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Instant Apps on Android are the most fascinating thing Google announced today

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I'm probably getting ahead of myself by writing that headline — but I can't stop thinking about the deep implications of Google's Instant Apps on Android.

The basic idea is simple: when you click on a link, if that link has an associated Instant App at the URL you get a tiny version of that app instead of the website. We played around with it a bit today at Google IO, and found that it was as fast (if not faster!) than loading up a web page with the same functionality. It works because developers can "modularize" their apps so they only serve you the parts that you need for whatever you clicked on — points on a map, a video, some home listings, a payment system, or whatever.

But take that idea and think on it a second: there's a whole class of apps that you use once and never want to bother with again. Google's example is a parking meter app. It works better as an app because it ties into Android Pay, but honestly you don't want that thing cluttering up your app drawer most of the time.

It's all really complicated but completely fascinating

Now think on it further: Instant Apps could help developers avoid all the problems they currently experience in the app store: instead of begging for installs or trying to climb the rankings, they can just let a link get shared around on Twitter. But the Google Play app store is still around —  one of the reasons they're so fast is that Google is delivering these apps from their servers, and Google Play is intimately involved in approving and publishing these instant apps.

It's like some of the best parts of the web (shareable links) without the worst part (Javascript) — but specific only to Android, which is a bummer. It's also like the best parts of apps (speedy, native functionality) without the worst parts (App store rankings), too. It's all really complicated but completely fascinating.

I'm still thinking through it. If Instant Apps work anywhere near as well as the demos I saw today, a lot of people are going to start thinking through it.


Google’s Maserati is running Android