Online adult entertainment giant YouPorn is rolling out a new “app experience,” one that brings native app-like features to Android and iOS.
With around 1 billion video views per month, YouPorn is among the most visited pornography websites in the world — and is one the most visited websites overall, according to Alexa data. However, as other traditional web-based services have gravitated toward native apps on mobile, YouPorn and its ilk have generally been left behind because Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) do not allow pornography apps to be distributed through their stores.
While it is possible to bypass Google Play and install native Android apps directly via an .APK file — as YouPorn previously offered and rival services still do — there are problems with this. For example, the app won’t update automatically, and in order to sideload apps, users have to open up the operating system to installations from “unknown sources,” which may cause security issues further down the line.
And it’s against that backdrop that YouPorn is today rolling out its new app experience, which is effectively a progressive web app (PWA).
For the uninitiated, PWAs are mobile websites that mimic native apps to bring greater functionality to the mix, though there are some notable differences — PWAs don’t require installation or updates to fix bugs or offer new features. Additionally, PWAs are lightweight, meaning they should load quickly.
To initiate the new app experience on iOS, users visit the Safari browser, hit the “share icon,” and select “Add to Home Screen.” On Android, it’s a similar process — users hit the 3 dots at the top right of their Chrome browser and then add the site to their homescreen.
Then, the web app will appear on the device just like a native app does, and it will look and feel just like a native app too.
For instance, there is no URL bar at the top as you would normally have with a mobile website. And on Android, you can lock YouPorn behind a passcode, something that isn’t possible with a standard mobile website shortcut. In fact, there is very little to tell you that this is a mobile website — when you tap the Android app on the homescreen, it asks you if you want to “uninstall” it, rather than “remove” it, which is the word Android normally uses when you want to ditch a website shortcut from the homescreen.
In short, this is designed to behave as similarly to a native app experience as possible.
There are a number of benefits to PWAs over a standard mobile website. For example, YouPorn will no longer store your search and browsing history. This was, of course, already possible by incognito mode, but that entails a little extra friction and also means that users have to physically type in the YouPorn URL each time.
As a PWA, YouPorn allows users to just tap an icon on their homescreen and be whisked directly to the website without having to worry about their browsing history. But there are other advantages too, such as local storage, meaning that YouPorn can store information such as a user’s favorite videos locally on the device so that this information is not sent to YouPorn’s servers. And local files and caches can remain on the device too, so that the website loads more quickly in subsequent sessions. All this isn’t possible in incognito mode.
PWAs offer additional functionality that replicate native apps, such as push notifications and offline access, though YouPorn hasn’t indicated whether these are on its roadmap. It did, however, confirm that it will be adding more functionality to the mix over time.
“Our users on all mobile platforms have for years been asking for the features, responsiveness, and privacy an app provides,” noted YouPorn VP Charlie Hughes. “YouPorn’s new app experience shows our commitment to securing and enhancing the experiences of our mobile customer base. Not only will users gain quicker and more convenient access, but most importantly are given an even more secure and private way to explore content using open technologies without needing platform specific app marketplaces or cumbersome side-loading certificates which could make one’s devices less secure.”
This launch comes just as Apple has been mired in controversy over developers misusing its enterprise certificates to bypass its stringent App Store policies. Both Facebook and Google were found to have abused their privileges to install apps that monitor iPhone usage. Later, news emerged that a number of third-party companies — including hardcore pornography apps — were also using Apple’s enterprise developer certificates to get their apps onto iOS devices.
That YouPorn has elected to use native-like web apps to bring more functionality to the fray on mobile suggests that it’s keen to pursue more legitimate distribution channels.
“Because Apple and Google have blocked our users from installing and using adult apps from their respective app marketplaces, and we would never be comfortable resorting to misusing enterprise certificates, we decided this was the most secure and private method of delivering app benefits like decreased load times,” a spokesperson told VentureBeat.