Apple likes to maintain control over its platforms and products, which is why the technology giant has scuffled with everyone from Epic Games to Basecamp over bypassed App Store fees. However, Apple’s level of control is going to shift as progressive web apps increase in popularity.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) Allow Devs to Create Web Apps
PWAs allow developers to create web apps that operate like native apps without the need to download anything from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store.
How Will Google’s and Apple’s Battle Over PWAs End?
Apple maintains that apps need to be “beyond a repackaged website,” subjectively approving native apps based on their perceived unique value.
While Apple suggests some developers turn their projects into PWAs, it’s clear that the tech giant prioritizes native apps.
Google, on the other hand, actively supports PWAs through its open-source Chromium foundation and Project Fugu (which helps PWAs compete against native apps).
PWAs are still a growing force, but Google’s Chrome browser supporting nearly 65% of internet users means progressive web apps could someday become the preferred solution.
Microsoft and Samsung have climbed aboard the PWA bandwagon, and even Apple has begrudgingly enabled some fundamental PWA features on its devices. Business leaders who want to want to maintain a cutting-edge tech advantage should also consider investing in PWAs.
Considering the Future of PWAs
Apple isn’t necessarily out to block web development progress. The tech giant prioritizes user privacy on its Safari browser — and speed, security, and sustainable battery usage on its devices.
Web app developers might not focus on the same elements, so even if they don’t have sinister motives in mind, they might design PWAs without regard for users’ notification preferences or device batteries.
Objecting to the Risks of a Web-Based Software Future
Objecting to the risks of a web-based software future, Google has pushed PWA updates and features in almost every release of its Chrome browser.
Although there might be some potential revenue losses if developers decide to distribute their PWAs individually, the tech giant foresees its Play Store still serving as one of the main hosting platforms.
Plus, Google recognizes the advantages of PWAs and allows the distribution of web apps in the Play Store with minor modifications.
The Customer Side of PWAs
On the customer side, users don’t need to update PWAs manually. Instead, app adjustments are loaded with each server session.
PWAs also load more quickly and are compatible across different devices, allowing user access independent of operating systems.
The Business Side of PWAs
On the business side, developers can create and maintain a single, scalable application rather than three separate versions. They also don’t have to worry about their applications taking up valuable device storage.
Apple isn’t entirely shutting down PWAs; the tech giant is adding support for features like Service Workers — which allows web apps to deliver push notifications even when they are not open in a browser.
This adoption will steadily increase as developers and users recognize the benefits of PWAs and move away from native apps.
Web Apps Not Tied to Specific Operating System
Since web apps aren’t tied to a specific operating system, users who currently prefer either Apple or Android will have one fewer reason to choose the one they’ve always gone with.
This kind of flexibility frees up the web as a software foundation from the clutches of a single company — whether it’s Apple, Google, Microsoft, or a future competitor.
Google Adjusts Chrome for PWAs
But even as Google adjusts Chrome for PWAs, it can’t reach Apple’s devices. Apple requires all browsers to use Safari’s foundation, WebKit. While users can download Chrome on their iPhones and iPads, Apple can dictate which Chrome technologies are useable.
This allows Apple to water down PWAs and drives traffic to the App Store instead, which isn’t a surprise considering the Apple App Store raked in about $64 billion in 2020.
Apple’s Play Moving Forward
Make no mistake: If PWAs evolve to offer a superior user experience for customers on Android — Apple is unlikely to let its devices play second fiddle. After all, estimates indicate that the iPhone owns nearly half of the U.S. smartphone market.
Apple will do what’s necessary to protect its share no matter how much revenue the App Store will have to cede. For that reason, businesses can expect to see PWAs begin to play a larger role in the future.
End of Native App Dominance?
PWAs are an exciting development that could spell the end of native app dominance and device segregation.
Although Apple’s argument for the importance of secure, vetted native applications — like those offered in its App Store — might hold some weight, for now, Google is pushing for the development and distribution of PWAs.
With the additional backing by Microsoft and Samsung, PWAs are positioned to play a major role in the device experience of the not-so-distant future.
Businesses should definitely keep an eye on this technology to make sure they’re ready to provide users with the best experience possible.
Image Credit: piotr makowski; unsplash; thank you!
