Deeper Connections Between Apps with Web IntentsWith all of the technology available to us, the way we express ourselves online and interact between web applications is still in its infancy. The two most common examples of online interaction are the share and like, which are like grunts and groans in online expression. However they are a very ubiquitous form of showing how you feel about a news article, discussion, event, song, video and many other things we interact with every day.
On my blog I can give users a couple of basic actions to interact with my posts: share, link, favorite, vote up and down. These are pretty basic actions in the grand vision of the Internet. Because of the popularity of Facebook, the like has become a common expression for the web. So how do we evolve beyond this homogenized, like based world we've created?
Google and Mozilla are trying to evolve the actions available to us with the concept of Web Intents. Both companies are building this spec into their browsers, but Google seems to be taking it a step further with their Web Intents API. This web platform API will provide the same benefits of Android Intents, but better suited for web applications. With Web Intents, you will be able to connect your web app or site to a service with a couple lines of code, and the browser will handle the rest.
A web intent based application will let users request a generic action like share or like, triggering this action, and the user is presented with a list of registered apps that can handle the requested intent. When selected, the action is triggered, information passed, and the intended action is fulfilled.
Web Intents will start with the usual of intent actions like edit, view, and share, but it will create a framework allowing new types of web intents to evolve. Google intends to build a site allowing the adding, viewing and curation of web intents and their corresponding actions, and build a community around web intents that will create a sort of marketplace of what can actions can occur on the web.
This all reminds me somewhat of the online marketing term conversion event. When someone clicks off a Google Ad and ends up your site, you need to define a conversion event to measure if your Google Ad campaign is successful. The most common type of conversion event being a shopping cart purchase, but could be anything like newsletter sign-up, or even sharing a post to Twitter.
Web Intents will benefit everyone. It will allow users to perform more meaningful actions while using apps, and allow site owners to easily offer popular actions that users want, and app developers can offer a wider variety of actions and services from a range of providers, as well as enabling developers who are looking to specialize in web intent focused web services. Of course Google will be the big winner in this by providing a frawework to grow what actions can be taken across the Internet, they put themselves at the center when it comes to the next generation of actions, that replace the ones we know now, like search.