iOS 8 from a Business Perspective

June 3, 2014

iOS 8We watch a lot of product launches here at Sephone. It’s part of the life of a tech worker; it’s great to know what will be coming in the future. Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is one of the most interesting for us, because often the announcements made there let us know what new things we’ll be able to do on the iOS side of mobile development when the next operating system is released.

It’s always tough to guess what exactly will catch on and gain mainstream usage. After the launch of the iPhone 5 a couple of years ago, we wrote about new features like Passbook and Smart App Banners and how could change how people used mobile sites and apps. Sometimes these features rise to popularity; sometimes they don’t. Whether or not they do, we love to know what’s out there – a little-used feature could be a perfect solution for a specific app or company.

Here’s a look at a couple of the announcements that caught our eyes during the preview of iOS 8 yesterday.


Extensibility is a fancy developer word for saying “letting developers build onto iOS 8 itself”. One of the ways to extend iOS is to build in ways to let apps talk to each other and extend what you can do in apps like Safari and Mail. During the presentation Apple showed that iOS 8 will allow Safari users to translate a web page’s content with a service like Bing or allow sharing on sites like Pinterest.

It will be really interesting to see how apps and companies use this kind of extensibility within iOS. Which sites would you like to share to from apps like Safari, or what services would you like to see available when you’re viewing a site?

HealthKit and the Health app

Health is becoming a huge area of focus for development, between fitness tracking apps, sleep analytics devices, and even blood pressure or glucose monitoring and tracking. Apple’s new HealthKit platform will let developers use a standardized platform for this kind of information in a way that keeps that data secure. The new Health app will be a dashboard showing graphs and statistics about a person’s health history. There’s a lot of possibility for innovation in this space.

iOS 8 will be released in the fall, and it will likely be adopted quickly by many of today’s current iOS users. It’s another step forward in the long road of new possibilities in iOS and Android development.


Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

A Short History of Canoe Race Spectating

April 16, 2014

Spectators at the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe RaceThe 48th annual Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race happens this weekend in Bangor. It’s a lot of fun for the hundreds of canoeists and kayakers who actually brave the fast, cold water, but it’s probably just as fun for the people who line the banks of the stream to watch the participants as they pass – and maybe hoping for an occasional (or not-so-occasional) tip of a boat as the racers move over the rapids.

I’ve been going to the races as a spectator for quite a while, and it’s been a lot of fun to see how the art of canoe race spectating has evolved over the years. And as it has in so many areas of our lives, technology has been a big part of the changes.


As cameras have gotten more and more advanced (and less and less expensive), it seems like they show up in more places than ever. There’s always been a crowd of people standing on the stream’s banks, but it seems like more and more of them bring cameras along with them. Taking photos of the race is tough but fun, and luckily even high-quality cameras are relatively affordable now.

Social media

It’s been great watching as more people share photos and videos of the race from interesting perspectives in recent years, and it’s amazing to think that even just a few years ago, it was difficult to share information from the stream. These days, people can tweet or share media or thoughts as they happen on Facebook and Twitter, and it lets people who weren’t able to head down to the Kenduskeag take part in the race vicariously.

It will be interesting to see how spectating continues to evolve. It’s amazing to think that things like a video livestream from the banks is possible (and pretty easy to do with the right apps) now; when I first went to the race, that wouldn’t have been an option! Maybe in the future technologies like GPS or advanced photo sharing will allow people watching the race to be more immersed in what’s happening along the 16-mile route. As usual with technology, it’s tough to predict until it actually happens!


Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

The Web: More Than .com

March 17, 2014


When you hear about domain names –,, – most of the focus is usually on the part before the dot. But what do those few letters at the end of the domain mean?

The right-most portion of a domain name is called a TLD, or top-level domain. It is, in short, a category for domains. You’re probably used to hearing about a lot of domains that end in “.com”, a shortened version of “commercial”. But names on the web go far, far beyond that!

In the beginning… .com, .net, .org

The first batch of top-level domains were created in early 1985: .com, .net (for networks), .org (originally for non-profit organizations), .edu (for educational institutions), .gov (for government), and .mil (for military). Some top-level domains (including .edu, .gov, and .mil) are limited, and they can only be reserved with certain qualifications. The other three big TLDs are now unrestricted.