What Does the Future of Telehealth Look Like? – ReadWrite
During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us got a glimpse of the potential future of telehealth. Telehealth, or telemedicine, is the ongoing delivery and execution of any health- or medicine-related services in a remote setting, using telecommunications and digital communication channels. That’s kind of a vague definition, but it includes things like doctor’s visits, check-ins, consultations, prescriptions, and more – all done remotely.
The pandemic forced the hand of technologists, healthcare providers, and other organizations. With people restricted by lockdown protocols and concerned about their own wellbeing, remote healthcare and medicine became the only real options – and it worked quite well.
But what does the future of telehealth look like? And will public acceptance continue?
The State of Telehealth Today
Let’s start by looking at the state of telehealth today.
Current telehealth incorporates a wide range of different technologies, including AI-based monitoring, high-tech wearable devices, consultations via video chat, and more. However, not everyone has made use of virtual appointments or digital communication, and many of the applications of telehealth are restricted to the following:
- Behavioral health. Behavioral health services, including therapy, are often easy to provide over video chat and other forms of digital communication.
- Chronic disease management. Patients with chronic diseases or chronic pain typically need some form of ongoing treatment and support – but going to appointments all the time can be exhausting. That’s why telemedicine is ideal for chronic disease management.
- Consultations. Simple consultations often require little physical interaction. Virtually, doctors can still meet with you, talk about your problems, and even look at your body and measure vitals to see what actions are appropriate next.
- Remote patient monitoring. Thanks to wearable devices and other tech, it’s possible to remotely monitor patients, paying attention to their heart rate, temperature, breathing rate, and other metrics.
The majority of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers agree that telehealth can be effective – and that it’s a preferable treatment alternative for many patients. However, regulatory support remains sluggish, and some people are reluctant to make use of telehealth services because of privacy concerns, skepticism of the benefits of the technology, or just ignorance of how the technology works.
The Benefits of Telehealth
There’s a lot at stake in the world of telehealth. Continuing to make advances and drive the industry forward will have benefits in the form of:
- Convenience. Providing medicine remotely is more convenient for everyone involved. Healthcare providers can provide consultations and some form of treatment anywhere. Patients can get care even if they’re at home. This completely eliminates the need to travel to a facility, eliminates wait times, and allows the patient to be more comfortable throughout the entire process. It’s more efficient and more comfortable, overall.
- Reduced costs. Thanks in part to the increased convenience, telehealth has the potential to reduce costs. Patients don’t have to pay for transportation, nor to they need to use the same facilities as they would with an in-person visit. Providing care remotely can also be faster and take up fewer resources, lowering bills for both insurance companies and end consumers.
- Better turnaround. When meeting with patients virtually and monitoring data streams remotely, doctors and healthcare professionals can typically see more people in a given period of time. This is an especially important benefit, considering our current doctor shortage.
- Higher responsiveness. With live data feeds and automatic alerts, doctors can often be faster and more responsive to the patients who need care the most. This can avert medical disasters and ultimately provide better care to the people who need it most.
- Improved outcomes. Overall, patients will enjoy improved outcomes. More available doctors, broader reach, lower costs, and more immediate treatment will save lives and make people more comfortable.
How Telehealth Will Evolve
So how will telehealth evolve in the future?
- Custom solutions. For starters, we’re going to see more demand for custom solutions – both for individuals and for healthcare providers. Every hospital and practice in the country is going to be hungry for their own proprietary apps, software, devices, and other technologies to provide their patients with the best possible care. Accordingly, there’s going to be a golden age of healthcare technology development – and thousands of new technologies that will push the limits of our medical knowledge.
- Inclusion in health policies. We’ll also see the inclusion of telehealth- and telemedicine-specific policies and outlines in health policies. Government departments, insurance companies, and other organizations will work to make specific rules and regulations for telehealth, legitimizing it in the eyes of the public and setting the stage for future developments.
- Wearable devices. Wearable devices are already a big part of telemedicine, but they’ll be an even bigger part of the industry in the future. Wristbands can currently detect and transmit your heart rate remotely, along with other metrics like body temperature. In the future, wearables will become more diverse, more discreet, and more sophisticated, capable of measuring a much wider range of data points while being hardly noticeable to the wearer.
- Data-based profiles. Big data and telemedicine go hand in hand. If you’re wearing devices 24/7 that collect information about your body and health habits, doctors will have access to enormous volumes of data about you as a person. With that, they’ll be able to make much more individualized plans for treatment – and give you exactly what you need to maximize your chances of improvement or recovery.
