The “appification” of everything will transform the world’s 360,000,000 sites
There is a seismic shift underway in the digital world that within a decade will completely transform the web into an App-o-verse. Several simultaneous trends are stacking up to change how we consume and create digital content, and platform companies are positioning themselves to enable the process.
What we are seeing are the early stages of what I call, “The Appification of Everything.” This is not about adding more icons to your home screen, though, but about a fundamental shift in how we metabolize information and entertainment. The web as the universal storage medium is being superseded by the internet as universal flow medium. Instead of thinking about the web as a hierarchical tree of documents—a Wikipedia of Wikipedias—we need to start thinking about all of that content as an underlying service layer for application-based interfaces.
I’m not alone when I say that websites as we know them will become quaint and vestigial. Steve Newcomb, the CEO and founder of Famo.us, a soon-to-be released software framework for building high-performance apps, sees it this way, “Today there are about 360 million websites and they’re all basically not much more than linked documents, but in 10 years everything will be an app. Consumers will experiences brands as a unified and integrated experience across all devices and websites will slowly but surely join the ranks of AOL and the dial tone as relics of a bygone era.”
Front end software, like Famo.us, Zurb’s Foundation and the just-released Roots, are emerging to make the work of designing and building apps with powerful, flexible and high-performing user interfaces easier and faster. Increasing the ability of developers and designers to build apps will lead to both more and better user experiences—but they are only part of the story. Apps run on content and that content has to be hosted, aggregated and optimized on the back end in order to be served up quickly on the front end.
This integration of back end server-side technology and front end client-side technology is really complicated, and has been a pain point for designers, developers and engineers alike. Adding to the complexity is the fragmentation of the mobile world into the open web and the “walled gardens” of iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Each of these mobile platforms uses their own programming language(s), and rebuilding between platforms is difficult and time-consuming.
The distinction between native apps and web apps is really a false choice. Many native apps contain web app components within them and web apps can be “wrapped” in native code and deployed on app stores like any other native app. The techniques around using web code within native apps are called hybrid development. Jeremy Allaire, the CEO of video and app service provider Brightcove, wrote a recent blog post about the “Religious Wars” between native platforms and the web and comes down as a staunch advocate for hybrid solutions as a way of ending them.