First of all, I'd like to announce that I'm a huge fan of comic books. Especially comics that contain superheroes. Naturally, this means that I'm an absolutely gigantic fan of the Marvel Universe. Now don't me wrong, I like DC too, but I prefer the Marvel superheroes.
So when Marvel announced it's 'Unlimited' program I was an instant customer. Marvel Unlimited works like Netflix, or Spotify, or any of the other services based upon the 'unlimited content' business-model. Pay $9.99 a month, or $69.00 a year and you'll be granted access to over 15,000 comics with reading software for a number of devices including the ones with apples on the back.
It's fantastic. I'm enjoying a feast of comics. I pay the annual fee and binge on comics whenever I can find 20 minutes to spare.
Only, it's not perfect. With the range of content available to Marvel, you might think 'How could they go wrong?'. Unfortunately, software is the answer. I'm incredibly dissapointed with the reliability and security of the clients that are provided as part of the service. Let me share some of these annoyances.
Plain Text Passwords
This is a nasty one. It's 2014, and web-developers are no longer storing passwords in a plain text format. They aren't even using simple encryption methods such as 'md5'. Cryptology moves quickly, and in order to stay secure we need to keep up with the times.
So how do I know that Marvel Unlimited passwords are kept in plain text? Well, shortly after registering, I forgot my password. Don't ask me how! Perhaps some strict password rules forced me to use an uncommon format, I simply cannot remember.
When I made use of the 'Forgot password?' feature, I was expecting to be provided with an email containing a link that would allow me to reset my password. This is what we're used to, right?
Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
Under the poor man's censorship blue, was my password. This was presented to me instead of a password reset link. What this means, is that my password is either stored in plain text in a database or stored in an easily reversable encryption method.
Neither of these methods should be used. Normally, this fact would led to the termination of my subscription, but dang it... those comics are so good that I simply changed my password to a 'throw away' one.
The quality of the clients (both for mobile devices and website) is fairly poor. Slow load times. Crashes. Choppy / laggy animations. If you're reading a comic and you decide to lock your iPad, then the software restarts upon return to the app. This results in your page being lost, and often even the issue number that you were reading!
It's one of those things that's difficult to explain unless you attempt to use the platform. The software simply doesn't feel like it belongs to a multi-billion dollar company.
At the time of writing this article. I've tried to login to the website to create some screenshots, and have spent 30 minutes attempting to login. First the social sign in simply did not work, but also broke the default sign in method. I had to clear my cache to attempt a standard sign in.
I feel that the apps could be doing so much more. Even the navigation / comic filtering is very plain. If you don't know much about the Marvel Universe, you're going to have trouble deciding which comic book series to read.
It would be great to be able to tweet/post sections of what you're reading. Or just that you've completed a comic. It's missing a strong social platform, although, you could argue that it might be a benefit.
Inline character bios, and the opportunity to favourite lines of dialogue, as you might add notes to a book in your kindle would be fantastic features for this platform.
Why not hook into the Marvel wiki? The information's already there!
If you were born an American, then you'll be able to pay able to pay a little extra for the 'Annual Plus' subscription tier. You'll get an extra action figure, invites to events, discounts on the store and even a membership card!
These are all things that will drive a nerd wild, but only an American nerd. Thanks Uncle Sam...
Should I buy Marvel Unlimited?
Despite everything I've said. YES.
It has over 15,000 Marvel comics! What are you waiting for? Just remember to choose a throw-away password!
If you're a Marvel Unlimited developer and have come across this blog. You can do it little buddy! You're almost there, you have all the content in the world, just build that perfect platform, we beg of you!
Shortly after publishing this article, Elliot Ronen a product guy at Marvel Unlimited contacted myself on twitter to let me know that a security upgrade is underway, and that the plain-text password issue has been fixed. Thanks guys, and your product team should get twice the salary for being a community team as well! Empty your pockets Stan!