One more Pew question: Apps vs Web – the winner? (4)

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IV. Apps vs Web: Winner?

[option #1 – my pick] — In 2020, most people will prefer to use specific applications (apps) accessible by Internet connection to accomplish most online work, play, communication, and content creation. The ease of use and perceived security and quality-assurance characteristics of apps will be seen as superior when compared with the open Web. Most industry innovation and activity will be devoted to apps development and updates, and use of apps will occupy the majority of technology-users’ time. There will be a widespread belief that the World Wide Web is less important and useful than in the past and apps are the dominant factor in people’s lives.

[option #2] — In 2020, the World Wide Web is stronger than ever in users’ lives. The open Web continues to thrive and grow as a vibrant place where most people do most of their work, play, communication, and content creation. Apps accessed through iPads, Kindles, Nooks, smartphones, Droid devices, and their progeny – the online tools GigaOM referred to as “the anti-Internet” – ¬†will be useful as specialized options for a finite number of information and entertainment functions. There will be a widespread belief that, compared to apps, the Web is more important and useful and is the dominant factor in people’s lives.

PLEASE ELABORATE: Will the Amazon, Apple, Google model of apps, app stores, and controlled devices dominate to the point of diminishing the importance and utility of the open Web by 2020? What are the positives, negatives, and shades of grey in the likely future you anticipate?

My elaboration…

The apps model looks like it’s going to win, though not necessarily because of the apps themselves. And there’s some evidence the Web is already receding. Over the last several years, the amount of HTTP traffic crossing the Internet has diminished substantially in proportion to traffic overall.

The apps model as developed by Amazon, Apple, Google and the like is another form of the walled garden made notorious by AOL. Then as now, large numbers of onliners are going for this model, and mostly for the same reason – convenience. Starting in the late 1990s, Steve Chase saw a huge market among newbies who had come recently to dialup and had no idea how to navigate around the Web, let alone use dedicated Internet protocols like FTP. That model finally broke because a) broadband happened, and b) the newbies grew up and wanted to venture out past AOL’s proprietary offerings.

What’s different today is we’re getting a lot more growing in our gardens. They look better, offer more choice and get real things done reliably. What’s not so different is we’ve still got the walls. Or to put it in Zittrain’s terms, a lot more tethered appliances – think iPad – and fewer generative devices – think iMac, though even here Apple is tying us tighter and tighter to their servers and commercial services (no more OS on a disc). I sometimes think I’m giving up too much freedom of choice by sticking with Macs, or putting too many eggs in Google’s basket. But wild horses couldn’t tear me away from my MacBook Pro or Google Analytics.

On the other hand, loyalty to these “controlled” devices and services isn’t the same thing as running everything from the app store. The research indicates most people use only a tiny fraction of the apps available, and many downloads get used once and then vanish. I’m therefore not convinced apps will make general-purpose browsers and computing devices disappear. Nor am I sure that having 130 apps (like my daughter does) is a way to make your life more convenient. But I have to admit the “open” Web is certainly changing. Just ask the 750 800 million people on the anti-Web, aka Facebook.

D.E.