The Decline of the Web and Rise of Apps

By John Houghton on November 17, 2014

Using an app.

The Wall Street Journal wrote a good article on the decline of the web, “The Web Is Dying; Apps Are Killing It.”  The article cites Flurry as a source, but Steve Jobs also noted back in 2010 at D8 that users were spending most of their time in apps, rather than the web.  You can’t say we didn’t have any notice on this one.

Some companies did well with the web, some did just OK.  Whether you did well or didn’t, now the new thing has come along, and it’s still early. It’s time to gain/regain ground.

Why apps versus websites? First of all, people are more likely to pull out their mobile device instead of running to a computer. Second, they want to get to their answer quickly. Websites can take on average 3 – 5 seconds per tap to get to what you want and might involve 3 – 10 steps. A well designed app (one that uses caching) responds in a fraction of a second and frequently gets you what you need in half the number of steps.  A good example of this migration is mobile users are more likely to use the Yelp app to lookup a restaurant instead of the web.

Average apps won’t do.  Apps are great if they’re well made. If they’re not done well, you’re losing out on an opportunity. I look at Amazon. I’m not sure how much they invested in their mobile website and app, but to be really effective at shopping, I use their website from my PC. Maybe if they invested more in mobile usability, I would use their app more. Hint: it’s an opportunity for someone to come along and do it better.

Hardware, such as google glass, works much better with apps. Imagine doing a home improvement project and needing help. A web search throws up a bunch of quasi-useful information, but video conferencing an expert (via a video app) allows you to show them the problem and have them watch and guide you as you perform the fix.

Adoption of apps depends on user patterns. I can imagine in 10 years someone being called a luddite for using the web too much, just as I call some people old-fashioned for still using the phone book.

The disorganization of the web created opportunities for advertisers, as people tried to find information and perhaps became distracted. With the new focus of apps, there may be less opportunity to capture eyeballs in this way since apps tend to put you on a more narrow and a streamlined task-specific track. However, getting people what they want more quickly may open up new opportunities as they look to spend their newly found time.

What’s Google going to do? Lucky for them, during their tenure as search king, they have been investing heavily in other ventures. I don’t think the web will die completely, just as print didn’t die when radio came along, so I expect substantial search ad revenue for some time to come.  Google is smart to use their money/position to find the next thing, and they were also smart to start Android to compete with iOS.

Looking for the opportunity in all this? Think about yourself and what you do on websites or in the real-world. What could it look like if an app were helping you?  How can the task be done better with apps? Think of what your company does and how the web facilitates your product or services. How can this be done better via an app? Now is the time to reclaim real estate and mindshare as the world moves to apps.

Apple wasn’t able to exploit the web like did Google and had a smaller market cap in 2007, so they changed the game. They made popular mobile devices which gave birth to the app movement.  Besides their mobile hardware which generates revenue, they get 30% of the revenue for apps sold in the iTunes Store (plus in-app purchases).  Now Apple has nearly twice the market cap of Google.

Big opportunities await. How are you going to change your game?

Posted in Android Apps, iOS Apps, Mobile Apps



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