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!
Update 4/23/16 - I have created an information page detailing the foundation of the concept which I'm deeming Mumblecore HTML . You may view it here.
I'm in a "movement" starting mood these past couple of weeks. One that seems particularly attractive to me is the idea of creating an HTML composition protocol that is simple and adheres to the basic tags such as those used for creating titles, headers and paragraphs. The idea is to eliminate most graphic design elements from web pages so that they can "breathe" function and cost very little to produce. To make valuable and useful websites that otherwise look like they were composed before CSS.
The why of such a thing are several. First, by eliminating graphic work and design web authors and coders are free to focus on functionality. The overhead cost of developing and running a web project are dramatically reduced. Second, websites can be engineered closer to the time of impulse, restoring a sense of creativity (in a functional not aesthetic sense). Websites and projects that never get done in the wake of fretting over how its design keeps up with the modern sense can get done on a lone coder's budget. And, as well, lean websites are responsive and work well with mobile devices even when not explicitly designed for them.
I have two websites that might demonstrate what I'm thinking, New York City People Fusion and another I'm working on for my sole commercial product, Squeaky Portal. Either will give you a sense of what I'm talking about. If you want something accomplished and more mainstream, Craigslist is still the perfect example although even it might still be a bit more overdeveloped compared to what I am imagining. It is a strong brand and a cult operating object in a world of overdone and graphic-heavy imitators. It's one thing when an odd web developer out here and there keeps their graphics presentation to a minimalist level, but I think it should be more than an odd developer out. No graphic designs should represent a complete body of websites written to point in the form.
I don't know how you go about creating something like an official design standard. I know, for real, even simple protocols that people adopt are actually quite technical. Even so, I'm going to try. Even if I can't cover all the bases in a protocol white paper, as I'm usually fond of observing, maybe my wobbly attempt at one will inspire better others. The hardest part might be in convincing the users of websites whose developers subscribe to the framework that they are visiting and using a serious service. People don't trust quiet websites that look like beginners developed. But, an education campaign as well as links to an explain page, should help web audiences accept and even embrace the philosophy.