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Rikki
 

Invision Community Apps for iOS & Android

I'm excited to reveal that we are making Invision Community native apps for iOS and Android!

For the past few months, our staff has been using an internal test build right here on our community. Now we are ready to widen testing to a larger pool of customers. Information on how to become a tester is at the end of this post. But first, let's take a look at the app itself.

Technology Preview
We have a lot of exciting plans for the Invision Community app.

We wanted to take full advantage of a clean slate and build a brand new experience that embraces a native app's interfaces. While the app is unmistakably Invision Community, it features new ways of interacting with your content.

We want the app to help shape the future of Invision Community, and we're asking for you to help.

What we are opening up for testing today is a technology preview. This slim app covers the essentials with a view to much more expansion later.

The technology preview is locked to our community. The app we will release will be a 'multi-community' app; a directory of communities users can browse and save.

We’ve taken this approach because the app stores have clamped down on ‘template’ apps, and the cost involved in building and maintaining a separate app per-community won’t be an option for many of our customers. A multi-community app is a great approach for most: simple setup, minimal cost, still fully-featured, and a great way for new users to find your community too.

What The App Does
For the initial phase of this technology preview, discussions are the main focus which is the foundation of every Invision Community. Also available are profiles, streams, search and notifications - including (at last!) push notifications.

Any areas that the app does not currently support will open seamlessly in a web view within the app. As we build new functionality into the app over time, users will encounter fewer of these hybrid views.

Your feedback will allow us to target the highest priority areas during the technology preview phase.

Pricing
Note: The information below outlines our current intentions, but may change as we finalize the app's release to app stores.

The good news is we intend for the app to be free to both our customers with active licenses and their end-users. In time, we will offer a premium option to communities. This funding will secure the app's long-term future.

The premium option could enhance their listing in the directory, or provide special functionality when users use that community in the app.

iPhone Xs.pngiPhone Xs 2.png

Availability

We intend to release the app alongside the next significant point release of Invision Community, expected to be 4.5. Communities will need to upgrade to this version to allow their users to use the app.

Questions?

Why not a PWA (progressive web app)?
Invision Community 4.4 already supports several PWA features. However, until iOS supports Push Notifications (and other features) in PWAs, we don't feel they are a fully-rounded solution to using communities on a phone. Building native apps allow us to experiment with new interfaces and approaches. As PWA support improves in the years to come, we'll feed what we learn back into the main product for the benefit of all users.

Why now?
Those with a long memory will recall that we've had a few attempts at providing an app in the past that weren't successful.

We are great at building apps with web technologies but creating native apps ourselves wasn't sustainable.

Enter React Native.

React Native is an open-source technology for building native apps. React Native allows teams to build native apps using web technologies, but crucially, React Native doesn't build hybrid apps. They are compiled into real native apps - not browser wrappers, but native buttons, text, dialogs, animations and more.

A year or so ago, we started experimenting with React Native to see if it might be a viable approach for us. And it was. Finally, there was a technology that enabled web engineers to build delightful cross-platform native apps.

As we can build native mobile apps using the technology we are familiar with allows us to incorporate mobile app development into our existing processes.

Why just forums?
Invision Community is a large, fully-featured platform, and building the entire platform in a native app from the get-go didn't seem to be the best approach. Instead, we've focused on the most active area of most communities - forums - with other areas still supported in the app via webviews. Over time, additional features and tools will be built into the app so that it eventually reaches feature-parity with the web version. We'll take feedback from our customers to determine which areas to support next.

How will I add my community to the app?
The next significant point release of Invision Community (expected to be 4.5) will have app support built-in. Including your app in the directory will be as simple as enabling the feature in your AdminCP and configuring a few options. 

Is the app ad-supported?
There are no ads of any kind in the app right now. We may include ads or allow communities to run their own ads as a premium option in future.

Can I get a white-label version for my community?
We aim to offer a white-label option in the future.

Will my plugins work in the app?
Probably not. We're intentionally building the app to work with standard Invision Community features and apps right now. If your plugins add new UI elements or change the functions that users interact with it's likely they will not work with the app.

What about themes?
Themes won't work in the app because the app doesn't use HTML. However, some branding/customization will be available via the AdminCP, and we may expand upon this in future.

Have other questions? Let us know in the comments, and we'll answer them!

Sign Up For Testing
For the next stage of our testing process, we will be inviting several customers to try the app and provide feedback/bug reports. As part of the sign-up process, we'll ask for some information about your own community. We'll use this to select further testers once we begin testing of the 'multi-community' version of the app later. The answers you provide will not affect your chance of testing the app on our community.

Interested in joining the testing group? Click here to sign up.

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Comments



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4 hours ago, jair101 said:

Do you intend (long term) to copy some of the tapatalk features and behavior? Most importantly - will the owners of the community still own all member registrations, posts made from the app only and so on? Do you see tapatalk as a competitor?

It actually compares pretty favorably to TapaTalk already in terms of features. It's important to note that all user handling is done by your community. We don't handle registrations, login or act as a middle-man. Once the user taps to enter your community, it's all handled by your IPS4 installation via a new API. The only exception to this is push notifications, which for technical reasons must route through our own service from your community.

