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Apps Are Devouring the Open Web ( 154

Rob Price, writing for Business Insider: Apps are eating the web. Over the past decade, there has been an inexorable movement from the open internet to the walled gardens of apps -- and this trend just hit a major milestone. According to new data from ComScore, more than half of all time Americans spend online is spent in apps -- up from around 41% two years ago. It's a stat that will be discomfiting to advocates of the open web, as well as companies whose core business is built around it -- notably Google. As content that was once freely available and indexable on websites becomes silo-ed away in closed-off apps, it makes it harder to search and link to content. This is, of course, the cornerstone of Google's original business.
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Apps Are Devouring the Open Web

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  • Discomfiting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @09:46AM (#52829139)

    Really. Discomfiting. That just ...


    On topic, how much of this information is actually siloed away, and how many of these apps are just a browser wrapper a la the Facebook app?

    • Re: Discomfiting (Score:2, Insightful)

      At what point does the browser become an app itself? Is a browser that doesn't ship with your device an app? Is an app that lets you view differing content on demand still an app?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        At no point; it always was an app. They're really talking about running browsers vs running anything else.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          They're talking about the web of hyperlinked resources over http/https versus walled gardens. That an app uses the internet doesn't make it part the WWW.

    • Re:Discomfiting (Score:4, Informative)

      by guises ( 2423402 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @10:32AM (#52829361)
      You don't like that word? I don't see any problem with it, seems [] like it was used correctly.
    • by temcat ( 873475 )

      I like Facebook app more than the mobile version of the website. Or, more precisely, I dislike it much less, it sucks anyway. I find the mobile website unusable because of the friend feed jumping constantly on updates, making me lose my position in the feed.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by djrobxx ( 1095215 )

        Facebook has a complex enough UI that making a more efficient app for it makes sense. There are a ton of apps that are barely more than a skinned browser that loads a mobile website. Those are the ones that I wish would die off.

        • Re:Discomfiting (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @02:14PM (#52830401)

          There are a ton of apps that are barely more than a skinned browser that loads a mobile website. Those are the ones that I wish would die off.

          The problem is that, while people will pay for an app, almost no one will pay for web content. So I can make an app and feed my family, or I can put the same content on the "free web" and starve.

          • by Lennie ( 16154 )

            But honestly, can you survive on making an app ? Because most hardly make any money.

    • but wouldn't be great to end the "eternal september" with idiots "siloed" away in app walled gardens?

  • Apple, Goolge, Microsoft... Really need to improve their browser to run these rich websites fast and efficiently reserving apps to things that needs specialized hardware Or can work offline.

    I know many slashdoters wants the web like it was in the 1990's. However it has became a major use for Application deployment.

    However right now we get these apps just because they use less data or perform better.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      However it has became a major use for Application deployment.

      Which is should never ever be. Web apps suck ass. They are only useful to allow developers to be lazy.

      • I am not sure how it would be lazy. HTML is just like using VT100 or other markup to make apps the browser is just a terminal emulator.

        • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @10:36AM (#52829379) Journal

          Invert this. Html is designed for all platforms. There is no need for micromanaged detail in an app, especially when apps are stupid and do not allow pinch zoom.

          A return to 1990s web would be an improvement. Do you know why, youngster? Because a whole new generation of programmers is recreating stupid applications with all the old foibles from the 1980s intact.

          In short, they are making the same dumb mistakes.

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          Exactly. Notice how the general public doesn't use terminals anymore?

    • Perhaps they can find a language and object model that is far better suited to actual development.

    • Mostly it's that some websites' mobile versions are either lacking, or non existent. And how is an app from a service that also has a web presence closed off from the internet? As an example, I use the Facebook and Twitter apps on my phone more than on my computer. It's more convenient. But I can also access both from Safari on my iPhone. Except for some chat apps, I can't think of any that only use an app and aren't also available through a web browser.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We get these apps because the web is actually terrible for application development.

      This is but one example. I could tell you dozens of similar idiocies with web app development.

      I've done GUI development in wxWidgets, GTK, Qt and even Tcl/Tk. All of them have a more or less sane way of doing layouts or at the very least, some form of "stack all of these widgets vertically or horizontally and resize them according to some criteria (usually, a weight) when the containing widget resizes". We've had this for DEC

      • Mod parent up.

        Web apps IMO are a near-complete failure from both a development and user perspective, and it's this failure that has caused the rise of apps:

        • - The web was designed around a document model, not an application model. We're trying to shoehorn apps into a model that wasn't really designed for application needs.
        • - Web UIs can take a huge amount of time to develop and get right. Even ignoring how different browsers can render the same data slightly differently, getting many standard UI elements w
      • Totally agree. I have done a couple of custom android apps to interface with some stuff around my house. I use androwish because they make it crazy easy to build a gui that looks decent with a few hundred lines of Tcl/Tk.

