Chapter 5. Embracing Offline-First

Over a decade ago, I cofounded a company called Wi-Ser. Our mission was to convince cafes and restaurant owners that this was 2004, and it was about time they provided free WiFi to their clients.

In trying to sell this revolutionary idea, we ran into two main objections.

The less technical skeptics asked us, “Why do we need to provide WiFi to our clients? Why do they need to be online while they are having coffee?”

A couple of more technical skeptics pointed out that they read that WiMAX is just around the corner—online connectivity was about to be solved.

Over a decade has passed since those days, and most of us have to come to realize that mobile connectivity isn’t going to be “solved” anytime soon.

Sitting at our home or office, with a reliable internet connection, it is easy to dismiss the problem. Connectivity issues seem like a problem of the less fortunate, halfway around the world. But this is an issue that affects us all, whether we are boarding a flight, landing in a foreign country with no local data plan, commuting in the metro, hiking, or even just sitting in that one room in our house where there never seems to be any reception (except when standing on a really high chair).

We have become so used to this, that “I am going into a tunnel” or “I am getting into an elevator” has become a joke. An excuse you say when you want to lose connectivity.

It is time to stop treating a loss of connectivity as an error state in our web apps. Offline ...

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