As a side effect of this, it means we aren't offering a global "Invision Account" type service right now. Users will need to register and log in to each community they wish to visit in the app.

Quote

As the app will be free and ignoring the agreements with the large companies for the time being, do you have any plans to monetize the app on your end? Or the development and support is expected to be funded only from the license sale and renewal?

We hope to offer a premium option for users and/or communities later, but we also don't want to hoist ourselves with our own petard by ruling in or ruling out particular ideas at this early stage. We'll see what the reception to the app is once it's in users' hands and go from there.

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17 minutes ago, Kjell Iver Johansen said:

Good News! Would it be possible to allow only certain user groups access to app? 

Honestly, and this is my personal feeling rather than a group decision, is that isn't something I want to do. You're limiting the potential growth of your community to give a perk to a small percentage of your user base.

Why not use the app to encourage rapid growth and then offer options (such as subscriptions) to a wider base?

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5 minutes ago, Sonya* said:

I like the idea of going mobile. But I do not like:

  • having one app for all communities
  • no possibility to customize the look any style
  • no possibility to use custom extensions, plugins and so on

Wouldnt it be easier to start small and grow slowly but safely ?

Not all of the community owners would like to pay for a white-label application or it wouldnt be affordable at first. It is said that it will be an option in the future.

For all of the years we have been waiting, I personally expect and am excited for an application which is supported within the code itself and written by the IPS which means we wont be facing problems of a plugin / application which is not yet supported for the new version.

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50 minutes ago, Sonya* said:

I like the idea of going mobile. But I do not like:

  • having one app for all communities
  • no possibility to customize the look any style
  • no possibility to use custom extensions, plugins and so on

Without paying for white label, which means setting up your own Apple and Google Play accounts, and getting the app through the approval process, a multi-community app is the only solution.

There absolutely will be the possibility to adjust some things in the app via your own ACP for how it looks. Again, it's not feasible for a free app to have it customisable completely as you're not building simple HTML and CSS pages, it's much more complex than that.

For the same reason, extensions and plugins that alter the front end cannot work. It's not a simple case of injecting some HTML into an existing template.

The app is a completely different mindset to desktop/mobile browser apps.

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3 hours ago, Matt said:

Honestly, and this is my personal feeling rather than a group decision, is that isn't something I want to do. You're limiting the potential growth of your community to give a perk to a small percentage of your user base.

Why not use the app to encourage rapid growth and then offer options (such as subscriptions) to a wider base?

I guess so, but for me I would rather have this as paid option. At least until we can have ads displayed in the app as well.

My paying users have no ads, and this can be another reason to be a paying member...

Anyway - I look forward to see the final result. Also I have a website that only uses Pages, and I'm very curios on how this app will handle third party add-ons and Pages. 

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Maybe multi-community mode can be the perfect solution for Ips bussiness need and ips admins benefits, how about if we can do below?:

1. When end users after installed the app, prompt a question: "which is your community? " end user have to introduce the community address or name, example invisionpower.com, then the app will detect If the address or name it belongs a premium database or free directory:

         A. If the address it belongs a premium database, then the app only show the community related. 

         B. If the address it belongs no premium database or free directory, the app show all communities which agreed added into the ips free directory.

2. Ips to admin side. Ips offer a subscription service to ips admins:

      A. $0 for free directory, and ips ads. Here ips can have income by ads. 

      B. $😅(a little fee please, because we already paying to be active ips license user or cloud service) for hidden ips free directory database and ips ads. In this case, actived license admin can pay with the renewal fee together, cloud admin pay six months renewal too. Here ips increase the 6 months income. 

      C. While label(future as informed). I think this skin product can be part of enterprise level service. Here ips Enterprise marketing will be more attractive and increase income expanding this customers portfolio. (I want to be part in the future) 

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         D. If someone don't want enterprise service, but yes for while label app, then pay additional cost only for this item. 

I think this mode can cover all type of admins groups.

 

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In the case of a member it belongs both databases:

The app select the premium address as default, when the user open the app, only show the premium community content and interface, but inside of the navbar menu can leave a link "Free Communities Directory" , it will appear if detected the member introduced additional a free directory address. So when user touch the link will change to free directory interface that show all communities and the ips ads. If user select menu, select "Premium Community" where appear which communities have, choose the address and the app will change to the Premium interface. 

According which type of community the user is exploring, the app will change between interface, premium or free with ads. 

 

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Curious as to how we may inform our members of the mobile app. Will there be an option to detect mobile devices and show them (guests and members on mobile) where to go in order to download the mobile app?

Edited by Christforums

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40 minutes ago, Christforums said:

Curious as to how we may inform our members of the mobile app. Will there be an option to detect mobile devices and show them (guests and members on mobile) where to go in order to download the mobile app?

Yes, that'll be a built in option 🙂You'll also be free to make your own banners/announcements/etc. of course too.

