Article first appeared on wired.com, February 13, 2014
At the very least, the reports of the web’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
In 2010 Wired Magazine published The Web Is Dead | Long Live The Internet1, regarding the demise of the PC and the shrinking need for the Web as a digital presence. The original argument from the authors states that in the new age of tablet devices, people would consume digital content via apps, which would kill the web as the main source of digital information.
Now, over three years later, we can see that the web is not dead and is in fact alive and growing. The way people access information through mobile devices has not killed the web. On the contrary, the mobile revolution has helped the web grow exponentially. Below are five key trends that back-up my assertion…
1. APPS ARE A GATEWAY TO THE WEB, AND USED BY MILLIONS
There is no doubt the way people access information on mobile devices is changing the dynamic of the internet. On mobile devices, people can have information pushed to them, as opposed to going out and searching for it on the web. One can easily download an app to get content from the NY Times, USA Today or CNN. Gone are the days of needing to go to a major news website to get the latest news. Now you can subscribe to a Twitter feed and be notified in near real-time of a major news event. Need to book a restaurant reservation? There’s an app for that. In fact, based on the millions of app downloads2 each day on iTunes it’s easy to see why someone would think the web is dead.
However the way these apps are built, the reality of the situation is that many apps link directly to mobile friendly versions of a web page. Just click on a link in your newsfeed on Facebook to see for yourself. This architecture actually increases web traffic.
2. MOBILE USE IS SKYROCKETING
There are multiple reports that show a huge shift from the desktop world to the mobile world. One visual I have used in the past is based on research by Mary Meeker at Kleiner Perkins3, which shows how the market share of Windows based operating systems have declined over the last 5 years [figure 1]. You can see where Android had become the leading operating system in 2012 and Windows had only 35% market share.
Source: KPBC Internet Trends 2012
What is very clear from these data sources is that devices people use to consume information is changing. Windows based PCs are no longer the mainstay of internet access. With the growing market share of mobile devices, having information in the palm of your hand is the biggest trend we see. Does this mean the web is dead? No, it just means the way people are getting information from the web is changing.
3. OVERALL WEB TRAFFIC IS ON THE RISE
If we look at other indicatores, we see that web usage is actually increasing. The number one place people go to get information is Google, and it has been the highest visited website for the last several years. If we look at traffic trends for Google.com as estimated both by Compete and Quantcast, we see traffic to Google has been increasing [figure 2].
4. PEOPLE ARE USING MOBILE DEVICES AS THE PRIMARY ENTRANCE TO THE WEB
To better understand why this is happening, we need to look at how people are accessing the internet. In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 20114,it was discovered that about 25% of smartphone owners use their smartphone as the primary way of accessing online content. This trend has actually made the web easier to access for millions of people around the world.
5. SECURE SHOPPING ON MOBILE DEVICES IS EXPLODING
Another interesting piece of data regarding mobile usage is the IBM Coremetrics Black Friday Benchmark Report5 where in 2013 nearly 40% of all website visits to retailers on Black Friday occurred on a mobile device. That equates to an approximate 600% increase in mobile website traffic since 2010 [figure 3]. Not only are people using their mobile devices as the primary way of accessing the internet, they are becoming more comfortable conducting secure transactions on those devices.
Source: IBM Coremetrics Benchmark Reports 2010-2013
CONCLUSION: THE WEB IS ALIVE AND GROWING
I do not believe we are witnessing the death of the web, but rather a fundamental shift in how people use the web. According to the Mary Meeker’s research3, mobile internet users are expected to eclipse desktop internet users this year in 2014. This means that web data is going to be available more readily than it has in the past when the primary use was sitting at a desk. According to research conducted by Cisco6 , the overall amount of web data on the internet is expected to more than double in the next 3 years, and mobile web data is expected to increase by more than 10x [figure 4]. These are not the projections of a dying entity, but rather a clear indication of growth.
Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2011-2016
WHAT’S NEXT? MOBILE WEB STRATEGY IS THE KEY
To succeed in this changing web environment, marketers and web professionals need to have a mobile web strategy. The industry is moving in a “mobile first” direction as far as accessability is concerned. The successful business will have a seamless experience for consumers on either a PC or a mobile device. They will understand what consumers want to do on a mobile device, and will optimize for the channel the user chooses. They will have an integrated strategy that realizes someone could be viewing their web content on a smartphone, a tablet, or a desktop at the same time – and offers value to the consumer regardless of device.
- Wired.com http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/
- Fiksu.com http://www.fiksu.com/resources/fiksu-indexes
- Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers http://www.slideshare.net/kleinerperkins/kpcb-internet-trends-2012
- The Pew Research Center http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Smartphones/Section-2.aspx
- IBM Benchmark Study http://www-01.ibm.com/software/marketing-solutions/benchmark-reports/black-friday-report-2013.pdf
- Cisco http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns341/ns525/ns537/ns705/ns827/white_paper_c11-481360_ns827_Networking_Solutions_White_Paper.html