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This is a transcript of one episode of the Samsung Developers Podcast, hosted by and produced by Tony Morelan. All episodes of the podcast can be found at Buzzsprout. A listing of all podcast transcripts can be found here.
Senior Developer Evangelist, Samsung Developers
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Samsung Internet Developer Advocacy
In this episode of POW, I interview Dan Appelquist, Director of Developer Advocacy for Samsung Internet. Dan first got involved with web browsers way back when the internet first got started, and he was heavily involved with the web standards movement that was established at that time. Soon after, Dan relocated to London, England, and remains there today, working out of the Samsung UK office.
Listen to this episode on Buzzsprout.
NOTE: Transcripts are provided by an automated service and reviewed by the Samsung Developers web team. Inaccuracies from the transcription process do occur, so please refer to the audio if you are in doubt about the transcript.
NOTE: Transcripts are provided by an automated service and reviewed by the Samsung Developers web team. Inaccuracies from the transcription process do occur, so please refer to the audio if you are in doubt about the transcript.
Tony Morelan 00:02
Hey, I'm Tony Morelan. And this is Pow! Podcast of Wisdom from the Samsung Developer Program, where we talk about the latest tech new trends and give insight into all of the opportunities available for developers looking to create for Samsung. I sat down with Dan Appelquist, Director of developer advocacy for Samsung internet. Dan first got involved with Internet browsers way back when the internet first became a thing and he was heavily involved with the web standards movement that was established at that time. Soon after Dan relocated to London, England and remains there today working out of the Samsung, UK office. Hey, Dan, thanks for coming on to the podcast. I'm going to start with a real simple question. Who exactly is Dan Appelquist?
Dan Appelquist 00:47
Well, first of all, thanks for having me on the podcast. I really appreciate it. So I am director of developer advocacy for Samsung internet, which is Samsung's web browser. I'm also somebody who's been working on the web. Since before there was a web. So I have a background. I started working in startups in the early nine, early and mid 90s, that were kind of working on web sites and web services for the publishing industry. I went on and became a.com, CTO, being sent over to the UK from New York, to be CTO for the street.com at UK, which was this the UK arm of the street.com I became a.com refugee. And because I was here in Europe at the time in the early 2000s, I became involved in a lot of projects that were helping to bring the web to mobile, and were happening to helping to create digital mobile services, which was something where Europe at that time was a lot farther ahead than the US. So it's very interesting and exciting time to kind of be Working with companies like Vodafone, later Telefonica to help build these kinds of services, emerging services for emerging devices and handsets and that kind of thing.
Tony Morelan 02:10
Yeah, that must have been pretty exciting to have been, you know, working on technology, really, at the very beginning of something that was going to, you know, honestly, change our world forever. So why is it that you would say that Europe is further along than the US when it came to the start of the whole mobile web?
Dan Appelquist 02:25
Well, when in say 2001 2002, there were already color web phones that were coming onto the market here in the UK and elsewhere in Europe that we're delivering digital services, like very simple digital services, but still digital services, news and online information on that kind of thing. Whereas I still had to really explain to my parents what it is that I was doing. You know, people at that time in the US who really didn't think of their mobile phone as being for anything Besides calling, even text messaging was not very well understood as a medium because the interoperability wasn't there between the different carriers around text messaging. And it was only later that mobile digital services started to really develop and then the mobile internet came out of that. Whereas in Europe, I would say my experience of it anyway has been was that with the standardization of GSM, across the continent, you had a much stronger base for delivery of mobile services across a standard range of handsets, standard range of networks, all that all that kind of thing. All the technology was pretty, it was pretty standard.
Tony Morelan 03:36
And GSM is global system for mobile communications. That's right.
Dan Appelquist 03:39
Tony Morelan 03:41
So the Samsung internet, what exactly is Samsung internet?
Dan Appelquist 03:44
Right. So first of all, Samsung internet is a web browser. And for those who are familiar with web browsers, immune to other commonly known commonly used web browsers, especially on desktop computers, Include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer from Microsoft, which is increasingly being subsumed by Microsoft's new browser, which is edge. And then Apple's Safari browser probably are the biggies, the ones that people most people have heard about when it comes to market share, and especially on mobile. Samsung internet is also a browser that has a very strong market position. And that's because we ship by default with every Samsung device. We're also part of the chromium project. We're a browser that's built on top of the chromium, open source, project. And code base. That is the same code base at Google Chrome is built on top of it's also the same code base that Microsoft Edge is built on top of. So there's a community of companies and organizations that are contributing into that into that open source project, including Samsung. And what we're doing is we're taking that and we're delivering Samsung internet for Android Which is our kind of premium browser for the provides what we think of as the best user experience for the web. On definitely on Samsung devices, but we are also available across all Android devices. So any Android device, you can download and install Samsung internet and use it as your as your primary browser.
Tony Morelan 05:21
You know, of course, my Android phone is a Samsung phone. So I didn't know that that a Samsung internet browser is available for all Android phones. That's pretty cool. Yeah. Do you have an idea of how many people use the sampling internet browser?
Dan Appelquist 05:34
On Samsung devices? We're very high on other devices. We're not that high. But part of the point of being on other devices is that we it's it was very much a developer play to get it was a minimal extra effort. I shouldn't say that because our engineering team it's probably gritting their teeth and saying are you kidding me? This was not minimal effort. But anyway, it was it was it was definitely worth the effort? Because one of the key things that we go out to developers and talk about is testing. And the importance of testing on Samsung internet. One of the things that we're hearing very early on when we started work in 2016, on developer advocacy for Samsung internet was, well, we can't test we don't have a Samsung device. Can you lend us a Samsung device? Well, being available on non-Samsung devices really made that conversation a lot easier, because we could just say, Look, just download Samsung internet and run it on whatever device you have. And you'll get the get that experience and you'll be able to test and testing across browsers is so important when you're building any kind of application or any kind of web application.
Tony Morelan 06:41
And that was the reason why the whole web standard movement started, wasn't it? Because we had so many different browsers that, you know, often developers were having to create different versions of their website just to be compatible with the different browsers.
Dan Appelquist 06:51
Yeah, certainly. The adherence to web standards has been a constant issue across the web. I think that things are a lot better now than they used to be. There are still differences in, in how the in the user experience of the browser itself, it can cause issues. I'm going to be one example like, we have a feature on our browser, which is a scroll to the top of screen, which is a little button that appears over overlaid on top of the web content that allows the user to wherever they are to scroll right back up to the top of the screen. Now, if the web developer didn't test their application in Samsung internet, they might put a key piece of UI underneath that section of screen where we overlay the button. So it you know it things like that are these little micro issues that testing really helps. And that is not necessarily about web standards compliance. It's more about how you make sure that your web application runs correctly. And all the UI is correct for the UI choices that that browser has made. And how it displays it to you. You know,
Tony Morelan 08:01
I actually have a lot of experience with designing watch faces for Samsung watches. And the same is true. Yeah, it's best to design around the system icons that may appear under certain circumstances so that you don't have any, you know, usability issues.
Tony Morelan 08:15
So what is Samsung internet done to drive awareness for developers?
Dan Appelquist 08:19
So a lot of the work that we started off with when we started the team in 2016, was trying to drive market awareness of something. And we already knew that, because we had some stats that we had strong usage numbers. So we are roughly 10% of all mobile browsing in Europe, for instance, the issue was actually driving awareness amongst developers that they really needed to, to understand those numbers and therefore pay attention to testing and you basically why they should pay attention to us as a browser. So we started off by working with people like stat counter, that actually is one source that people use recordable stats of different browsers. We then went on to work with Google Analytics. So we after we've gotten counter to kind of separate us off from Google Chrome, we then went to Google Analytics. And we got them to separate us off from Google Chrome. And amazingly, after that happened, we started to get all these calls from different people. UK government was one example where they started to say, hey, we've just had this amazing jump in usage from Samsung internet, while they didn't actually have a jump they had, they always had very high usage of Samsung internet. But they just never knew it. Because Google Analytics was lumping us together with Google Chrome. So and that's the problem with a lot of these stats keeper sites is that they weren't if they were just if they were not paying attention to that your specific browser, they were lumping you together with the particular engine that the browser Based on so getting that right was like a key element. And then we can take those numbers to other places. And we can say like, Look, this is how many of your users or what percentage of users using Samsung internet, we really think you would benefit from talking to us or you would benefit from testing on Samsung internet. Would you like to come do some joint projects with us all that kind of stuff. We also have been working with places like MDN. So Mozilla Developer Network, or MDN, has recently or within the last few years has changed from a very Mozilla specific website into basically a documentation website for the web, across browsers. And what's underpin that is that they now have a product advisory board, which includes people from Microsoft, Samsung, Mozilla, obviously Google. They also have people from a couple of smaller organizations such as Boku, which is the North kind of open source development shop. So they have been doing a lot to, to kind of create, and to reinforce the understanding that developers have it. That's a cross platform development site. So as part of our work there, we made sure that when there's a documentation page about a particular API, and they have a list of browsers underneath that documentation, that is the listed, supported browsers, versions for that particular API that said, some internet appears in that list. Can I use comm is another example of a website that people use when they want to find out if they can use a particular API and a particular browser, they were also not separating yourself from Chrome. So actually working with them, and then working with them through MDN. We actually got them to use all of the MDN compatibility data, which is data that we update, that's data that our team goes in the background and updates through GitHub, through an open source procedure, so that all that data is up to date. Both on MDN. And on Can I use so that developers have up to date information about which API's they can use and which versions of which browser. And then in general, we've been doing a lot of things like writing blog posts, we write a lot of technical blog posts about the use of different API's, the use of different technologies, opinion pieces about topics on the web, we tend to focus on things where Samsung has some kind of engineering investment. So things like progressive web apps, that's one area where we've done a lot of work recently. We've also done a lot of work on web XR and the immersive web. And things like web payment, that kind of thing. We also sponsor conferences, and we go out and speak at conferences and events. These days, we're obviously we're doing a lot of virtual events. And we're really trying to play a leadership role in how the developer advocacy community deals with the current situation with a lockdown by showing how you can very effectively engage with the developers and create conversation with developers using virtual needs.
Tony Morelan 13:04
You know, I couldn't agree with you more, you know, the timing with the launch of our new podcast here is actually right in line with probably what's going to be a huge change for all of the industries as we move forward. In this new world of information sharing virtually, yeah, you know, I actually attended one of your virtual office hours. And it was nice, because, you know, you brought in some outside people, some industry people to participate.
Dan Appelquist 13:28
And that's, and that's something that we that's the kind of ethos that we have had from the beginning. We actually ran a two-day event in San Jose a couple years ago, called Samsung create. And the whole idea of that was to feature Samsung people. Yes, but at least half the speakers that we had were front were third party speakers that we brought in from the industry. And we had an MDN speaker. We had a Microsoft speaker, later Google speaker You know, it also fits together with the fact that our team besides doing the developer advocacy and outreach. We're also doing a lot of industry work. So we do work in w three C, I co-chair, a group in w three C, which is the World Wide Web Consortium that sets standards for the web, I co-chair a group there called the technical architecture group, which is a kind of technical steering group for web standards. My colleague, Ada co-chairs, the immersive web Working Group, which is working on technologies that bring AR and VR to the web. So we're not only playing a role in terms of getting the word out about these technologies, but we're also playing a role in terms of setting the standards
Tony Morelan 14:40
is simply internet just for Android.
Dan Appelquist 14:42
The work that we're doing is on Samsung internet for Android and the team that we're attached to a Samsung internet for Android. If you have a Samsung TV or if you have a Samsung watch, you may also know that there are other versions of Samsung internet they have the same logo and they are also based on chromium, but they're actually built by different teams within Samsung divisions. So there's some cross working between those different groups, especially because they're all using the chromium base. And so they share a lot of knowledge and they share a lot of information. But actually, the work that we're doing, we focus on Samsung internet for Android,
Tony Morelan 15:20
when you have improvements that you want to make to the Samsung internet browser are those released at the same time when new devices are released.
Dan Appelquist 15:28
So one of the things that we did very early on, and I think this was right around the time when I started in 2016, is we unlinked browser releases from device releases, we're now rolling out on a regular cadence, new releases of the browser that are released through Play Store and also through galaxy store. And we do sometimes do releases that are timed to device releases, but those are still in the in the context of our of our regular software release schedule. So and That's really important for the web, because the web needs to be evergreen. When there's a security vulnerability, or some kind of new feature that web developers want to use, they don't want to have to wait for a new device to come out in order to be able to use that feature. Likewise, when there are features or technologies that are deprecated, from the web stack, you really want to, either because they're vulnerable, or they're, they're difficult to use, or they're just not very performant. Or however, you want to be able to make sure that you can update all the browsers to remove that feature.
Tony Morelan 16:31
And that's great to hear that, that the updates are not tied to new device releases, you know, because I'm sure that developers are wanting to get those updates just as soon as soon as possible. And you can get those features out to the to the developer community. That's right. Yeah, yeah. So tell me what is the benefit of using Samsung internet over another browser, like say Google Chrome,
Dan Appelquist 16:51
one of the things that we pride ourselves on is a focus on user privacy. So we think that we have Better privacy features than Google Chrome. And that's certainly a goal that we have. And something that you can see, as evidenced through a lot of the features that we ship with the browser. So for instance, we have secret browsing mode, which is secured by Knox and also LinkedIn to our to biometrics on the device, so that you can secure it with your fingerprint or your face ID or However, we also integrated into Samsung Pay. Currently, that's only in the US. But there's a web feature called web payment, which integrates into Samsung Pay for us customers. That allows you to pay directly from your web page. Using Samsung Pay using the on-device payment technology, we integrate into one UI. So that's the Samsung specific UI across the device, which our browser is based on top of. As also as part of the whole privacy consideration. We allow our users to download and install ad blockers. We allow to download and install extensions, which can be privacy helping or can be other things like shopping related for instance, we also allow you to choose your own default search engine. So we have for a while now allowed you to choose DuckDuckGo is a search engine, which is a very privacy focused search engine. But with the release 11.2, that's about to come out. We've actually even increased that list for and we have way more search engines that you can choose as your default search engine. You can't do that with Google Chrome. And we have our own built in smart anti tracking technology that uses machine learning on the phone to in a very privacy focused way shield your browsing activity from an unwanted tracking on the web, which is a major issue right now, for a lot of users.
Tony Morelan 18:49
You know, it's pretty safe to say that just about everybody at some point has had something hacked whether it's you know, a credit card or maybe it's an online account, so always happy to hear about, you know, new technologies that will definitely help keep the internet safer.
Tony Morelan 19:03
Can we talk a little bit about revenue?
Tony Morelan 19:04
How does Samsung internet create revenue?
Dan Appelquist 19:07
Well, we are getting revenue from search referral. That's the same as every other browser that's out there. I mean, how do browsers make money browsers usually make money from search referral. We also have opportunities for business development when it comes to our quick access bar, which is region specific. So when you first load the browser, you're going to see a number of links that show up, you know, on your kind of quick access screen, that all of that is user configurable, and the user can change those whenever they want to. It's about what the defaults are. Those are really how Samsung is making money. I think the other part of it is more of a strategic play. There are billions of users using the web. Why would Samsung want to see to that territory to somebody else? Instead of being able to control that user experience and provide the best user experience, and we can, that's great. So how does the web developer ecosystem differ from other developer ecosystems? One thing that is important to think about what the web developer ecosystem is that it's inherently cross browser, cross device and cross iOS, and that's true of the web in general, the web needs to be able to exist across different browsers across different classes across different form factors. You need to be able to bring up your web page and have it work on your television as well as your laptop screen as well as your phone. Responsive Design and progressive enhancement have been some of the key technologies that web developers have been using to ensure that that can be the case, feature detection. These kinds of things are really important when it comes to building websites. You're not just building for one particular device. You're not just building for one particular vendor. You're you've really got to be listening to and paying attention. to a lot of different voices, when you enroll in a developer program for a specific platform, you tend to be focusing on one particular device or one particular brand, one particular OS. And that also provides some clarity, you know, which can be a good thing. However, when you're developing for the web, you need to pay attention all these different platforms and devices. That's where something where MDN can come in, and why we're putting so much energy into that because it can be a place where developers can come and find out information across different platforms.
Tony Morelan 21:36
You had mentioned a little bit about progressive web apps for new developers out there. Can you explain what exactly is a progressive web app?
Dan Appelquist 21:42
So a progressive web app is I mean, I mentioned technologies like progressive enhancement and responsive web design, which help developers build web applications that can that can work well across different browsers, different OSS, different devices, different form factors. The idea of progressive web apps brings that to the next level where we try and learn a little bit from the success of native applications on the mobile platform in particular, and are able to provide a very app like user experience for the web application itself. So a really good example of a progressive web app, probably one of the best ones out there is the Twitter pw a lot of people are removing Twitter from their phones entirely. And simply using you're removing the native app, I should say, from their phones entirely. And just using the progressive web app, because it provides almost all of the same features, but in a much more lightweight and much more privacy centric kind of kind of way. Because when you're using the Twitter progressive web app, it's been saved from the browser, and therefore it runs inside of the browser. Even though from a user perspective, it appears like any other application on the phone, it's actually running inside of the browser. So it's running in the same context, as saw the other browser tabs that you have going. So it's a bit like, I've called it having your cake and eating it too in terms of being able to build something really easily build something cross platform, but also be able to enjoy that real estate on the phone home screen push notifications that keep bringing the user attention back ability to have through a Service Worker kind of offline experience, all the kind of features that users expect from a regular native application they can begin to expect from these kinds of progressive web apps.
Tony Morelan 23:35
Yeah. Talk a little bit about AR and VR as they relate to Samsung internet. Can you share a little bit about what you were doing in those areas?
Dan Appelquist 23:42
So Samsung internet was one of the first browsers to launch the Web VR API. That API has actually been recently deprecated in favor of the web XR API, which is the API that my colleague ADA has been sharing working group to create WebEx R is a way to bring AR and VR into the browser. Now, if you are familiar with kind of AR and VR, in a kind of game, console type environment or scenario, or with various specialized equipment, then you might be scratching your head and thinking, Well, why? Why do I need AR and VR in my browser is the target. It's because the target audience for these kinds of AR and VR applications in the web are a little bit more like casual games are to the gaming industry. We fully expected we have seen the development of web applications in the gaming space and also in the kind of enterprise space where they take advantage of the technology in the browser to enable you to deliver a kind of virtual environment, a shared virtual environment that provides a lot of those kinds of advantages to a RM VR experience, but you don't have to download any software, you don't have to make sure that your, your whole set of download software is correct. And it works progressively across different environments. So a couple years ago, we worked with BBC here in London to deliver a doctor who gave that was coming out alongside of the launch of one of their seasons of Doctor Who. It's basically like a very simple navigating the TARDIS It was called the time vortex, navigating the TARDIS along a vortex and avoiding obstacles and that kind of thing. But the reason they were they were so interested in Web VR at the time, was that it's available across multiple browsers. They have a public service mandate where they're trying to get that application into as many hands as possible into the hands of kids that may have like a, you know, an older phone that aren't going to have the latest up to date technology and an AR headset or a VR headset. Those are the kinds of use cases that I'm interested in. How do we get these tools have AR and VR into everybody's hands? And I think the web is well positioned to be that platform. Definitely.
Tony Morelan 26:08
Let's talk a little bit about success and challenges. Can you First tell me about some of the challenges that Samsung Internet has faced?
Dan Appelquist 26:14
I think one of the challenges and I alluded to it before maybe is just recognition. Recognition of Samsung internet as a as a key browser. We know we are, we are increasingly driving that awareness amongst the developer community. But we still run a cross a lot of people who just never heard of us or if they heard of us that kind of dismissed us alongside of all the other OEM browsers. We like to say we're not actually like any of the other OEM browsers. Because first of all, we have enormous market share compared to our market share. It doesn't even near McAteer doesn't compare to ours. Second of all, we put a lot back into the web platform and that's extremely important to us. We put a lot back into the open source side of it and we put a lot back into the and standard cipher. So driving that has been a challenge and continues to be a challenge. But it's something that we took on. And we understand that. And I think we're turning that corner on that one.
Tony Morelan 27:11
Sure. And there's a huge value when there are multiple browsers out there. I mean, if you go back to when Internet Explorer dominated the market, and then Firefox came on board, that's when we started to see a much better browser experience. Correct?
Dan Appelquist 27:23
Yes. And in fact, that's another kind of philosophical point that drives the work of our team is that we strongly we strongly believe in browser diversity. It's not a web where one browser dominates, is not actually going to be a healthy web ecosystem. We are based on top of chromium. But we have made different UI decisions and different decisions in terms of browser features than Chrome. And that's something that we think is important and helps drive the ecosystem forward. We also work with people through standards and through web developer advocacy. In companies that are competitors, I mean, I work with people from Apple in the context of web standards, and WCC quite often and choices that they make in Safari help to drive the web forward in different areas than the choices that we make in Samsung Android, the choices that Google makes in Chrome. It's a good example.
Tony Morelan 28:23
Definitely. So what are some of the areas of success for Samsung internet?
Dan Appelquist 28:28
So from the beginning, when we started things off in 2016, we, we started off with some ideas around how we were going to treat developer advocacy differently. One decision that we took was to ensure that our team is attached to the engineering group that is producing Samsung internet. And so we have a strong connection to our own engineering team. And we work very closely with them and we do joint work and when we've done our own events, for instance, we've had Members of our engineering team come over from Korea and speak at those events. And we have a strong relationship with them. And we see ourselves as primarily web developer engineers that are also doing advocacy. So that's one element. And I think the other thing that we're very keen on is promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech community in general and in the web developer community specifically. So for instance, we have a diversity inclusion statement about conference participation. Many organizations have these now I'm very glad to see that many do. We started RS in 2016. When we put that in place, I actually used as a template, a statement that the UK Government Digital Service had come up with which so we were basically using, what they had put in place and adapting it for our needs with reference to their work, obviously, where we will not participate in an event that doesn't have Good diversity credentials that isn't doesn't have a code of conduct an enforcement policy, that kind of thing. That's why very often, if you attend any of our virtual meetings and meetups, you'll always see me at the beginning talking about the code of conduct and just reinforcing the enforcement procedure for it. So we take that very seriously. And we also put energy into events and activities that are specifically focused on driving better diversity and inclusion in tech. So there's something called Global Diversity CFP day, which is a yearly event that happens across the world where you were people who are new to speaking on tech conferences can come and get mentorship from people who have more experience speaking in tech conferences about how to submit their proposals for tech conferences, and it's specifically focusing on getting more diverse speakers out there, and driving more diversity and inclusion into the tech conference circuit in general. So that's something we participate in. And we also sponsor events that are focused on particular on inclusion. Queer js is a very good example where we were we sponsored that. And then we, we sponsored that in Berlin. And then we were very happy to see that it grew into a bigger thing after that, yeah, that's something that we're putting a lot of energy into. And we've seen that come back to us in the form of, I think people really appreciate that. Anyway, the kind of developers that we want to work with appreciate that. And we really appreciate that kind of feedback cycle.
Tony Morelan 31:31
That's great. So what advice do you have for developers looking to build for Samsung internet?
Dan Appelquist 31:36
Sure, you can follow us on Twitter, first of all, at Samsung internet. You can also follow us individually I'm at torgo. always talking about I'm torgo on Twitter, to our geo and I'm always talking about web standards and other web technologies. You can go to our developer hub, which is Samsung inter dotnet. And then links off to all kinds of places like our blog, we actually repost articles from our blog onto Samsung into dotnet. Our blog is on medium so you can follow us on medium at Samsung internet Dev, you can attend an office hours event. So if you go to meetup calm, and you subscribe to our Meetup group, so we're running a series of events through that Meetup group. Other than that, the best way to kind of keep tabs on what we're doing is to pay attention to our Twitter. And we're also by the way posting all of those events on the Samsung developer platform on developer samsung.com. And you can pay attention to our LinkedIn page, we have a LinkedIn page, we search for Samsung internet, you'll find it on LinkedIn. And we're actually posting all of those blog posts and event notifications and all that kind of stuff there as well trying to engage with that community.
Tony Morelan 32:50
That's excellent. But hey, Dan, I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down and do this podcast with me, you know, yeah, it was a lot of fun to not only learn about you, but also learn about Samsung. Internet
Dan Appelquist 33:00
Thank you really appreciate it.
Looking to start creating for Samsung? download the latest tools to code your next app, or get software for designing apps without coding at all. Sell your apps to the world on the Samsung Galaxy store. Check out developer.samsung.com today and start your journey with Samsung. The Pow! Podcast is brought to you by the Samsung Developer Program and produced by Tony Morelan.