As more and more apps become multibillion-dollar businesses. it’s tempting to see them as replacing the web, or taking over from it. This helps explain the periodic outbreak of articles about how “the web is dying”. But the truth is that, as is often the case when someone says a certain kind of behavior is dying, it’s a lot more complicated than such headlines suggest.
Everything about apps feels like a win for users — they are faster and easier to use than what came before. But underneath all that convenience is something sinister: the end of the very openness that allowed Internet companies to grow into some of the most powerful or important companies of the 21st century.”
The web pie is growing
There were a number of problems with the Wired story, however — including the fact that the chart it used contrasted the growth of video traffic with the decline of “web” traffic, even though most of that video traffic was coming from websites and web-based services. But the phenomenon it was describing was definitely a real thing, and in fact has only accelerated with the growth of apps which don’t even have traditional websites.
The Mims piece makes a common mistake by implying that the size of the web pie is finite — in other words, that mobile apps are stealing market share or user attention from the open web or the traditional browser, and therefore the web is dying. But the size of the web pie is arguably still growing rapidly, which suggests that apps are stealing attention from other things, including various kinds of offline activity.
Also, a number of people have pointed out that a huge proportion of the time spent with mobile apps is devoted either to games or to various forms of instant messaging. Since neither of those things has ever relied that much on the web , they aren’t really a conclusive sign that the web is being killed off by apps.
The more interesting juxtaposition raised by Flurry’s numbers is not apps versus web, but games and social versus everything else. YouTube and other entertainment apps form a solid percentage of what is left (8%), but the remainder is a mishmash of utilities, productivity, the aforementioned news, and, of course the web.
But one of the biggest flaws with the “web is dying” argument is that it assumes that apps themselves don’t drive more traffic to the open web — which they clearly do. Social-networking apps which consume a huge proportion of the mobile app time of many users, are at least in part about sharing links to content, and while many of these apps open links in their own in-app browsers, that still counts as web traffic.