- AI bots. Though telehealth will have the potential to free up doctors’ time with faster appointments and greater convenience, we’re still likely to suffer from the ongoing labor shortage in the field. To make up for this, we’ll likely see the emergence of AI chatbots who can handle the majority of initial consultations – providing care to more people and saving time and money in the process.
- Virtual reality. Video chats are effective for most forms of communication, but sometimes, navigating a 3D environment together is even better. In the distant future, appointments may include interaction in a virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) space. It could be a way to preserve the “human connection” element of health or simply provide better care.
- Real-time care. Wearables and diagnostic tools will be capable of sending a constant stream of information to healthcare providers, resulting in a real-time feed of data from which providers can make important decisions. If someone is experiencing a life-threatening situation, a healthcare provider can respond immediately.
- The dissolution of “telehealth.” Eventually, “telehealth” will be a foreign concept because technology is so ubiquitous that it becomes the norm. Telehealth tech will just be a normal, accepted part of healthcare.
Collectively, these effects will lead to:
- Higher public acceptance. Better tech will lead to higher public acceptance. More people will be on board with remote health services – and demand will rise.
- Greater accessibility. Cheaper, more ubiquitous tech also has the potential to increase accessibility. It will be in the hands of more healthcare providers, more people will have new ways to get healthcare, and there will be more provisions in insurance policies to provide that care.
- Lower costs. Tech has been reducing healthcare costs for decades, and that trend is only going to accelerate.
- Better outcomes. Almost every aspect of our current system has the potential to be better, and yield better results, with better, more embedded tech.
When people see these benefits, it’s going to inspire even more ingenuity, investment, and acceptance – resulting in a positive feedback loop that keeps the industry growing.
It’s all but a certainty that telehealth and telemedicine will continue to progress over the next several years and decades – but it’s not certain how or when it will become the new normal. It’s an industry that’s young, with a lot of potential, so it’s an important one to watch whether you’re a doctor, and investor, or just someone interested in better health outcomes.
New Domain Extensions Are The Future for Startups – ReadWrite
Domain names — the focal point of the internet. There is no doubt the existence of a big-three-domains consisting of the .com, .org and .net. These three reign supreme. For over 30 years, these domain extensions have been used to house some of the internet’s most recognized websites. But with each passing year, these three popular domains come closer and closer to their digital transience. This is thanks to the ever-increasing unavailability of these domains as well as the rise of more creative, contemporary and vastly flexible alternatives.
In the early days of the Internet, like the 90s and 2000s, you could only choose from these three “dot” domain extensions. This small selection pool made the choices highly sought-after by default and tolerably iconic in their own right. But like every icon of the 90s and 2000s, their relevance fades with each passing year. Yet despite this fact, these domains – the .com in particular – are still a go-to for many entrepreneurs who are on the cusp of launching their next venture. And you can’t blame them. When we picture successful websites, they almost all seem to use one of these three domains as their home on the web – think Amazon.com, Wikipedia.org and SpeedTest.net.
“Sorry… that domain is not available.”
Most entrepreneurs have spent hours, days, or weeks brainstorming new business names. Then they enter their ideas into GoDaddy only to be met with a message saying, “Sorry… that domain is not available.” The immense popularity of the big-three domain extensions has resulted in fewer and fewer web addresses, with those extensions being available. As a result, these domain extensions can no longer do what they once did so effortlessly: establish a memorable address on the web.
It’s a lot like real estate; the folks who are early to the game get the best picking. With the domain registrar VeriSign reporting over 360 million domain registrations by the end of the first quarter of last year alone, there is no question that the internet real estate market is saturated. Having an entire market saturated presents an inimitable challenge. However, business is a field overflowing with challenges that are met with triumphs by way of solutions. Herein comes new domain extensions.
New Domain Extensions vs. Traditional Domain Extensions
During the last few years, we have ushered in a new era of internet real estate. The failing availability of the .coms, .orgs and .nets has given birth to some catchy new domain extensions, including everything from .earth to .agency. The list truly is endless.
New domains now bequeath creative power to young companies and extend their branding possibilities. For example, a new fictitious accounting group called Billiton Accountants would likely opt for the domain names, billiton.com or billitonaccountants.com, but both are, of course, taken. In that case, a solid substitute would be billiton.accountants. It’s short, memorable, and most importantly — it’s still available (at least as of this writing).
