The Future of the Internet: Will the Web have a place in a world full of apps?

This essay is part of Farhad Manjoo’s continuing series on the future of innovation. Read the series introduction, Manjoo’s story on the future of mobile gadgets, and readers’ predictions on the future of mobile devices.Last summer, in a much-read cover story, Wired proclaimed that the Web is dead. Chris Anderson, the magazine’s editor, argued that loading pages in a browser is passé. The future, Anderson wrote, is in downloadable apps, which have several advantages over the Web. They’re fast, they can be customized for specific purposes, and — perhaps most importantly — people seem to have no problem paying for them, which means that software and media companies have an incentive to keep creating more. Few of us, meanwhile, pay for Web content — and our reluctance, Anderson argued, spoke volumes about what we really want from our computers: “Much as we love freedom and choice, we also love things that just work, reliably and seamlessly.”Anderson’s argument was instantly showered with criticism — much of it from people who write on the Web — but if you went beyond the blustery headline and graphics, it wasn’t an unreasonable prediction. People spend a lot of time and money on apps these days, and many developers are indeed devoting more of their resources to apps than to the Web. Still, I’ve been skeptical of the Web-is-dead idea. The Web has one main advantage over apps: It works everywhere, and that’s important in a post-Windows world. Since our computers, phones, and tablets use different operating systems, we need a single platform to unite them all. Sure, programmers can theoretically write different apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Palm, and every other gadget that comes along, but that doesn’t seem tenable. Instead, they’ll come to see the advantages of creating content and applications that work across devices. There’s no better uniter than the Web.To read this report in Slate in full, see:
www.slate.com/id/2289342/

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