There is one commonality engrained in the user experience of all social platforms.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and even Reddit all have their variations of a personal newsfeed where a user views content, a collection of pictures, text, and, most importantly, external links, curated and shared by others. I’ll come back to why external links is the most important aspect of the feed.
The mobile experience for interacting with the feed is also similar across all the platforms. A user will open the app and scroll down interacting with the content posted by others in various forms with behaviors relative to each platform. It’s easy to interact with content. A user sees the content and if it’s something they agree with, they click like, they retweet, they double tap the screen, they repin, or they up vote, or they leave a comment. The interaction applies to text, photos, or videos.
But not external links. When a user sees a link to external content, the user clicks the link to view the content and the browser built into the app opens the content. For example, if a user sees a link to a blog post on Twitter, the user clicks the link, the article opens within the Twitter app browser.
The in-app browser is a horrible user experience. A user has to close the in-app browser to interact with feed once again. The in-app browser itself is slow, often doesn’t work, and when it does it doesn’t display the external content correctly. It’s almost useless to try and purchase a product, or complete a form in an in-app browser.
If most users are like me, they get fed up with trying to interact with the in-app browser and they either close the content and think it’s not worth it, or they copy the link and open it into an actual mobile browser like Safari or Chrome.
Both outcomes are bad for social platforms. A social platform wants users to stay within the platform. That’s how the platform makes money through ads. A platform wants users to interact with all content within their own app environment but the in-app browser needs to be fixed. It should be a seamless interaction between the external content and the app. A user should be able to easily view the external content, interact with that same content, like purchasing a product, and then return to the social app to continue engaging with the feed.
Considering most content on social platforms is an aggregation of external links, the social platform that makes the best in-app browser experience will win, hands down. It’s easy to get this right on a desktop, the new link opens in a new tab, but who will get it right for mobile?