Are Apps Killing the Web?

Bill Rybinski
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An article written by venture capitalist Chris Dixon titled "The Decline of the Mobile Web" has renewed interest in the highly debated topic of the future of Web browsing. Dixon argues that an increase in app usage will make Web browsing virtually obsolete. However, since industry experts have weighed in, several important points have been made that shed light on what you can expect for the future of mobile apps and Web browsers.

A quick look at the numbers does reflect the fact that there has been a dramatic increase in app downloads in recent years and that users are increasingly turning to apps to access the Internet. However, this does not necessarily signal that mobile apps are going to eliminate the Web.

According to a comScore report, in January 2014, 55 percent of Internet users accessed the Web from a mobile device and 47 percent of Web traffic came through mobile apps. Mobile apps often outperform mobile sites and are easier to access from mobile devices. The relatively recent widespread availability of 4G LTE has only made it simpler for users to use mobile devices and tablets instead of desktop computers and laptops. Because of these factors, mobile apps are expected to continue to compete with Web browsers. In fact, some experts expect that in five years, there will be more mobile Internet users than users who access the Internet from a computer.

However, the shift from Web browser to mobile app is not going to eliminate the Web. Rather, it is going to change the way people access information and limit the usefulness of the Web. For example, mobile apps are tailored to offer users access to a very specific kind of information. Beyond that, the user has to go to another app for a second set of information or access the Internet through a Web browser. Therefore, mobile apps are limited by the fact that mobile apps cater to certain users and certain kinds of information. On the other hand, the Web offers access to virtually unlimited information and is anything but limited. The bottom line is there will always be a need for both kinds of Internet access regardless of a further increase in app popularity.

Unlike past decades when the Internet was used primarily to access information, the Internet is now predominantly used to access social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All of these platforms have well-established mobile apps, which is just one more reason there has been an increase in app usage. Perhaps the biggest indicator of the way apps are affecting the Web is how Google is reacting to the increase in app usage. According to eMarketer, Google's global mobile ad spending increased 105 percent in 2013. Furthermore, apps represent the possibility of increased ad revenue and revenue from downloads. This alone increases the odds of the rise in mobile app usage continuing.

Ultimately, apps are not going to eliminate the Web altogether, but a further increase in app usage is imminent. However, Web browsers offer access to a wide array of information that mobile apps simply do not yet provide. Consequently, Web usage may decrease, but mobile apps do not have the ability to completely replace the Web.

 

(Photo courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / freedigitalphotos.net)

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