You know how Facebook has those fancy Instant Articles that you tap on in your feed, and the whole story, complete with videos and pictures, just appears?
Google just one-upped Facebook’s instant UX in a big way. Today, the company announced Instant Apps. That’s right, not little stories that come pre-cached on a social network, but actual, fully functional apps that you can open without downloading them first.
Someone sends you a "deep link" from an app—that’s a link that might go all the way to a product or piece of media—and when you tap it, the app just appears on your phone in that exact spot. So it will take you right to, say, a pair of shoes on Zappos. The UI is fully functional, too—its buttons will actually work. And your payment information is even stored inside Google, so you can feasibly buy those shoes without entering your credit card or shipping info.
Your phone couldn't have download the entire app when you clicked that link—that would have taken way too long. Instead it downloaded what Google is calling a "module"—just that one tiny piece of the app you needed. And if you explore the app more, it will download more modules to continue the experience relatively seamlessly. If it's not an app you plan to use much, it seems like a welcome alternative to cluttering up your home screen.
Developers need to retrofit their apps with modules for this to work, which Google says can be a day of effort, baseline (and possibly a lot more). We’re also a bit skeptical that modules will work for every app, when some apps are getting quite large—spanning from hundreds of megabytes into a few gigabytes.
But if you look at the evolution of UX, the trend is obvious: Silicon Valley is focused on speed and eliminating those microseconds of friction between tapping a link and seeing media. In doing so, the lines between everything inside your phone—the text messages, social media updates, and apps—are blurring. Content is just content now—who cares where it's from or what container it was originally delivered in. Now if only all those microseconds we're saving in the process could add up to a full day off from work.
All Images: Google