The Washington Post

Another entry in the Web’s obituary?

In the lead-up to Apple’s earnings report Tuesday, VentureBeat’s Dylan Tweney observed that, while the Web has been an open platform for going on 30 years, the apps ecosystem may be bringing about its demise.

In this Jan. 27, 2010, photo, the iPad is shown after it was unveiled at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Today, users can link between sites freely, weaving the Web with every new connection. But, as Tweney highlights, that’s not the case in the apps ecosystem, which is powering one of the fastest-growing data platforms: mobile.

“For big companies and carriers, app-to-app connections aren’t important. They’re too busy trying to build their own ecosystems. Most entrepreneurs don’t care about the ease of integrating apps: They just want to make their own apps popular and figure out how to make money from them. And for consumers, this issue is not even on the radar screen. That’s why I’m not optimistic about the future of the open web, particularly on mobile: There are huge companies with a large incentive to bypass it, and very few who have enough of a problem with it to register any opposition.”

Apple, as Tweeney observes, is not alone in generating momentum away from the open Web and the browser. Amazon, Google and even Facebook are, as Tweney writes, in their own ways, contributing to this evolution. So the apps ecosystem isn’t likely to go anywhere. In fact, if projections are correct, next year mobile users will eclipse desktop users. And Apple is still the leader in that growing ecosystem, with app developers prioritizing iOS over any other mobile operating system for good reason.

Even though Apple reported its first profit decline in a decade on Tuesday, Macs continue to outsell PCs and demand is still hot for iPads and IPhones. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said, though not unexpectedly, that shareholders and Apple fans should look forward to new products that could potentially arrive this fall and through to 2014.

So, is the Web dying — a victim of the growing apps store? It depends on who you talk to.

Tweney’s could be seen as another paragraph in the Web’s obituary. In 2010, Wired’s Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff made a similar observation, writing that “over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display.”

They, too, observed that Apple’s iPhone was largely powering the transition, and that market forces would continue to drive users towards “custom applications that just work.” Even prior to this, in 1997, Wired published a cover story by Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf, outlining how the Web browser was “about to croak,” with the authors wishing it “good riddance.” They predicted that push media would usher in a new era of media on the “the decentralized matrix known as the Net,” that offers “things you simply can’t browse.”

Forrester CEO George Colony generated a heated debate by declaring, in a 2011 speech, that “the Web is dead.”

But not everyone is on board with the death-of-the-Web storyline. As entrepreneur-gone-VC Mark Suster writes, “nobody can really assert authoritatively what the future of tech or the Internet will hold.” In an extensive Dec. 2011 post analyzing Colony’s argument, he predicts developers will create “workarounds” using JavaScript or HTML5 and that browsers will evolve. Cost of multiplatform development and crowded app-store shelves, he writes, could also serve as deterrents to a massive takeover of apps.

But what do you think: Is the Web dying, and did apps place the knife in its back? Let us know in the comments.

(Read: Dylan’s Desk: How apps are chipping away at the open Web)

Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E.Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans
Next Story
Emi Kolawole · April 23, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.