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The decline of the mobile web | chris dixon's blog


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Scary how fast the Web is being muscled out:

This is a worrisome trend for the web. Mobile is the future. What wins mobile, wins the Internet. Right now, apps are winning and the web is losing.

Moreover, there are signs that it will only get worse. Ask any web company and they will tell you that they value app users more than web users. This is why you see so many popups and banners on mobile websites that try to get you to download apps. It is also why so many mobile websites are broken. Resources are going to app development over web development. As the mobile web UX further deteriorates, the momentum toward apps will only increase.

The likely end state is the web becomes a niche product used for things like 1) trying a service before you download the app, 2) consuming long tail content (e.g. link to a niche blog from Twitter or Facebook feed).

This will hurt long-term innovation from a number of reasons:

1) Apps have a rich-get-richer dynamic that favors the status quo over new innovations. Popular apps get home screen placement, get used more, get ranked higher in app stores, make more money, can pay more for distribution, etc. The end state will probably be like cable TV – a few dominant channels/apps that sit on users’ home screens and everything else relegated to lower tiers or irrelevance.

2) Apps are heavily controlled by the dominant app stores owners, Apple and Google. Google and Apple control what apps are allowed to exist, how apps are built, what apps get promoted, and charge a 30% tax on revenues.

This chart:

global active users desktop mobile chart

ftrain points out that we give up a decent linking mechanism when we choose apps over Web:

The web is a less consistent software delivery platform compared to the Android/iOS universes, and pretty painful when it comes to software dev. It remains great for linking/transmitting objects across a network, though. So while the document web grew on top of the lovely simplicity of @hrefs, web or mobile apps in general don’t have consistent data types and their link semantics are an unholy mess. The joy of connecting one thing to another has been replaced by the different joys of creating and managing lots of state to deliver experiences. So one alternative reading of “apps are winning” is that there’s a ton of opportunity to work out how to link applications meaningfully–one example would be a one-click transfer of a spreadsheet to a visualization/graphing engine, maybe using web intents, not APIs. If this generated really fast-moving efficient ways to get work done, or truly entertaining new kinds of media experiences, people would migrate out of the walled-gardens.

One commenter Michael says that browser speed isn't crippled but mobile Web is slow inside apps:

The speed is not crippled. It’s top notch in Safari, but so called web views, started from apps, are not able to use the full power of the processor like Safari does and therefore it takes longer to load sites.

Something which is not mentioned here is that JS needs a large amount of resources and we are far away from native app speed on mobile devices due to barriers in CPU speed, amount of RAM, and battery constraints.

Another commenter otravers says the web will evolve and open systems will always have a web browser:

People waste collective centuries in Flappy Crush ergo the web is the new Gopher. I don’t think so.

Time and again we’ve seen that when massive gated marketplaces/platforms exert too much chocking pressure, innovation flows back to more open platforms. Centralized gatekeepers end up failing because of their very success. It’s VB client/server on Windows one day, then it’s Flash/IE, then it’s Zinga on FB, then it’s iOS apps… yet somehow all along the whole Github/JS/StackOverflow cheap/easy/open universe continues to morph and expand. Iphone dominated 2 years ago, now people are moving time spent to 7″ Android tablets, it will be something else tomorrow. But they all have a web browser.

Marshall Kirkpatrick has a great point about convenience:

I prefer the web, but mobile Safari prevents us from allowing our customers to stay logged in between sessions, a serious hinderance that a native app would preclude.

is it a problem? how is Adam solving this problem?

It's a problem. I can't solve it -- the OS's make their browsers expire sessions. 

Why the web still matters, on Matt Mullenweg's:

http://ma.tt/2014/04/the-web-matters/

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