    • No they don't, the web-based applications are shit and need to finish dying.

      Why do you insist that something that sucks should to be made better, when the better solution already exists?

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Why do you insist that something that sucks should to be made better, when the better solution already exists?

        And what might said "better solution" be? Native applications that are exclusive to a platform other than the one you use?

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @09:49AM (#52829157) Homepage

    ... on the web then its probably still there. Any data & content specific to apps probably never made it to the web in the first place.

    Whether walled gardens are good or bad is a big discussion, but from a technical point of the view the web is an utter dogs dinner with HTML, javascript, CSS and a host of other bits of glue keeping a website working along with bloated, buggy browsers and thats just the front end so I can understand from a *technical* point of view why some companies think "To hell with it, lets just write a client app in Obj-C, Java, C# and be done with it".

    Really its just goint full circle back to the 80s and 90s when various bits of the internet were (and still are) accessed by seperate clients.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Apps are just small limited capability programs that spy on you.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      That is good and well concerning the technical site, but I doubt that any content provider said "technically it is better to do it via an app". I doubt that any of them have stopped with the web version of the data.
      I am pretty confident in saying that the driving factor was the Marketing department. So instead of replacing all the glue, they added more glue.

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        A lot of apps arn't done by huge corporations with a marketing dept, they're done by small start ups and I can fully understand whey they wouldn't put their resources - assuming they have the in house skills - into a web version if they're only targeting smartphones and tablets.

    • As much as I hate web technology, let's not fool ourselves. It's all about them getting their code on our devices so they can more easily mine all the data they want.

      When was the last time you put an ad blocker on an app? How many apps refuse to work unless you give them carte blanch permissions?

    • I wouldn't say everything is going back to the 80s and 90s.

      Just some positive news. Even if the front end is going back and forth, the back end communication is easier and more consistent than ever. JSON, REST, and other easy to access APIs are dominant. It's never been easier to communicate with another system; especially those from a third party.

      Now granted, the idea of a nice indexable web under one HTML platform was ideal, in many cases, this is still the case. I can't think of a single content based ap

  • by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @09:51AM (#52829169)

    Index-ability is not the issue. The issue is we have managed to take a decentralized Internet, where govt has been forced to adapt its ideas toward freedom due to the infeasibility of endorcing their usual anti-freedom views on their role in speech, commerce, etc, and say: no thank you, I would like to interact with the internet via apps from 5 govt-partnered large corporations.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Apps are tied to a single platform, so in a way it locks you to that platform.

      But I see apps as a supplement, not the complete solution. An app is the local logic that performs the user interface and data validation before transferring the data to the backend system where the data can be indexed.

      • If you're depending on an app to do your data validation you're doing it wrong (and yes, my stupid bank's app is one such app).

        That's what happens when you farm development out to 3rd world countries working off of specifications drawn up by psychotics who think that they can get it right all by themselves and throw it over the wall and everything will be fine.

        • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

          It depends on the application if an app is useful or not. I agree that having an app for banking is if not stupid at least restricting your ability to do banking from the device of your choice.

          But if you have a solution involving data collection then you may want to wait with the upload of the collected data until you are at a reasonable state/point. It may be a sports app collecting health data or some other kind of aggregation of data where the summary of the aggregated data is of interest, not the raw da

          • I agree that having an app for banking is if not stupid at least restricting your ability to do banking from the device of your choice.

            Other than through an app that can access a device's rear camera, how else is the banking interface supposed to scan the front and back of a paper check in order to deposit it to your account? I occasionally receive personal checks from family members not technically inclined enough to set up PayPal, and for years, I received payroll checks from an employer that was for some reason incapable of direct deposit. Or are you instead recommending biking to an ATM that takes deposits?

            • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

              Checks are rare. It was probably 30 years ago I got one for something and it was even then a hassle to cash it.

    • by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson@gm a i> on Monday September 05, 2016 @10:47AM (#52829413) Journal
      For most people it makes no difference whether it's apps or a browser. To them, the internet doesn't extend beyond Facebook, YouTube, Twitter anyway.

      The "open web" only exists in your mind and a few sites that are user supported and don't take advertising - and it they have any sort of "social m" plugin, whether for likes, comments, sharing, or logging in, you're still being tracked, same as Slashdot enables Facebook. Google, etc to track you.

      open, in the sense of transparency, is dead. You cannot even select whether you want these trackers served to you unless you use a 3rd party app that scrapes the site and doesn't download them in the first place. We need more apps like Simply Slashdot, that only grab the textual content you're interested in.

