Recently, an article published on Wired magazine announced that the Web is dead. Quickly, several people came up with counterpoints in defense of the Web’s honor, or its very life. Everyone that takes the time to read that article will probably have formed an opinion when they get to the end. Either the authors are right, or they are wrong. Right?!
Reality it is as clear cut, or black and white as the authors painted it in the article. Some trends grow weaker while other grow stronger but different trends don’t necessarily cancel each other out.
For a long time now, applications have been moving towards the Web. We now have many examples of software as a service and corporate systems have been converting to a web-based platform for quite a while. This is a trend that has been around for a long time and that few people have really questioned for several years.
Since 2008, however, there is a new trend that has been gaining momentum, that of mobile apps. Mostly mobile apps aren’t really a direct competitor for Web apps, but there are cases in which they can be so. In fact, in some situations mobile apps can have a profound effect on Web applications or services. Twitter is a great example of a Web-based service that is greatly impacted by mobile applications. While I’ve occasionally seen people using Twitter clients on desktops and notebooks, I’ve never seen anyone accessing the Twitter.com website from a mobile device.
Why would you want to open the browser and go to twitter.com when you can have much more functionality at your finger tips by using a mobile client? Just for the iPhone, iPod and iPad the number of different Twitter clients seems to be in the dozens. These clients have a direct impact on Twitter’s strategic planning as they isolate users from the service’s official interface. This means that Twitter can’t really create a strategy for selling advertisement on their website in order to create revenue, since a large chunk of users never, ever, visit the website. The company must search for ways to generate revenue from the content that flows through the service, instead. This content will be delivered to users regardless of which client they are using.
The same kind of situation is just starting to become a reality for Facebook, with applications such as Flipboard which allow the user to see the relevant information posted to the social network site, without ever opening a browser. Flipboard does a much better job at presenting the content that is shared through Facebook than the facebook.com site does. In fact, since I started using Flipboard on my iPad, about a month ago, I don’t really remember using the browser for going to facebook.com.
The growth in mobile browsing is going to make these applications that bring in content from the Web and present it in a better way than a regular website does more and more significant in the coming years. More and more these applications will need to be taken into account in the strategic planning of anyone that is considering the creation of a new service or website. The Web isn’t going to magically disappear overnight. In fact it might never really go away. It will however become less dominant as the center of all information publication and exchange online.
Information services such as those provided by the Twitter APIs will become more and more important when compared to their corresponding websites, but the websites aren’t in any immediate danger of extinction.
iPhone users spend a lot more time in applications than browsing the Web. Apple identified this pattern and moved to create its in-app advertisement platform. Most people that own iPads will expend even more time using mobile applications to get their information as the applications are richer and the screen size more comfortable than that of a mobile phone.
The Web now has some serious competition and anyone that ignores this from this point on will do so at their own peril. At the same time, it is probably a decade too early to start to think of the Web’s true demise. The second decade of the twenty first century will certainly be an interesting one with a lot of change in what was a reasonably stable environment during the first decade of this century.
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