Playboy used to be a revolutionary magazine, and the publication is once again in the vanguard. Because of Apple's no-nudity policy, Playboy hasn't been able to take its content to the iPad. Now, thanks to HTML5's potential for web apps, it has been able to expand to the tablet.
By launching a web app and selling it itself, Playboy can ignore the restrictions that Apple sets for App Store content. Moreover, it avoids paying Apple 30 percent of subscription revenues and is able to create a relationship with its subscribers directly, which means that it gets an automatic access to customer details.
Because of erotic content, Playboy had no other option but to ditch native app plans, but its application arrives at a time when the web vs. native apps debate is only increasing within the publishing field. Its effort is therefore of interest for those who may wonder about what kind of potential web apps have.
Paul Strauss, SVP of online operations for Playboy, talked to Mashable about the development of the app. He said that it was clear from the beginning that the app needed to have the kind of features that iPad app users are used to, such as swipe gestures and smooth animations. Strauss estimated that the average user wouldn't probably be able to tell that the app isn't a native one, but admitted that more tech-savvy readers might see a difference.
In terms of the app's features and looks, GigaOm noted some limitations. The most obvious one is the lack of local caching, meaning that the user has to stay connected to the Internet when using the app. Moreover, the app doesn't go far beyond being a digital representation of the print original.
Mashable pointed out that Playboy is a well-known brand, which means that many readers would discover the app. But what about smaller publications, for whom existing on Apple's store brings a lot of exposure? Anders Barreto, the president and cofounder of OnSwipe, noted this but argued that web apps' open nature would act as a counterbalance: "The leading sources for content discovery are search and social, and they often fall in the ranges of 60%-80% of all traffic for most publishers. You loose that in a native app."
Playboy's app is optimized for the iPad, but according to one blogger, it works on some other tablets as well albeit with some browsing features missing.
Also another recently released web app gives a taster of HTML5's potential. Aside, a product of a pair of Berlin-based designers, includes interactive elements and embedded audio and video content, along with an app-like interface. Poynter discussed Aside in length.
So for publishers wanting to go digital, what is the best course of action to take at this point? GigaOm argued that the benefits of a relationship with Apple outweigh the downsides for now. But as Android and other platforms become bigger, it is probable that more and more publishers would at least try the web as a publishing platform.