The sales pitch encouraging the choosing of new domain extensions as opposed to a traditional extension is centered around these points:
These new domain extensions are still just that, new. Thanks to this novelty, a vast majority of unique and distinctive name combinations remain untouched. This creates a coveted opportunity for more businesses to get a domain name they actually want.
Uniqueness is at times tantamount to memorability. Nothing makes something more memorable than being unique. Owners of new domain extensions will tell you how intrigued clients and prospects have been when presented with a business card festooned with a new domain extension — especially if an awesome wordplay is involved. For example: thebillionairesclub.com could just be thebillionaires.club.
New domain extensions are the future, and large corporations like Google know that. So for case, rather than go the traditional route, Google opted for the domain abc.xyz for its holding company Alphabet. This allowed Google to secure a piece of coveted internet real estate and create a level of protection surrounding their sister brand. And many other top corporations are grabbing these names in an effort to protect their brand.
A Prime Time to Protect Your Brand
In building on the point of protecting ones’ brand, another new wave of domain extensions known as Brand TLDs (top-level domains) are just around the corner. A Brand TLD allows a company to use its brand as its domain. Over 600 companies have applied for brand TLDs, and some companies are already using them. For instance, Google already has domains like ai.google, and British broadcaster Sky has already set up a redirect for the q.sky domain.
Despite their rise in popularity, many wonder if using a new domain extension rather than a traditional one could affect their website’s performance in search engines. The answer, according to Google themselves, is no. Using a new domain extension will not hurt your website search performance. Not utterly surprising given the companies own endorsement of these new domains.
Although the .com, .org, and .net domains will still be around for many more years, they will likely be used less and less with each passing year. Founders in the business naming phase can stop worrying about whether their .com is already taken (just accept that it most likely is) and start thinking of all the creative web addresses they can create using new domain extensions.
The internet is a vast space with an infinite amount of potential. And while the big-three domain extensions are still alive and well, they’re getting closer to their digital transience. As such, it might be time for you to consider more creative alternatives that can help your website reach its full potential in this era of change.
This is indeed a prime time to make a solid impression and bid farewell to the .com, .net and .org domain extensions. What interesting domain names will you create?
Image Credit: maxderoin; pexels; thank you!
Paying Employees With Crypto: Can Your Business Do It? – ReadWrite
Cryptocurrency has made some remarkable progress in the past few years. Bitcoin hit a peak of more than $60,000 this year, a jump of more than $50,000 since the year prior. Services like PayPal are also expanding crypto support as the once-niche resource breaks into the mainstream.
Not long ago, businesses were hesitant to dip their toes into the world of cryptocurrency. It seemed like a fad, was too volatile, or lacked the legitimacy to be a worthwhile business investment. Now, with major banks and other companies embracing crypto, more start to believe its benefits finally outweigh its risks.
Many businesses now accept cryptocurrency payments for their products and services. Some have gone a step further, though. For example, there’s a blossoming trend of companies paying their employees with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
If you’ve heard of this trend, you likely have a few questions. Is it legal to pay employees with crypto? Is it practical? How could a company do that? Here’s a closer look.
Benefits of Paying With Crypto
Why a business would want to establish a cryptocurrency payroll may not be immediately clear. Crypto compensation is a complicated process, but it can have several benefits, too. One of the most significant is its security and efficiency, especially for international payments.
With fiat currency, cross-border payments have to go through conversions and intermediaries, which can incur fees and slow things down. Since cryptocurrencies run on decentralized blockchains, they can reduce costs associated with these payments. For example, employers can send money to international employees instantly without any intermediaries.
The distributed and transparent nature of blockchains also gives crypto payments some security benefits. Anyone can see blockchain transactions, but no one can change them. This transparency and security help establish more trust for payments, which is particularly helpful for independent contractors and freelancers.
Employees may want crypto payments because they can help them make more money without extra work. For example, instead of immediately converting their crypto, workers could wait for its value to rise, then sell it and make a profit. This easy extra money could help workers like nurses, teachers, chefs, and truck drivers who face more challenges and risks than most professions in America.
Companies in some competitive fields like the tech industry could enable crypto payments to attract top talent. By offering this type of compensation, businesses show they’re forward-thinking early tech adopters, attracting similarly minded employees.
The best and brightest, interested in new and exciting tech, would bring their talents where they believe they’re most welcome.
