App model for the web

10 Sep 2010|Added Value

A recent blog post on popular tech blog GigaOm by Liz Gannes  referred to Google Instant as a mobile approach to web.

Instant turns search into an application; on a single page it combines the traditional process of entering a query into a box, hitting return, and landing on a new page populated with search results. Instant acts and feels like a mobile app, and in my opinion would make more sense if it was one.

Google Instant might be one of the first examples of a browser based application that is learning from the mobile web experience. This is just the beginning of “appification” of the world wide web as web surfing on the PC becomes more like the mobile web.

As more and more people are accessing the web on their mobile phone, we are getting used to the mobile — which is mostly an app based — web experience, and it is different from the browser experience on the PC in several ways:

  1. App User Interface: Starting with the iPhone, and followed by Blackberry and Android, apps are the window to the mobile web on the phone. Unlike the PC, browser is not the interface to the web, instead it is an app icon. Apps are different from the browser because they reduce the number of clicks that are required to reach a destination site. One touch on my iPhone and I can access my Facebook page, whereas on my PC, I have to first launch my web browser and type to access my Facebook profile. Users will increasingly want an app like UI experience on the PC: which is instantaneous through fewer clicks.
  2. Context: As Liz Gannes points out in her post, mobile apps have access to context, especially location. Users are increasingly going to expect the browser experience to take into account current location based on the IP address. For example, when I access Yelp on my PC it should know that I am in Palo Alto and looking for a restaurant in the city just like it does on my phone.
  3. Fractured silos: The mobile web is compartmentalized into a set of apps that the user has downloaded on his/her phone. There is no central portal or home page instead a user on average has self-selected 30 customized apps. From a user perspective, the mobile web is a set of individual apps that don’t talk to each other or exchange data.

What all this means in the end is that innovations and experiences in the mobile web will port to the PC. The mobile web is better suited for innovation because it is easier for programmers to create an app for the mobile phone than the PC. It requires less man power, capital investment and shorter life-cycle making the mobile web a hotbed for innovation.

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