Good Sharer

Thoughts from a good sharer

Mobile-only is a dead end

A common vision of the future these days in the echo chamber that is Silicon Valley is that the web is dead. We have moved beyond it. The future is individual apps. Everyone is going to have an app for Facebook, an app for Twitter, an app for Amazon, etc.

This has been driven mostly by the mobile space. Everyone can see that in the future, everyone will use their phones to access the internet for a considerable percentage of their day. The current paradigm of individual apps championed by Cupertino seems to work. Big money is being made and Webster’s has put a picture of Steve Jobs in the dictionary next to the word ‘genius’ for the iPhone app store.

The only problem is that everyone is wrong.

Consider this simple example. Suppose you are reading Murdoch’s new iPad-only newspaper The Daily. There is an article in it that is well written, insightful and something you know your sister would love to read about. How do you share it with her?

The web presents a very simple way. You send her the URL. No matter what device she gets it on or what application she’s running, it probably knows what to do when it encounters a URL. It opens a web browser and now your sister can read the article.

The URL is the killer feature of the web. It is the cornerstone upon which viral marketing campaigns are built. Without the ability to share individual articles, videos, dresses, blog postings, tweets, etc. with your friends, the application builders will have to rely on traditional (and expensive) means for exposure.

While you may use a Twitter app on your iPhone, when you click on a link for an article in the New York Times, it’ll open up a browser, not the NYTimes app. The same is true in the NYTimes app itself, click on a link for a twitter user and it’ll open up Twitter’s website in a browser.

Further, there is no easy way to make a cross-device, cross-app URL-like scheme that allows say, the Facebook app to open up the Amazon app to the exact product that was posted on someone’s wall. Now I’m sure there are people working tirelessly at a startup trying to come up with a way, but for now, everyone links to plain old websites.

Is that to say that specialized mobile apps are doomed? Absolutely not. My personal belief is that hybrid HTML5 mobile/web apps are the way of the future for content-based websites. Of course, if you’re writing a game or a taxi hailing app, then by all means stay mobile, but if your business relies on sharing to get the word out, the web is your future.

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