      • If you need to contact someone, just use facebook messaging. Or possibly imessage if you (and thus your friends) have i gadgets.

        Instant messaging, blogging, voice and video chat have already been effectively siloed. Email for business will live for a while due to inertia, but not for personal use.

        My kids only use various apps to contact their friends.

        • Email works across all devices and all platforms. It also uses up far less bandwidth than Facebook, and you can even host your own email server.
    • by Desler ( 1608317 )

      Your post sounds great except for the flawed premise about the Internet. Governments have been walling-off; censoring and monitoring what people can on both the Internet and Web for more than a decade now.

      • I don't understand your point. I did not suggest the Internet was a cure-all. I said that the decentralized and free nature frustrated many typical government control techniques. But the majority of users have voluntarily centralized.

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Monday September 05, 2016 @09:58AM (#52829199) Homepage Journal

    It's a stat that will be discomfiting to advocates of the open web

    I know! Let's have the FCC create a new rule banning such apps. In the name of "net neutrality" or some kind of "equality".

    And we'll denounce those opposing such a rule as being a corporate whore and a crazy Libertarian.

  • Pretty much makes sense since more people are using mobile devices to access information on the internet and lets face it the web experience for mobile (pointing at phones) it pretty much completely unusable most of the time.

  • If not, the kluge that the Web has become will do for now. It may diminish, but it need not die. Even gopher has not entirely vanished.

    I'm very much for freedom, but I understand that implies permitting others to throw their own freedom away if they so choose. Let them handle the consequences. Just as long as freedom remains an option, meta-freedom is a reality - and that's fine for me.

    I value others' privacy enough not to demand access to their walled gardens. I value the network effect enough not to want
  • It's probably more of a Chrome issue than a Slashdot issue, but when I navigate to Slashdot with the Chrome browser on Android, it appifys Slashdot. The Chrome browser screen morphs into an 'app' format where the URL and the surrounding widgets of the browser disappear and I am in a sort of a Slashdot Ap. This happens on a number of other sites, presumably the ones that are 'well integrated' and 'mobile.'

    It's kind of frustrating when you want to, for instance, save a link by simply cutting and pasting the

  • Waiting on the opinion of the Ludite Apps guy - he's /.'s expert on this matter so we should abstain to further comment until he gives us the insight :)

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @10:14AM (#52829275)
    Nearly every large website have apps that are only thin web shell wrappers around their sites. And when you visit their sites you're constantly reminded about downloading their awesome apps. The reason for this is obvious - to avoid ad blocking. This is especially true on platforms where ad blockers are only available within the browser, which means all of iOS and also most Android devices that aren't rooted.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ad blocking? The run of the mill bank app wants access to your camera, contacts, and anything else it can reasonably get away with whereas the mobile site needs none of that.
      • ... The run of the mill bank app wants access to your camera, contacts, and anything else it can reasonably get away with ...

        That's just icing on the cake. They can generate extra revenue from gathering and selling user data like every other app does. The whole mobile ecosystem is completely fucked.

      • Without camera access, a bank's app can't scan the front and back of paper checks you receive to deposit them to your account. I don't know about contacts, but that might be related to a "Send Money to Friend through ACH" feature. Or should features that need specific permissions be delegated to specific other apps that the bank's main app launches, such as an app that only makes check deposits or an app that only sends an ACH?

  • If only humans weren't subject to it. But, that low hanging fruit is so tempting.
  • According to new data from ComScore, more than half of all time Americans spend online is spent in apps -- up from around 41% two years ago. It's a stat that will be discomfiting to advocates of the open web, as well as companies whose core business is built around it -- notably Google.

    This is why Google offers Android free to hardware manufacturers. Does Google benefit from this trend? They are no longer competing on an open playing field, they now provide the playing field. Their core business of targeted advertising would seem to benefit.

  • Advertising and tracking is! This can be done nearly perfectly in all kinds of apps.
  • Internet searches are not the same as "time" spent. I don't doubt that the top few time wasters get most of the time. And of course Google knows all about YouTube anyway.
  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @10:53AM (#52829427)
    That article would be a lot more useful if they had broken down exactly which apps are responsible for the majority of the traffic. I suspect that just a handful dominate, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. In assessing the seriousness of the threat, or assessing if there is one, It would be helpful to know who has what market share.
  • More than half of the time people spend online is on Facebook, for better or worse.
  • by LarryRiedel ( 141315 ) <> on Monday September 05, 2016 @11:07AM (#52829463)
    Lock Screens are eating the web. Over the past decade, there has been an inexorable movement from the open internet to the Lock Screen -- and this trend just hit a major milestone. According to data from common sense, more than half of all time Americans spend with their phone it is on the Lock Screen.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You had one job, appy app troll guy. You have failed! The one time your damn posts would have actually been close to topic. No, it's too late now.

