This article argues that the verdict is in, and users want apps, not mobile web sites. My friend and colleague Michael Roberts (who, I suspect, is neutral in the debate) shared this link on Google+, and – as if to prove Mr Gurley’s thesis – I read his posting in the Android G+ app, not the mobile site.
Here is the comment I left:
Interesting piece – thanks, Michael . He’s absolutely right that people prefer apps to the browser for common tasks, but I don’t think he’s got the whole story. For example, like most people, I currently read G+, Facebook, and Twitter in the dedicated mobile apps rather than in the browser. However, a large plurality (if not majority) of interesting posts to those services are actually links back out into the web, so the result of of reading a tweet is generally opening not a dedicated app, but a web site.
Case in point – we’re both reacting to a pro-app/anti-browser article, but the only reason we know about it is that you were able to share a web link in your G+ post. If Mr. Gurley had created a “GurleyPosts” app for his thoughts, then (a) most people probably wouldn’t have it installed, and (b) you wouldn’t have been able to pass a link from iOS that I could use to read it on Android.
In other words, for something I do a lot (read Facebook, check the weather, play a game, get driving directions) I will tend to use an app. But I won’t install a dedicated app just to read an article from a magazine or newspaper, and even when I am using an app, I need a link if I’m going to share it with anyone else.
So in 2013 for mobile, apps are for the tall head of any user’s activities, and the browser is for the long tail. Of course, every startup thinks it’s going to be the next Facebook (at least in terms of its importance to the people who use it), but few of them end up there, so the way people are going to find them is by following links from FB, Twitter, Google+, emails, chats, etc. I wouldn’t give up on that mobile web site quite yet.