New, secure top-level domain combined with high- performance mobile web frameworks are replacing websites and native mobile apps. Really.
Two technologies you’ve probably never heard of are transforming the web and how we use it. Google’s new .app top-level domain provides peerless security and speed by default. Progressive web apps may be the most significant advance in mobile web technology since Apple’s release of the iPhone on June 29, 2007.
On March 26, 2018, Google began rolling out its mobile-first index saying they “started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing.”
Google’s estimated share of global search engine market August 2018: 78%.
Google is also the largest recipient of online advertising dollars, with an estimated 37% of total online ad spend in 2018 -or $42 billion in U.S. ad dollars.
Law firms that lack a mobile-first web strategy are at a competitive disadvantage to firms that fully embrace mobile. Secure top-level domains like .app and progressive web apps are replacing traditional websites and native mobile applications. This is where the web is heading next.
.app Domain Names
There are more than 1,500 top-level domains -also know as TLDs, available for registration. The most common generic TLDs include .com, .net and .org. There are country code top-level domains like .us for the United States, .uk for the United Kingdom and .io for British Indian Ocean Territory. There are restricted TLDs, for example, .bank for financial institutions, .gov for U.S. Government and .mil for the U.S. Department of Defense. There are several attorney-related TLDs available including .abogado, .associates, .attorney, .law, .lawyer, and .legal.
Now there’s .app … an important new unrestricted top-level domain backed and managed by Google. According to Google Tech Lead and Senior Software Engineer Ben McIlwain, .app is “the world’s first entirely secure all HTTPS open top-level domain.”
Google states: “A key benefit of the .app domain is that security is built in—for you and your users. The big difference is that HTTPS is required to connect to all .app websites, helping protect against ad malware and tracking injection by ISPs, in addition to safeguarding against spying on open WiFi networks. Because .app will be the first TLD with enforced security made available for general registration, it’s helping move the web to an HTTPS-everywhere future in a big way.”
In February 2015, Google paid a then record-setting $25,001,000 to The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the registry rights to the .app TLD. The company launched .app at Google I/O 2018.
GoDaddy Vice President Paul Nicks is quoted as saying “.app is its biggest new top-level domain launch to date in terms of pre-orders at the registrar. Every day of early access has beaten the same day of other new TLD early access periods, and it has more pre-orders than any other domain.”
More than 250,000 .app domains were registered in the first month of availability.
.app is an excellent top-level domain choice for attorneys—offering better user experience opportunities and private, secure attorney-client communications.
Domain names are not purchased, they are registered. To register a domain name you use a domain name registrar like Godaddy. Registrars either own the rights to a specific top-level domain -also making them the registry for that TLD. Or they acquire those rights from the rightful owner. Think of registrars like retailers. These retailers get their TLDs from wholesalers called registries. The registries acquire their rights to a specific TLD directly from ICANN.
“… the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) helps coordinate the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, which are key technical services critical to the continued operations of the Internet’s underlying address book, the Domain Name System (DNS).”
As with other TLD extensions like .com or .lawyer, your desired .app domain name may already be registered. Do not wait. Even if you have no intention of building a progressive web app anytime soon. It’s a good idea to secure your .app domain(s) right now. New domain names can be registered at Google, Godaddy, Donuts, Hexonet, and most other domain registrars. Domain name registrations fees vary by registrar so it pays to shop around.
Mobile apps—also referred to as native applications, are designed and optimized to run on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and watches. The vast majority of us use mobile apps all day, every day. Mobile apps are most often searched for, found, downloaded, installed, and/or updated directly from Apple’s App Store for iPhone/iOS devices or from Google Play for Android devices.
The Web and our mobile devices have changed dramatically since Apple launched the iPhone nearly a dozen years ago. Today, more people access and search the Web using mobile devices and smartphones than those using desktop computers.
Google is by far the dominant moving force in mobile technology today. The company’s mobile operating system Android powers around 60% to 65% of mobile devices in the U.S. and 85% or more of the world market. All of these mobile devices have Google accounts. Apple’s share of the smartphone market in the second quarter of 2018 was approximately 13% in the U.S. and 11.9% worldwide.
