A: At a high level, it has to do with distribution. Apps are distributed through a marketplace, like the Apple Store, Google Play Store, or Windows Stores, while websites historically haven’t had that ability. But that’s changing. In the past, apps gave brands more customization and flexibility, but new technologies are allowing web applications to catch up with key experiences like hardware support, accessing a device’s camera or GPS, and viewing performance.
And using caching, among other things happening behind the scenes, a lot of mobile app functionality is now available to the web, and has been for the past year or two, although companies haven’t fully taken advantage of it. Tools are being built to allow consumers to have Apple-like experiences on the web, which in the end are a lot less expensive to maintain. But companies also have the ability to then publish their sites across the board into different marketplaces and also have their sites picked up by search engines, something apps have never been able to do.
Since browser sites are starting to have all the functionality of mobile applications, there is evidence to support that apps are becoming less and less pervasive on home pages or mobile screens. Web applications, in addition to being less expensive than mobile apps to maintain, are also more accessible to a larger audience. If you look at the next 1 billion mobile users, especially outside the United States, they don't necessarily have $1,000 iPhones, or really even $50 phones. And they tend to be more Android-based. They're very limited in terms of storage, and they are very limited in terms of bandwidth and speed.
Across the market, we’re seeing less reliance upon apps as a whole. Overall, they will likely be replaced by websites, but there will be a couple scenarios where mobile apps are necessary, like if a company needs extreme security or extreme performance. There are also certain apps, like productivity apps that only work a certain way. But in general, the web is on track to replace apps in the near future.
And one of the benefits of focusing on websites over mobile apps is that websites don’t need to be created differently for an iPhone versus an Android. If a company is using native apps, they sometimes have multiple teams to support everything and account for differences in devices. Focusing on web apps provides cost savings from an operational standpoint, as companies can develop a site once and distribute it widely, and web technologies are generally less expensive to produce.