Country codes

But what about the other top-level domains? In many cases, domains in use may be assigned to a certain country. Here are some of the common country code TLDs you may see on the sites you visit:

  • .uk: United Kingdom
  • .fr: France
  • .de: Germany (Deutschland)
  • .cn: China
  • .in: India
  • .ie: Ireland

Individual countries have different policies about how people can use their domains. Some require registrants to be a citizen. Other countries leave registration pretty open, which allows domain owners to be a bit creative with their names (for example, the original used the United States’s .us domain, and uses Libya’s .ly).

The new frontier

As the use of domain names has grown, people continue to look for new ways to create easy-to-remember homes online. Much like the addition of new toll-free prefixes in addition to the original 800 numbers, new domains are added periodically as well (for example, .ws and .info).

In 2014 companies will be adding thousands of new options for top-level specialty domains – everything from .photos to .coffee to .community.

If you’d like to talk about the best choices for your business’s domain name, or if you’d like to register additional names for your company, we’d be happy to discuss your options!


Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

Comcast, Netflix, and Net Neutrality

February 24, 2014

SnailAn agreement with huge implications for how the Internet works happened over the weekend – and most people will probably never hear about it.

Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast in order to ensure its users don’t see annoying those “buffering” messages while they’re trying to watch their favorite movies and TV shows. In other words, Netflix is paying for a premium level of service on the Comcast network.

Since the beginning of online access, the general rule has been that information is information; it doesn’t matter what it is. You might be watching “Breaking Bad” on Netflix, looking at a photo of your grandkid, or reading a news article – all data’s treated the same way.

The Netflix deal starts the web down a different road: a road on which certain content is treated differently.

The Netflix traffic jam

Netflix usage is insane; it takes up just under a third of the downstream traffic in America. One way to look at the Netflix/Comcast deal is to say that Netflix is paying to compensate for that huge share, and it might be fair that since the company uses a large portion of resources, it should pay a premium for that amount of access.

A possible future

On the other hand, this deal raises questions about net neutrality: the practice of treating all online content the same. In short, with net neutrality in place, a customer pays for a certain level of service and can do whatever they (legally) want to do with it.

An absence of net neutrality may mean that Internet service is treated similarly to cable: different rates for different kinds of content. Internet providers could theoretically charge an additional fee for access to some sites. (There’s a great concept chart by Redditor quink that shows this well.) Taken to an even more extreme level, a service provider with, for example, their own news portal could either reduce or block service to competitors. It could also put smaller, more innovative new companies at a disadvantage if they didn’t have the resources to pay for deals with Internet providers.

The FCC is currently looking at new ways to ensure net neutrality, especially while the industry continues to consolidate.

Is the Netflix/Comcast deal a case of one company paying their share for access, or is it the beginning of the end for net neutrality? It’s tough to say. In any case the debate about net neutrality is sure to be one of the core discussions in the coming years.


Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

Facebook’s Paper and Early Adopters

February 4, 2014

Facebook's Paper appOn the eve of Facebook’s tenth anniversary, the world’s largest social network launched a new app: Paper. Most media reports have tagged it as a news reading app (like Flipboard), and the reactions run the gamut from huge praise to harsh criticism. I tend to think that’s what Facebook expected, for one simple reason: Paper is how Facebook would look on mobile devices if they were starting over. It’s the rebirth of Facebook for early adopters.

One of the toughest challenges web application developers face is how to keep current users happy while improving your product to change with the times. As a user you usually only see one side of it – and Facebook has seen its share of backlash when they try to change even the tiniest thing about the site. (Good luck getting through all the “change Facebook back!” posts in your News Feed when one of these changes happens.) Why change the site at all, then? If you don’t, a site goes stale. How many of these homepages can you remember from the last ten years, and would you really want to spend all your Facebook time looking at those first few?

Users of any technology can be grouped into a few categories using the technology adoption lifecycle, something that dates back all the way to 1957. (If you’re interested in sociological research – and I mean, who isn’t? – the original report is online as a PDF.) The people who are more willing to experiment and play are usually the first to try a new technology, and they’re called “innovators” and “early adopters”. As a technology spreads it gains the loyalty of even people who are more reluctant to change.

What would happen if Facebook didn’t have to worry about the reaction of its current users and appealed to those early adopters who love the cutting-edge? What if there were no “change Facebook back!” campaigns?

That’s Paper.

Paper uses some really innovative ways of interacting with an app, and it brings the design of the News Feed into current times where media like photos and videos rule and design is based more on the content you’re showing than what device you’re using to show your content.

Paper’s not a news reading app. It’s Facebook’s new vision for the News Feed, and they’re letting you choose if you want to come along for the ride.


Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

The State of the State of the Union

January 28, 2014

stateoftheunionThe State of the Union address has become one of the annual traditions that political geeks crave and everyone else tends to love or hate. Since the original “he shall from time to time” passage was written in Article II, Section 3, presidents have changed how they fulfill the constitutional requirement.

As it has with almost everything else, the web has transformed how the State of the Union is presented. Bringing the speech to radio (as Calvin Coolidge did in 1923) and television (Harry Truman, 1947) allowed the address to reach a larger audience, but today’s viewer can be more informed, thanks to the Internet.

  • The White House itself uses YouTube to present an enhanced version of the State of the Union, complete with graphs, statistics, and social elements alongside the prepared speech.
  • uses the address for a chance to do some live fact-checking of the speech on their site and on Twitter.
  • Pretty much every news source in the world will have live-blogging, live-tweeting, live-photoing, and whatever other information and analysis they can manage to find.

Even with its centuries-old roots and traditions, the State of the Union continues to change and evolve with the advent of the web. What could you do to give a refresh to your typical routine and allow your customers to be more informed?


Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

Justin’s Predictions for 2014

January 8, 2014

This is one of a series of prediction posts for 2014 by our team members.

It seems like every year brings new advances and shifts in technology, some of which we’d never expect. Mobile devices and tablets have seen a huge surge in their market over the last few years, and we’ve seen an ever-growing expansion of social media as well. I think we’ll be imagining content in a different way by the end of 2014.

Using devices in new ways

There’s always a buzz about the next big device market. A few years ago, everyone started to talk about how tablets could change how we consume content. Lately the speculation has been about how we might use glasses, watches, or as Alan mentioned, televisions in new ways.

We talk a lot about responsive design, which lets you build a single site that adjusts its design based on what device you use to view it. In 2014 I believe we’ll really start to focus on moving beyond even responsive design to where we take a device’s strengths in mind. Maybe you’ll receive a custom notification on your phone if someone places an online order on your site. Maybe your watch will vibrate or beep if someone enters your store and you’re in the back room.

2014 may be the year where instead of thinking of the Internet as a bunch of HTML web pages and see it as the framework for new kinds of interaction and engagement.

Specialized social media

Facebook continues to be the social media king, but depending on who you believe, the site may be losing traction with younger users. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen growth in a number of social networks that specialize in one thing, such as Instagram and Pinterest. If Facebook users are worn out by Bitstrips, viral videos, and fake rumors, they may opt for networks where they can fine-tune who they choose as connections based on the type of content they want to see and share.

As the social pendulum swings back, there’s also a strong chance we’ll see services like Snapchat and Instagram Direct continue to rise in use. Controlling individual viewing seems to be a popular feature lately.

2014 promises to be an exciting year in tech. What do you think will be the hot tech gifts for the 2014 holiday season?


Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

Sephone State of the Browser: December 2013

January 3, 2014

Now that we’ve reached another new year, it’s time for the latest installment in our State of the Browser series. In these posts we periodically look at what browsers visitors are using to visit some of our sites with the highest amount of traffic to get a snapshot of what’s popular with the general web community.

For the month of December we’ve picked three sites and averaged their browser usage. Here’s what we found:

Browser Usage Share

We found some continuing trends in the numbers from last month.

  • Internet Explorer usage overall continues to decline. In June 2008, Internet Explorer usage was at approximately 80%. Today it’s just over 30%. The number today is pretty evenly spread between the latest 4 versions of the browser, with 1.69% holding onto the ancient relic of IE 7. Internet Explorer 8, which is the most recent version available for Windows XP, may continue to decline as XP support ends in April.
  • At 22.8%, Chrome has become a close second to IE in terms of browser usage.
  • We split Safari up into mobile and desktop versions, and the mobile version continues to be popular at 13.7%.
  • While Android phones and tablets continue to be more popular, it seems like iOS users use the web more often, at least on the three sites we calculated. Total Android use (Android Browser + Chrome on mobile) is at 4.6% while Mobile Safari takes up 11.2% of the pie.

Here’s another interesting chart. One of every five visits on the three sites we used comes from a mobile device (phone or tablet):

 Traffic by Device Type

That number is one in four for many of our sites, and we even have sites where almost half of traffic comes from either a phone or tablet! If you’re not already thinking about mobile, now is the time.

Take a look at some of our other State of the Browser reports from the last few years.


Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.