The mobile Web is not going away

by Irina Sandu

With the surge in smartphone numbers, which come with app stores that attract hundreds of millions of apps that are downloaded billions of times, a lot of people have raised concerns that Web browsing will disappear on mobile to the favour of apps.

But

the mobile web is not going away.

Let’s see why

Apps don’t cover all of the content.  With human knowledge increasing at tremendous speeds, most of which is put and communicated over the World Wide Web through blogs, websites and downloadable papers, designing an app store framework that would be managed centrally to cover all the types and formats of content that are published is much too complex than existing app stores.  Trying to fit all or most of the content existing on the Web at the moment and sustaining growth in one or a few app stores is not feasible with capabilities of today. The leverage that a player pushing for its particular platform has is not enough to advance it to the level where it is on par with the Web, which is being developed by multiple players which work on it at different levels and advance it with standardized frameworks. The dominance of the Web as a content platform and the availability of the full Web on more mobile phone every day ensures that we will see plenty of mobile browsing in the conceivable future.

Native app stores are fragmented. There are several points where fragmentation occurs within a platform and each of them can affect publication of content. Whether it is at the software level through the lack of certain APIs or at a geographical level where monetisation is not available in a certain region, mobile platform fragmentation affects plenty of content creators and publishers, which are used to the ubiquity and standardization of capabilities of the Web platform from the traditional, desktop market and will want to keep them as they make their transition into mobile.

App stores can advance niches. The general advantages of publishing to the Web can be minimized in a situation when a particular content type needs those features that app stores excel at; being streamlined payment systems or particular distribution needs. In the case of content niches which rely heavily on a feature that app stores are very good at, it does happen that publication happens overwhelmingly outside of the Web. However, when the niche begins to grow and more players are interested in exploring it, efforts to improve those essential capabilities on the Web appear, thus pushing the platform to catch up in those areas where it lagged behind. An example of this is gaming, which is the most popular content type on most of the major native app stores, and where now we see a big push from browser vendors and standards bodies to improving technologies so that playing games in a (mobile) browser is just as smooth.

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