Introduction to Mat Wright

Mat Wright is a Zend Certified Engineer and qualified designer available for freelance web development + consultation work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Is the humble web browser doomed ?

Earlier this month comScore published figures revealing that in the quarter up to August 2013 53.4% of US mobile phone owners used downloaded Apps compared to a lower 52% of owners who used the web-browser. The statistics from previous quarters also show that mobile users (smartphone and non-smartphone) are now spending more time using downloaded apps than their devices web-browser and the trend is not expected to buck.

With the official release of Windows 8 just weeks away and the prospect of a whole new generation of  touch-screen apps available from Microsoft's upcoming digital distribution platform - Windows Store, web-developers and web design agencies are becoming increasingly aware of the market demand for the ubiquitous App.

The big question is - Are Apps going to replace the common web-browser ?

While web-browsers provide a gateway to the entire World Wide Web and its billions of linked documents they do present some inconveniences for regular consumers who simply want instant access to their own personalised corner of the web such as - social network, news channel, weather or bank account. This is a good reason why apps have become so popular with users - one click and you're there, no complicated URL's to type out, no distracting sponsored results, no browser incompatibilities, no other diversions just straight to the place you want to be in a single-click (or more accurately - gesture!).

The downside of course is that while there are millions of apps available for tablets and smartphones, this is still only a small fraction of what the WWW has to offer and not everything fits suitably within an app.

Mitchell Baker (Mozilla Foundation)
Mitchell Baker (Chairperson at the Mozilla Foundation) recently told the BBC in an interview that she:

"worries that our shift towards adopting mobile apps is fragmenting the control we have of our lives. The internet was meant to be connected, she says - not siloed."

"We really do want to encourage developers to develop across devices, using the same kind of power and explosive innovation and freedoms that the web has given us over the last 15 years."

She was speaking in the context of Mozillas latest project - Pancake which confronts serious questions about the very model and structure of web navigation as we know it. Mozilla currently describe Pancake as 'An experimental mobile browser'.

Some of the themes being explored by Pancake include:

Mozilla Pancake project
1. Being able to access the web from whereever you are on any device.
2. Improved searching
3. Simplified social sharing
4. Content and Context awareness
5. Reunifying the web
6. Device to device interactivity

Can Pancake offer an alternative gateway to the WWW in the future ? Ironically as I write, Pancake is only currently available as an HTML5 IPAD app, however the wheels are in motion and just maybe the future of the humble web browser isn't doomed after-all but rather, simply put - evolved.

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