblr link take you to the app? It could very well send a beacon to the web site that knows you and can post the requested audio file.

    1. andyidsinga

      thats really interesting – smells alot like Binder and Activities in android.

  11. Bala

    I also believe the intent is not very obvious when we are doing ad-hoc linking, there needs to clear handshake intent. Your example of sharing SoundCloud song can be construed both ways ie. The Audio or the Link, this is a classic semantic sharing issue building intelligence in sharing is hard if not impossible. While these devices and OSs are evolving and the consumers are learning how best to utilize them it is going to be a lot of tinkering along the way. I don’t believe we are going to get the “One Ring to Rule Them All” and to a degree I am not so sure I want that either. But your point taken, App to App handshake needs to seamless but it is an evolution IMHO

  12. Alan Mendelevich

    Have you seen sharing contracts in Windows 8? Not exactly a mobile platform, but still. I’m not sure it has special contract for audio, but as far as I remember there’s a way to share custom stuff. Essentially apps register with the system as share targets for specific types of content and then when active app has something to share these apps would show up in share target list when you tap a system share “charm”

    1. fredwilson

      No I have not

  13. Adrian Bye

    dave winer wrote about this interlinking issue as a reason why apps aren’t the future:

    1. fredwilson

      Well he’s right if they don’t fix this in the app world

      1. Adrian Bye

        good job drawing attention to it

  14. george

    Interestingly, this one piece of functionality seems to always be the bottleneck in creating the desired end user experience. Cross pollinating in the app world is about networking, or to be more specific, external networking, and I believe most of the resistance to share relates to security or perhaps insecurity.

  15. Mordy Kaplinsky

    My thinking is that this is an opportunity for an aggregation service the likes of UrbanAirship to create a mobile OS independent interlinking capability that automatically interacts between apps by taking advantage of OS specific URL’s and if an App is not installed can either prompt a download or load a web version.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Michael Brill

      Makes a ton of sense to me. Simpler for user (one sharing approach independent of web/mobile), simpler for app vendors, can learn (“I’ve noticed that you do X after Y, would you like me to do that for you next time”), can leverage community actions (“127 of your friends have connected X and Y), etc.

      1. Mordy Kaplinsky

        Precisely and on the flip side the same data can be super beneficial as analytics for app developers similar to Flurry.

        1. Michael Brill

          Somebody like zapier probably has 80% of what they need already.

          1. Mordy Kaplinsky

            Perhaps one the web side but nothing on the app side.

        2. ShanaC

          that would be a killer feature

          1. Mordy Kaplinsky

            One of the few upsides of the native limitations that require workarounds is that the side effects create new possibilities to be exploited.

  16. Michael Brill

    Beyond copy and paste, inter-app communication never really took off in a desktop environment and it’s not clear why mobile would be any different. Since everything is ultimately shared at the server level anyway, why not just implement sharing there – more control and much simpler to implement… without having to get multiple companies to agree on interoperability vocabularies and data structures. Popular use cases get implemented as one button solutions in the app; less popular force users to do all the work themselves.Not particularly visionary, but that’s pretty much how it works with web apps.

    1. ShanaC

      different interfaces. and to some degree it did, you can open the same file type in many programs in a desktop environment. Apps are just the manipulator of the file in that sort of model.

      1. Michael Brill

        That’s what I meant by forcing users to do the work themselves. Open App1, export standard format, open App2, import standard format, perform intended operation. And that only worked for a handful of stable document types. No simple way for user to initiative action in App2 with data from App1 while in App1.It’s way worse in the mobile world with hundreds of thousands of fast-changing “weird” apps that don’t have any notion of standard document types at all. But then again I think the way to avoid all these monolithic app problems is to stop creating monolithic apps in the first place

        1. ShanaC

          you don’t need to do to that within the android system very often because of the sense of app to app sharing.

          1. Michael Brill

            *Finally* got an Android device today… excited to start playing.