Google Play and Apple’s App Store are powerful marketing and content distribution channels for app developers, content creators and attorneys alike. By the first quarter of 2018, there were about 3,800,000 Android apps available on Google Play. There were approximately 2,000,000 more iOS apps available in Apple’s App Store.
According to Google, “Mobile apps have become an integral part of people’s daily routines, with 92% of smartphone owners using apps. New research from Ipsos shows that, when done right, advertising through mobile apps is successful both at reaching decision makers and at driving action.”
There are many attorney-related mobile apps in the App Store and on Google Play. Most law firms, however, have not yet embraced native apps for mobile marketing or for enhanced, secure attorney-client communication and engagement.
Law firms that have and use native mobile apps almost always have firm websites as well. This mobile marketing strategy is inefficient, expensive to develop and difficult and expensive to maintain. Mobile apps require separate application builds for each mobile platform: Android, iOS and the web. Updating content, finding and fixing bugs, releasing new features and updates and managing app version control and web servers can sometimes overwhelm even the most talented technical teams.
Many law firms have opted instead for building and maintaining mobile responsive websites. A web design concept first introduced by Audi.com in 2001. Websites like these offer limited user-engagement capabilities and are often constructed using content management systems like WordPress -first released May 2003. There is a better way … it’s PWA.
Progressive Web Apps
Progressive web apps leverage the benefits of open web standards and modern web browsers to provide users with a rich mobile experience. Progressive web apps are not actually apps at all. But instead, a mobile-web framework for defining minimum code requirements and best practices for a better mobile user experience.
According to Google, “Progressive Web Apps (“PWAs”) are experiences that combine the best of the web and the best of apps. They are useful to users from the very first visit in a browser tab, no install required. As the user progressively builds a relationship with the app over time, it becomes more and more powerful. It loads quickly, even on flaky networks, sends relevant push notifications, has an icon on the home screen, and loads as a top-level, full-screen experience.”
|Platform Features & Capabilities||Progressive Web Apps||Responsive Websites||Mobile Apps|
|Progressive—works with every browser||✓||✘||✘|
|Responsive—fits any device||✓||✓||✘|
|App like—looks and acts like a mobile app||✓||✘||✓|
|Safe—forces HTTPS encryption||✓||✘||✘|
|Discoverable—search engines can find it||✓||✓||✘|
|Re-engageable—send push notifications||✓||✘||✓|
|Brandable—Add icon to user’s home screen||✓||✘||✓|
|Linkable—share applications via URL||✓||✓||✘|
|Independent of Apple App Store||✓||✓||✘|
|Independent of Google Play||✓||✓||✘|
|Download onto device is not required||✓||✓||✘|
|Installation on device is not required||✓||✓||✘|
|Works offline—Network not always required||✓||✘||✘|
|Cost effective development process||✓||✓||✘|
|Fast development time—quick to market||✓||✓||✘|
|Can be paired with a .app domain name||✓||✓||✘|
Popular brands such as Google Maps and Google Photos, Instagram, Pinterest, Starbucks, Uber and Lyft, Forbes and The Washington Post are just some of the many companies that have embraced PWAs. Each of these PWA deployments has experienced dramatic, positive results.
To their credit, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are all pushing for greater adoption of HTTPS encryption. Google is encouraging developers to build and deploy progressive web apps and to use its Google Cloud Platform (“GCP”) and tools like Lighthouse, Firebase, and App Maker.
Myth: Attorneys Don’t Do Mobile Apps
Not true. Many law firms do have and use mobile applications. These firms represent only a small fraction of all law firms that could use and financially benefit from mobile app marketing.
.app top-level domains provide a superior solution for securing attorney-client communications. The TLD also adds browser speed and better user experience opportunities.
Progressive web apps provide a unique opportunity for attorneys to connect and engage with their clients and the public. They’re also an often overlooked and underutilized mobile-marketing channel for law firms. Firms that use mobile apps and/or progressive web apps as part of their mobile-first marketing strategy can enjoy a significant competitive advantage. When a well-built progressive web app is paired with an appropriate .app domain name, traditional websites and native mobile apps cannot effectively compete.
A well-built progressive web app -combined with a premium .app domain name, is a winning web-marketing strategy for law firms and attorneys