Could my assumption about the collapse of the WWW in the mobile era be completely wrong? It looks like Progressive Web Apps (PWA) may turn the ship around.
The concept is incredible -- and, it explains something I've never understood about Google's seemingly whimpy acquiescence to the fact that people weren't spending time on the web any more. Turns out, Google appears to have had a plan all along to fix that (or, just have a plan now ).
That plan is PWAs, web-based and web-hosted applications written in good old fashioned HTML. This guy pretty much explains it all well.
Explaining Progressive Web Apps and why everyone wants them.
The idea is that people "install" an "app" simply by visiting a website once and then in a manual or somewhat even automated process install a home screen shortcut to it. When the shortcut is tapped on moving forward it opens the PWA in such a way that it looks nothing like a web page and everything like a traditional mobile app.
Some Chrome browser engineering by Google (and in due course, Microsoft Edge) works in combination with the website to render most if not all the same functionality as a native app; a typical user cannot notice any difference although the early consensus is that PWAs are faster than native apps.
Not all smartphone hardware functionality can be replicated by a PWA but it seems most of the important and widespread ones can be, and right now we're only talking about the first generation.
PWAs don't restore the social browsing of the open WWW, people are still working one-to-one with their apps and not likely to jaunt about away from them. But Google's interest is more about keeping people on the web to keep web advertising tied to a healthy flow of web traffic. The Google Play store that you figure is a cash cow for them is evidently not as much in their financial interest as a thriving traditional WWW is.
So sure, granted, it is not about people web page hopping and clicking advertising banners like before 2008. But I see PWAs as a way to keep HTML and the concept of an open WWW alive so that publishers and more importantly, web developers, have cause to stick with the platform. If PWAs take off, the WWW isn't going anywhere.
For Microsoft, it means not being killed off by Android. In a PWA world they can continue to thrive, and, I wonder even, if PWAs were not actually on their mind when they decided to abandon Windows smartphones.
It's because of the World Wide Web's universality that makes PWAs a no-brainer. Companies don't have to front the cost of building dedicated iOS or Android applications and then suffer additional cost through endless bug and security fixes.
So, all this time perhaps, it was just trusting that the flexibility and open nature of the web would find its way into the economics of development philosophy. If all goes well the period between 2008 - 2019 will be regarded as nothing more than an era of flirtation with phone-side applications. Hallelujah!