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If you have no plans to release source code as a product, I suggest you release a proper PWA for the rest of us that can't work with a white-labeled, un-customized native app for our sites

Also, the fact that iOS doesn't support Web Push API (but a different service for Push Notifications) doesn't affect me much in a PWA. I greatly prefer Email Notifications for my website since my users don't want a bunch of intrusive notifications on their devices any way, especially from a forum. I understand that many need to have intrusive push notifications to help drive engagement, but this isn't the case for my site.

So, a good PWA where the user is prompted to install the PWA and the PWA does enough caching of files to make it feel like a native app even though it is a JavaScript web app is what I need. See the Twitter PWA vs the Twitter native app... It is very well done and you can't really tell the difference between the two.

The code you need to write for a good IPS PWA is rather minimal. The HTML/CSS needs work to work better on mobile, but that could wait until IPS5 is out and rewrites the theme/JS framework in React.js. I suggest looking at:

https://react-bootstrap.github.io

for version 5. This would get you out of the business of maintaining your own JS/HTML/CSS framework.

In the meantime, adding PWA into IPS4 shouldn't take but a few months (at most). I've been planning on doing that myself later this year (and have spent a lot of time reading up on what would be needed to support a PWA for IPS4 custom apps). I will have to do this unless IPS gets around to support PWA in IPS4 by the end of the year.

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17 hours ago, Rikki said:

It actually compares pretty favorably to TapaTalk already in terms of features. It's important to note that all user handling is done by your community. We don't handle registrations, login or act as a middle-man. Once the user taps to enter your community, it's all handled by your IPS4 installation via a new API. The only exception to this is push notifications, which for technical reasons must route through our own service from your community.

As a side effect of this, it means we aren't offering a global "Invision Account" type service right now. Users will need to register and log in to each community they wish to visit in the app.

Thanks, Rikki, thats reassuring! My point was simply that tapatalk did a lot of shady stuff and I wanted to make sure, you are not following in their footsteps. It is easy to say - if you don't like the app, then remove it, but it is not as simple as that. Many users are getting used to tapatalk and they don't care it is more or less a trojan horse in your community. If those users are a very vocal minority/majority the entire community can be held as a hostage to them. 

For me, if I make the app avaialble, I want to make sure it will stay available for the foreseeable future, thats why I asked slightly paranoid questions 🙂

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3 hours ago, jair101 said:

For me, if I make the app avaialble, I want to make sure it will stay available for the foreseeable future, thats why I asked slightly paranoid questions 🙂

The best admins are always obsessively paranoid.  Keep it up.  

 

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Do you see ip.content as being something feasible to do (white-label or otherwise) like this?

This is not an uncommon approach to forum-ish apps. I think you should set yourselves apart and do gallery and clubs! 😃

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Since you all are building a Mobile App.
Does that mean we will be receiving new Endpoints to build our own Mobile Apps?
Because I'd really enjoy having an Endpoint to Upload Attachments / Images. 😛 

 

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10 hours ago, Jaymez said:

Do you see ip.content as being something feasible to do (white-label or otherwise) like this?

This is not an uncommon approach to forum-ish apps. I think you should set yourselves apart and do gallery and clubs! 😃

Gallery and Clubs are both high on the priority list. Pages is tricky to do because people do so many custom things with it, whereas a native app needs its views built ahead of time. That said, I'd love to find a way of offering some pre-built views that you can choose for each database. It won't work for every site but it'd hopefully cover the common situations.

11 minutes ago, TimTheMiles said:

Since you all are building a Mobile App.
Does that mean we will be receiving new Endpoints to build our own Mobile Apps?
Because I'd really enjoy having an Endpoint to Upload Attachments / Images. 😛 

There is a new GraphQL API that powers the app. While we're building it for the app, in theory any application would be able to use it.

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2 minutes ago, Rikki said:

 

There is a new GraphQL API that powers the app. While we're building it for the app, in theory any application would be able to use it.


That sounds cool, and would be super useful for Communities that already have Native Mobile Apps and Developers.
Or are looking to get a Native Mobile App created.

Because we've basically had to Develop a ton of New Endpoints and Apps in order to get ours working.
So I understand the struggle.

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50 minutes ago, Rikki said:

Gallery and Clubs are both high on the priority list. Pages is tricky to do because people do so many custom things with it, whereas a native app needs its views built ahead of time. That said, I'd love to find a way of offering some pre-built views that you can choose for each database. It won't work for every site but it'd hopefully cover the common situations.

How about Blogs?  I have thousands of blog entries on my site, although people are starting to abandon it once I upgraded to 4.x recently as there are just so many problems with it now, and the upgrader did a poor job of converting blog data.  Really disappointing to see the Blogs module get very little attention from Invision.

 ..Al

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Just now, AtariAge said:

How about Blogs?  I have thousands of blog entries on my site, although people are starting to abandon it once I upgraded to 4.x recently as there are just so many problems with it now, and the upgrader did a poor job of converting blog data.  Really disappointing to see the Blogs module get very little attention from Invision.

 ..Al

Blogs will certainly be supported too, but in terms of priority it would be lower than, say, Gallery which sees more use. On the plus side though, Blogs are also easier to support than Gallery, so there is that 🙂 

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