Challenges With Crypto Compensation
For all of its benefits, crypto compensation still has some considerable obstacles in its way. Most notably, its legal status is hazy at best. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay in cash or its equivalent. One could argue cryptocurrency is a legitimate substitute for cash, but without much legal precedent, the Department of Labor may not see it that way.
There are also state laws to consider. For example, some states require employers to pay wages in U.S. currency, which would disqualify decentralized alternatives like Bitcoin. Many of these have exceptions but would still need some potentially complicated legal loopholes to pay workers in crypto.
Crypto compensation may also be a headache when it comes time to file taxes. Regulations are still unclear about cryptocurrency’s taxable status, and they could change as crypto grows more popular. Companies may have the resources to understand and handle these strange tax situations, but individual employees may not.
Cryptocurrency’s volatility can benefit employees by giving them “free” money, but it can also have the opposite effect. For example, imagine if a company pays a worker in Bitcoin, but Bitcoin’s value drops before the payment hits the worker’s bank account. Quick value changes like this can end up with employees not getting their full compensation.
If companies use crypto compensation to attract tech-savvy workers, they could encounter interoperability issues. Different blockchains lack interoperability, so much so that users can’t transact Bitcoin for Ether without a centralized crypto exchange. So if companies pay in a different cryptocurrency than an employee uses, it would quickly lose its luster.
Is it Worth it to Pay Employees With Crypto?
It seems that for every benefit of crypto compensation, there’s a challenge to match it. Still, it’s difficult to say whether or not something is worth it based entirely on hypothetical situations. Looking at real-life examples of companies that have instituted some level of crypto payments can offer more guidance.
An employee for an unnamed U.S. company described their experience with crypto payments to MarketWatch. After paying this person for contract work, the company’s CEO asked that they return the crypto after its value rose 700%. Of course, the CEO can’t enforce this, as it would be a breach of contract, but the situation does highlight some of the troubles of crypto compensation.
Crypto’s rising or falling value can make employers feel they’ve overcompensated workers or workers feel employers have underpaid them. While these transactions may be perfectly legal, provided the employee elected to receive payment this way, they can create tension. So even if you have the legality, taxes, and logistics figured out, crypto payroll can still be a risk.
Of course, this one story may not represent how crypto compensation would play out for other companies. Nevertheless, other organizations are taking an interest in it and could serve as helpful examples.
As more prominent organizations embrace crypto payroll, the practice will gain legitimacy. In addition, standards for doing so will develop, and legal regulations could change to accommodate these payments. So, while crypto compensation may be a risky venture now, it may not be in the future.
How Crypto Payroll Could Work
Instituting a crypto payroll system today could take a considerable amount of preparation. It’s still a risky endeavor, so companies should plan thoroughly to mitigate the associated challenges. First, there’s the issue of legality. There are a few prerequisites for these payments to be legal.
Since many states require employers to pay workers in U.S. currency, they could use a conversion service. In this system, employers would send a payment in dollars, which then rapidly converts into crypto at that moment’s exchange rate. Alternatively, crypto payments could work as bonuses or overtime payments, while U.S. currency accounts for most workers’ paychecks.
Since regulations around independent contractors are less stringent, these workers are ideal for crypto compensation. No matter what type of worker receives crypto payments, though, it must be voluntary. In addition, employees have to elect to receive payments in cryptocurrency. Otherwise, employers could run into legal trouble.
Both employers and employees may need to create a crypto wallet to facilitate payment. Thankfully, this process is becoming easier all the time. Companies can even use peer-to-peer payment apps like PayPal to send crypto payments, which may be the easiest option. These third-party services come with built-in crypto wallets, but businesses must ensure they’re secure first.
Companies should also make sure everyone involved understands the risks too. All parties should know the potential complicated tax implications and accept crypto’s volatility. Everyone should also record conversion rates at the time of payment to help with their taxes later.
Cryptocurrency Is Becoming More Legitimate
Crypto compensation is still a new concept, so it will take some time before it’s a reliable, safe business practice. As more companies look into it, though, the process, as well as cryptocurrency itself, will gain legitimacy. As that happens, regulations will clear up, and new services will appear to facilitate these payments. Thus, in the future, crypto compensation may not carry many risks at all.
At this point, it’s clear that cryptocurrency is more than a trend. It’s a well-established, growing resource that businesses may not want to ignore for much longer. Before long, it could be a central part of how companies operate.
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