  • Hypercard lives!

  • Honestly I am not a fan of web apps as a whole. For web pages it is just fine but I like native code running on my cpu and the data can be in cloud when needed. Why should I need to have a network connection to look at my appointments?
    Sure sync then to a sever but keep them local as well.

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @12:20PM (#52829847) Journal

    What I hate more than Apps that access content that is also accessible via web sites are Web Sites that look and feel like Apps.

    Or web sites that force me to load the mobile version (even after I several times manually fixed the URL), luckily there is a trick on Chrome at least to force them to deliver the desktop version.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Blame Google - they forced sites to go 'mobile friendly' or drop in the search rankings, thus screwing all the desktop users.

  • every rational person's productivity advance. If apps are a "walled garden" compared to the web, then a web browser is a maximum security prison compared to the verable UNIX command shell.

    Alternatively, calling apps a "walled garden" is stupid.
  • The browser has never been a good platform for development -- http is stateless, slow and insecure. Ever since we've started, we've been working around deficiencies in the platform. The only thing that could be described as "good" about it is that everyone has a browser.

    So now a near-universally deployed platform that you can target for real development. Should it be a surprise that we do so?

  • My, how we forget history.

    When Apple first launched the iPhone, they did not include the App Store, or any other sanctioned way to run apps besides the defaults. They originally tried to sell people on the idea of HTML5 browser-based web apps as the future. And everyone, including Slashdot and the rest of the tech press, threw a collective hissy fit over it. This, of course, is what launched the jailbreaking community and the Cydia store. The people having spoken, Apple launched a revised iOS plus the A

    • by dublin ( 31215 )

      No, I didn't demand this, but you're right, far too many did. Apple caved way too easily, and the last great hope of web apps as first-class citizens died with HP's knifing of PalmOS, where *all* apps were web apps, meaning it was even possible to replace the dialler, address book, etc...

      Damn, I miss Palm - there's no question that the basic capabilities of Contact Management, Scheduling, and integration with my PC (through Palm Desktop, which was actually quite good) was far better on my Palm Pilot in the

  • malicious trojans to be distributed before activating them for a BIG botnet, i sure hope Google Play Store does thorough security sweeps often,
  • Trying to solve everything with Javascript was a recipe of failure. The work to make a unified byte code (WebAssembly) is great but should have happened a few years ago. People wanted more robust, fast, and dynamic content which these "gated" apps filled the void of.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone know of an app that has useful information that isn't on the web?

    Most people are locked into their apps playing games, youtubing, or facebooking. They aren't out creating content. There is nothing useful being lost. If anything the quality of stuff available on the web is improving.

    Some people still want to be famous, some still want to help others, some want to show off their talents/skills, stores still want to reach the most people. So the "open" ability to find information will exist .. beca

  • There are many benefits to the open web as we know it. However, technology and usage always change and its' about adapting, not wishing people weren't using apps. Ideally almost all info would be on the open web. But the open web has drawbacks that cause people to prefer Apps - until this changes we will continue to see the traditional web decline. The open web needs to improve at the pace of apps or faster if it is to survive. How far has HTML and other related tech come since the release of HTML5 (start
  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Monday September 05, 2016 @07:15PM (#52831577) Homepage

    For years, companies wanted, but struggled, to generate revenue on the web. They couldn't. There was just too much friction for the average user in pulling out a credit card, typing in details, then remembering logins and logging in over and over again, not to mention tracking all of their subscriptions to various services.

    Apps and in-app purchases are the "micropayments" that were talked about for so long. User provides billing information once, then is able to conveniently pay for content (whether the app or in-app purchases) with a tap or two. All payments and subscription information are centralized and run through a trusted (to the user) provider.

    This is why companies have gone there. Because it's where they were finally able to generate sufficient user acquisitions to sustain an online purchase/subscription model, for the most part. Companies go where the money is, and it wasn't on the web.

  • Starting in ~2013 I worked 18 months developing several apps for android and kept thinking, "Holy hell this app model is so fucked." I kept pushing for responsive frameworks in the browser instead of iOS/Android app ports that consume double (triple!) the amount of resources, but nope, all three companies were unanimous in having an app.

    This data just blows my mind. I've been away from it for over a year and thought it would decrease.

I haven't lost my mind -- it's backed up on tape somewhere.