Personalization vs. Privacy in the Age of the Mobile Web

Michael Vizard

The relationship between application developers and the end users that access their application is, for better or worse, getting more intimate.

As part of an effort to gain more insight into how people use their applications, developers have begun to experiment with the ability to be continuously connected in order to more consistently track application usage.

For example, Preemptive Solutions, a provider of tools that allow developers to track usage of mobile applications in real time, reports that recently released Runtime Intelligence for Windows Phone software for Windows Phone 7 has been downloaded over 1,300 in the last 30 days. That tool, which is included in the Visual Studio framework that Microsoft provides to Windows developers, allows application developers to embed reporting and tracking tools inside a Windows Phone application.

According to Sebastian Holst, chief marketing officer for Preemptive Solutions, developers are naturally keen to see how end users are invoking the applications they build. Over time, the intelligence that developers gather will allow them to increasingly personalize applications for narrower and narrower groups of people.

Of course, that may raise some privacy concerns. So developers need to be sure that they get users to opt into any tracking system, as opposed to simply asking them to opt out using convoluted mechanisms.

Developers have been tracking how end user access applications ever since software started being deployed as a service. But SaaS was never really designed with mass customization in mind. In an age of mobile computing where the application development process is more agile than ever, the ability to quickly develop and deploy new applications creates all kinds of new possibilities involving customization.

How all this will play out remains to be seen. End users may not be so keen to have their application usage tracked. At the same time, the ability to eventually get a piece of software that is tightly aligned with their personal needs may prove irresistible.

However it turns out, one thing is for certain: The relationship between developers and end users just got a whole lot closer.

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