Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Look Ma! Still No App! Seven Months After Launch, Quartz Says Its Web-Only Business Site Is Thriving.

If you are a loyal Quartz reader and you visited the business news site on your PC or tablet last night, there’s a chance you might have noticed something different: A design tweak that made Quartz’s no-frills look even sparser.

Or maybe you didn’t notice it. The Quartz team told me about the change in advance, and even I have a hard time seeing much difference. The biggest change is that a black bar that used to run across the top of the site and then shrink down as you scrolled down is now just preshrunk.

You can see, sort of, by comparing some “before” shots (clicking the images should enlarge them):

quartz before

And an after:

quartz after

The more interesting thing to note about Quartz’s overhaul is that it is one of dozens of changes Atlantic Media’s newest property has made since it launched seven months ago. Quartz editor Kevin Delaney says the site has pushed 73 code chages since Quartz first debuted, most of which have to do with the way the site’s guts function.

The reason Quartz can do that, Delaney argues, is because of its decision to rely on an HTML5 design that essentially serves up the same page to every reader, no matter what device they’re using to access the site. If you want to change the way an HTML5 site looks or behaves, you can simply change it — no need to monkey with an app that’s already downloaded to someone’s iPhone or Android.

That runs counter to a lot of current digital distribution thinking, which holds that every Web distributor — from newspapers to Facebook to Netflix — needs to be thinking app-first.

No need to beat the debate into the ground — it’s really only relevant to a few thousand people, and it can take on a religious overtone — but it is worth noting that it seems to be working for Quartz. Delaney said his site is now attracting two million users a month.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik