Cake: A New Way to Slice & Serve Up Mobile Browsing

Thursday, May 9, 2019
Michael Zunenshine
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Bespoke browsing on the go

The transition from desktop browsing to mobile has several characteristics: the screen is smaller, the way you use your hands as controllers isn’t the same, and even your attention to the screen and its contents might be of a different quality.  

Cake, a web browser app for mobile, wants to simplify the transition from desktop to in-your-hand experience. Their thinking goes: If your Safari or Google mobile app design was adapted from desktop, then maybe you need a newer, more adaptable version for your phone.

Of course, the big web browsers didn’t really just cram their full-screen versions onto pocket-sized screens; that would be a bit of an oversimplification. Nonetheless, the overall architecture and mechanics of their mobile versions still follow the same desktop structure.

Cake’s innovation is impressive in their ambition. But while the product does distinguish itself from the big boy browsers, not everyone might be ready to reconfigure their mobile browsing Cake-style.

Growth and praise

Cake’s story started in late 2016 in Utah, where the budding platform managed to prick enough ears to secure $5 Million in seed funding by spring 2017, with Utah’s own Peak Ventures and Pelion Ventures among the generous contributors. Already by 2018, Cake won a Golden Kitty award for Best Mobile App.

So far Cake has been showing up impressive numbers with about 40K+ downloads per month, while their user reviews are consistently positive.

Keep moving forward

The existing standard mobile browser structure goes something like this: Type in search, get back an index of search results as a list, click a result, and go forward to the page. Not satisfied with that page? You’ve got to click back to the index, then forward again.

Back and forth and back and forth and… enough!

Here’s how Cake works: You pop in your search, and Cake instantly displays the web page of the top result. Not satisfied? Just swipe right to the next page.

And swipe right and swipe right and… you get it!

The whole swipe right/swipe left mobility of Cake resembles the new generation of dating apps, platforms, which themselves are expressions of a more tech-savvy and intuitive emerging culture. It’s a fitting comparison, as Cake certainly strives to be the web browser for the millennial digital age.

 

Sloganeering

As one of Cake’s slogans go: “More Needles, Less Haystack.” which in less clever-copy terms means your relevant search results are more clearly displayed, with less wading back-and-forth through search indexes.

Actually, these Cake people love a good slogan, especially when it has sugary connotations, like: “Skip the Menu, Start with Dessert,” meaning, you get faster search results, with less laborious scrolling down items on a search list.

Baking Cake (aka set up)

Cake is free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. There are no premium upgrades.

You first open the app and choose your preferred search engine. The options are:

  • Google

  • Bing

  • DuckDuckGo

You then decide if you want to share your location to receive location-specific search results say, in the case of searching for a cell phone screen repair shop, or the number one gluten-free croissanterie.

Next, you select a bunch of topics you’re interested in, things like: news, tech, sports, gaming, movies & TV, shopping & deals, etc.

After which you can choose to follow some of your favorite sites for each topic. For example: If you chose ‘news’ Cake shows you options like: The New York Times, CNN, Fox, Huffington Post, etc. (note: at this point, you cannot select ‘favorite’ sites which are not already listed, like more alternative media sites).

Then you do things like “set your notifications” and “update preferences”, so when your favorite sites post something new, you’ll find out instantly.

Finally, you can enable Cake’s ad blocker, which can then be customized to allow ads on certain sites.

Eating Cake (aka usage)

The home screen will show the latest posts from all the sites you follow for quick access. Clicking once will pull up that post’s page, and swiping right will show you the next post on the same site.

Gimme pages

At the top, you have the search bar, which is the main feature of Cake. When you type in your query, icons appear at the bottom, giving you the option to search your term normally, or to do a specific media search, the options being:

  • Videos

  • Images

  • News

  • Shopping

When you hit search, Cake loads the first three pages, displaying the first page, and keeping the next two waiting in the wings for you to swipe right. Go beyond them, and Cake organically keeps loading more page results as you swipe.

Of these first three pages, the browser actually gives you the fastest loading pages first, a feature they call Page Compete. They analyze page load times to know which pages should get the top three preloaded spots.

Beyond the index

The idea that you want results and not indexes is a feature Cake has dubbed Index Suppression. However, the index isn’t totally gone.

You can always swipe left after you hit search, bringing up the normal index—which is how a search result page typically looks on Google. Similarly, swiping down from a normal search will display an indexed list of links to a good handful of results, and you can also click to load more.

Customize your order

Say you do an image search. If your default engine is Google, the default first page Cake will show is Google image. However, if you swipe down from below the search bar, you can reorder the image pages to your preference.

As Esther, the Cake spokesperson puts it in the platform’s ad: “Because my mother tongue is Millenial, you know I gotta put Giphy front and center.” The video demonstrates easily sliding Giphy above Google Images, which will then be saved as Esther’s preference.  

A digression on Esther

It should be noted that the Esther ad has already racked up over 9 Million views since it was uploaded in January 2018. And while many of the comments are less-than-flattering toward the spokesperson, it‘s nonetheless achieved impressive engagement and publicity.

Whatever one thinks of Esther, the ad, or the product, it’s clear that trying to upend mobile browsing is not without a bit of comment-controversy. Just remember, the ad is not the app.  

Who wants a slice?

Then there are slices, which are sort of like the topics you were prompted to choose during setup. In the homepage, when you scroll down, you can select a slice, for example, ‘celebrity’ and then see the top pages.

In this case, TMZ is the default, but swiping down from the search bar shows you all the celebrity pages which you can reorder, just like with the reordering that put Giphy above Google as mentioned above.

Tabs and icons

Like most good browsers, Cake does tabs too, and you can get a quick birds-eye-view of how many are currently open.

You can also do a tab in privacy mode, with Cake giving you the option to close all private tabs automatically every time you shut down the app.

Finally, there are plenty of Cake icons you can choose for your desktop screen.

Cake eating contests?

Cake CEO Kendall Hulet writes in his Mobile Browser Manifesto: “Our behaviors have evolved along with our devices. Now mobile browsers have to catch up.”

That could sound like Cake is punching above its weight by positioning itself as competition for Safari and Google.

But sometimes it’s important to see innovation not as a fight against what’s already established, but as an alternative. Cake recognized an oppurtunity and produced an entirely new offering for people looking for a different kind of mobile browsing experience.

Not everyone is going to abandon the Safari or Google platforms, but it’s good to know that the industry hasn’t permanently blocked potentially disrupting apps like Cake.   

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