  17. ShanaC

    You’re betraying your deep love of Google here, because of your love of sharing :pThat being said, interapp operability is probably more than necessary now. we’re at a point where individual mobile apps canj’t handle all the processes we want to do on a file. The interfaces are too limited because of size. To get around that, interoperability for different functions 🙂

  18. andyidsinga

    I think the android folks probably believe they’ve built really great data and user handshaking into android ..and it is pretty damn good. ..problem is that implementing those things in your java app is not nearly as elegant as implementing a web api over http+json.

  19. William Mougayar

    New word for that:Interappability

    1. bitcoin

      Sounds nice but long.


    It’s too bad you wouldn’t have been a customer for eMOS (now HealthRMS). It is all about an ecosystem for sharing. Maybe I should rebrand some of it’s core features into a “mobile ecosystem” offering. What you want already exists Fred, it used to be called eMOS.

  21. Nick Grossman

    The extent to which android is better than iOS in this regard is perhaps the biggest improvement I’ve seen.Android should run with this and really make it a selling point (which they don’t really do now, afaik)

  22. TS

    Look at Box’s OneCloud as one example of this happening in the Enterprise mobile space.

  23. maxpelle

    Fred, Microsoft has developed exactly what you are envisioning in this post. see the link:…They call contract what you call handshake, but the idea is exactly they same.While I believe that an inter-OS handshake is almost impossible, I am truly convinced, as said many times, that we will get to full interoperability with the mobile web and web-apps.

    1. fredwilson

      In windows mobile?

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        I really feel something is going to happen along this line via Micro.

      2. maxpelle

        W8 aims to be cross-device btw pc/tablet/smatphones. So yes, at least in theory.

  24. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I saw a good online demo of the upcoming Ubuntu OS for smartphone and it looked really interesting. Could this type of open OS make it better to transfer the desktop experience to mobile? Or is that a naive viewpoint?

  25. Semil Shah

    What I glean from this is the lack of “interoperability” between mobile apps. The mobile OS providers hold the keys to this gate and have little incentive to build the keys into the OS, unfortunately.

  26. Parveen Kaler

    Lots of conspiracy theories here in the comments. Here is where the tech is at for the moment.Mac OS X and iOS have recently added XPC. XPC is built upon Grand Central Dispatch and launchd. It implements interprocess communication at the kernel level. It basically let’s two processes communicate in two different sandboxes. This was added in Lion on Mac OS X and iOS 5.…iOS 6 added the concept of Remote View Controllers as a Private API. Remote View Controllers is the UI layer on top of XPC and lets an App launch UI of another App within itself.…Facebook App Central uses Remote View Controllers to install Apps right from the Facebook App by communicating with the AppStore App. My guess is that Facebook got an explicit exemption from Apple to use a Private API.https://developers.facebook…I expect Remote View Controllers will be promoted to a Public API in iOS 7. Can we quit it with the conspiracy theories now?

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Thanks for the info

    2. kidmercury

      can we quit using conspiracy theory as a pejorative, dismissive term instead of what the words actually mean?

  27. wei

    Maybe i’m old fashioned, but all of this “sharing” is confusing for me. I want an app to do what it’s suppose to do and nothing more. I don’t want info leaking to other websites, even if it is within my control.

    1. fredwilson

      to each his/her own

  28. Kurt

    surely our mobile number can be linked with our email when signing up or an id of sorts stored on our sim cards for “mobile surfing”

  29. NICCAI

    It’s true that the big kids are fighting and for the most part control the devices, the OS, and the overall ecosystem. But this post brings me back to the bigger story. There’s a user revolution going on, but good design and interaction are really the tip of the iceberg. UX is the low hanging user fruit. The last few years have been about data, apis, and more data, but the next few years are going to be about the users behind that data and the actions they perform in content creation. User intent is often overlooked in interaction design, but it needs to be at the forefront of the next generation.What is sharing? Is it a copy of content on another website? Or is it something deeper? What is the intent behind it? The psychology? Users need an OS centered around actions that answer intent.Fred, there is a trend in your posts. Whether it is content shifting or app handshakes, it’s about the user.Content is created by users.Content is consumed by users.Actions are performed by users.We need an action OS, an action API. Buttons and menus are not interfaces.

