Tell HN: Udacity is deprioritizing its app and will eventually remove it

54 points by 3into10power5 2 months ago

Udacity is getting ready to kill its mobile app. I got following email from them today. I think its a good thing. Mobile apps should die..for they add little value but cause massive privacy problems. I hope this means less intrusive "download our app" requests on websites

When we launched the Udacity app over 4 years ago, we were pleased to offer Udacity students our learning experience from the convenience of a mobile app. Ultimately, ten percent of Udacity students downloaded the app, and many enjoyed using it as an additional learning path.

In 2019, we are prioritizing massive upgrades to the Udacity classroom and service experience. We are focusing our efforts to support, motivate, and drive not only learning and career success for our students, but also to provide a world-class online learning experience.

Because the Udacity app has not significantly advanced students' ability to achieve their learning and career goals, moving forward we will not support many of these product upgrades on the mobile app and will sunset the mobile app as of January 9, 2019. After this point you won't be able to download or use the app anymore. The Udacity classroom experience, including Knowledge and Student Hub will remain supported on mobile web as it is today.

If you have questions, view the FAQ doc or reach out by responding to this email.

Your Udacity team

aosaigh 2 months ago

> Mobile apps should die..for they add little value but cause massive privacy problems.

Mobile apps that are a bad fit for the platform should die. Not everything needs to be a mobile app but some products and services absolutely benefit from being mobile and native.

  • zapzupnz 2 months ago

    I'd also love to see video games on mobile devices running through a browser with the same level of immersion and capability as, say, Infinity Blade, Gear.Club, Flatpack, or, heck, Minecraft.

    I know I've only cited one category of mobile app, but it illustrates the point that anybody who tells you "xyz needs to die" might have a very myopic view of what xyz actually is.

    • stevewodil 2 months ago

      VR porn is really powerful in browser. I'm not sure if that relates to anything I just wanted to let you know that there's hope

    • ttty 2 months ago

      Take a look at http://bitplanets.com

      It's a game that works on phone

      • zapzupnz 2 months ago

        Not even vaguely comparable. A rather ugly 2D browser game doesn't match the titles I suggested, nor even the most shovelware games that make the top lists on the App Store.

    • thisisweirdok 2 months ago

      there's really not a whole lot standing in the way of this being a possibility

      • zapzupnz 2 months ago

        I know it's cynical to say, but if that's the case, where are all the big budget 3D triple A games in web browsers?

        Still a long way to go, and I remain unconvinced that web browsers are the best place to play those kinds of games, especially on mobile. Even with the ability to hide the web browser chrome by adding a web app to the home screen, abstractions upon abstractions upon abstractions without proper access to system frameworks that the browser doesn't have access to (like ARKit, HealthKit, etc.) low-level APIs (like Metal, as opposed to WebGL) just get in the way of what game developers are capable of now.

        We might get there in the future, but not yet.

bargl 2 months ago

I'm going to miss this. I was one of the 10%. I would download a video so I didn't have to download it over mobile for my commute. Then I could watch it on the bus while working problems on my laptop.

This isn't a huge loss as 4 years ago I didn't have as much data as I do now. I'll get over it, but I'm still sad.

  • geezerjay 2 months ago

    As someone who relies on udacity's app to follow a couple of courses in scenarios where I don't have internet access (say, in a flight) this news is very disapointing. It feels like a sort of bait and switch.

  • ngngngng 2 months ago

    Browsers should give a way to download assets from websites to use later. This would be amazing for PWAs and take away the need for a dedicated app for your rather common use case.

hdfx 2 months ago

Just because Udacity is withdrawing their app, it does not mean that mobile apps are dying, or should die. I have passed several courses on Udacity and other MOOCs, and I cannot imagine following a programming course from a mobile device. I need to try out the things by myself, eg.: type code in an actual IDE, install a server on your machine, use command line tools, etc, things that you can't do from a mobile app.

"ultimately, ten percent of Udacity students downloaded the app". - this makes sense, why to develop and maintain an app that is barely used?

  • zapzupnz 2 months ago

    On the other hand, an app that was further developed and maintained might have been used more. The app, as it is, probably shouldn't have existed in the first place. There's room for an app at Udacity, but not what they made.

    • geezerjay 2 months ago

      What's wrong with udacity's app? It enables users to buy course subscriptions and follow courses even when offline, and does so painlessly and efectively. What else is it missing?

      • zapzupnz 2 months ago

        It's not missing anything, really. It just doesn't do more than the website.

zapzupnz 2 months ago

> Because the Udacity app has not significantly advanced students' ability to achieve their learning and career goals

This is oddly worded. It's not the app's fault that Udacity didn't put enough oomph behind it.

I'm not saying that it was necessarily feasible or even possible to put more resources behind it, but the wording is irksome.

  • ashleyw 2 months ago

    I read it as more "students tend to prefer sitting at a real computer to learn".

    • zapzupnz 2 months ago

      I know that's what it means. The point (as I said twice) is that it's not worded that way; the agency is in the wrong place.

langitbiru 2 months ago

I used their mobile app because I wanted to download the videos for later viewing in a place with a poor connection. But even basic feature like downloading videos did not always work correctly. It was quite frustrating. So that's why I abandoned their mobile app.

I think maintaining a mobile app with basic functionality like downloading videos should not take much effort. We don't need a fancy mobile app where you can learn programming by dragging blocks of statements.

Anyway, I still love Udacity. I already graduated from two nanodegrees.

NikolaNovak 2 months ago

I don't think this is a good use case for "mobile apps should die", quite the opposite - how will I download the content and watch it on subway, airplane, etc?

I don't do much video when connected, prefer written format, so without offline capability I literally have no need for video classes etc (even Netflix won me over once I could download for offline viewing).

As well, ten percent of your user base ain't nothing!

jmull 2 months ago

This sounds like the right business move for Udacity. They’ve had to lay off a significant fraction of their workforce so it makes sense to focus on the platform 90% of their students use.

But this doesn’t have much to do with the general question of app vs web site. It really depends on what you’re doing. Also, apps and web sites have the same potential for massive privacy problems. Either way it’s up to what data is collected, how it’s secured and who it is sold to.

msaharia 2 months ago

In my opinion, if only 10% of your students downloaded the app, that means you never had significant traction outside western countries. Mobile traffic is through the roof for developing Countries, often the only device owned by a learner.

laurynas-s 2 months ago

For non-programming subjects that do not require writing code I found the app really useful for watching the courses offline.

As that content is mostly free, I see why you decided to discontinue the app.

axit 2 months ago

I did use the mobile app to watch lecture videos on the go. Would it be possible to put the videos in a course-wise playlist on Youtube for easy viewing?

  • CharlesW 2 months ago

    Why is that better than using Udacity's web site?

    • yjftsjthsd-h 2 months ago

      Downloading so you don't have to use cell data?

      • quickthrower2 2 months ago

        I think so. Even better: drm free mp4s

        • geezerjay 2 months ago

          Mp3s don't support video, and video is of vital importance to the vast majority of courses, specially IT.

      • CharlesW 2 months ago

        > Downloading so you don't have to use cell data?

        Ah! Makes sense, thank you.

auct 2 months ago

Not sure how it's today but yesr ago udacity website was slow af. To be short: make your website fast before deleting app.

P.s. its friendly hint, i don't care actually

Apocryphon 2 months ago

Sounds like abandoning React Native didn't save it.

franzwong 2 months ago

Perhaps they should think about cutting features and going back to "Minimal maintainable product".

piyushpr134 2 months ago

You have just killed Udacity in India