    1. fredwilson

      the user is where i start and where i end when i think about stuff

  30. slowblogger

    This is also my thought to your mobile web question. I actually have long thought about this for our project.I think having an URL for every page is the true strength of the web (and Internet). If you only have an app, you don’t have URLs for contents in it. The contents don’t have addresses, so no way to share. Even if you gave them addresses somehow, people who don’t have your app wouldn’t be able to access them until they install the app. So, when sharing out (from inside) is very important, you need the web.

  31. nehanarula

    Interoperability is incredibly important. It’s not quite the same analogy as the internet because each OS vendor will probably have their own unique, constrained way of doing sharing, and on each different mobile OS apps have different abilities.It’d be interesting to see a real sharing protocol develop, something like HTML/HTTP on the internet.

  32. daryn

    First I’ll admit to not having read all the comments – avc crime I know :)But, what this has me thinking about is oembed; one of my favorite Web 2.0 ideas that could be much bigger than it is. At the highest level, the idea is gold: a proposed standard for content publishers to provide different representations of content based on its canonical URL. The idea is mainly for things like video and other “widgets”, so given a YouTube URL you could get back the HTML embed code, along with other metadata. Basically a consistent API that all content sites can implement.It isn’t much of a stretch (maybe people are already doing it) to extend this to provide all the different representations of a piece of content: the media itself, an embed, a link, a text summary, an in-app link, an App Store link, an AppStore link, etc. Then, when you go to share on say tumblr (app or web) you can choose which representation you’d prefer.Certainly, that has its challenges, but it sure would be awesome.

    1. fredwilson

      yes it would

  33. Paul Williams

    The mechanism that android uses to do this are called “intents”… and the web version of this is on its way.

  34. Hutchy

    IFTTT(If this then that) has a bunch of recipes for SoundCloud to Tumblr integration.…Secondly, the web has been trying to deal with this problem for years. Hell a hyperlink is a basic example of this, linking data to data. A ubiquitous way of mashing api’s would be handy. < dl src=”…” dst=” >Post to Tumblr< /dl >What we ultimately require is some way of collectively managing an enterprises or persons data amongst all services. One repository of data that all services pull from and permissions can be managed. I believe IFTTT is making headway into this game.

  35. Terry J Leach

    I have been staring at this problem for months I think of it as the “broken links” problem like a 404 error when a webpage is missing. It typically occurs when I use my gmail application on my Android phone and I click on a link from the application service in the gmail application I can’t launch the LinkedIn application just an example.

  36. Earle Gregory

    Thanks for the model. Great way to think about mobile evolution.Another option is that we’ll see consolidation in the “features” of mobile apps similar enterprise software consolidation. So instead of using 5 different apps that are linked, you’ll use one, or at least one UI. IMO the context switching required when using multiple apps linked could be very problematic from a UX perspective in some cases and fine in others. (A consolidated approach could also be a response to your post “Rethinking Mobile First”.)I too am excited about the possibilities! 🙂

  37. Gene Vayngrib

    Fred, instead of app to app handshakes, apps could inter-operate through your personal cloud. After all, the info which song you are listening to on SoundCloud is your own data, and the blog post to Tumblr is your data too. Suppose both of these tidbits of info were saved to your personal cloud. Then any other app could read/write them based on OAUTH2 permissions you give them.Benefits:1. OS independent.2. Persistent. Provides a future migration path from SoundCloud, Tumblr,etc. to new and cooler apps.the next cool app.3. Compatible with both web and native apps.Backbone.js-based apps are already based on a cloud database. So for them, a shared cloud database is just a step away. Mobile web apps could be attracted to this approach, as it gives them a much needed advantage over the native apps, at least initially.Now, suppose a special app store is setup for apps that support this type of cloud sharing. Developers will find complementary apps in this store and will learn how to read/write their data. For example, a medications app could check diabetes risk against the family tree app, and add a requirement for the diet app. With app interconnections a [social] network of apps emerges. The network effect creates higher value for the users, which can be monetized via in-app purchases, supported by the app store.

  38. Richard