I am a big fan of web apps — for many reasons. Yet I feel like I am very much in the minority… and I often wonder: why?
I talk about this with my kids (who are very eager to use apps — since of course they’re the best thing since sliced bread [or something like that ]) and at first my takeaway was that they launch faster, are more responsive, etc. — all things that have a lot to do with the relatively narrow bandwidth available on most smartphones.
Of course most of these apps also use data just as web apps do, so that data transmission speeds will ultimately even out (since these markets compete with each other, there will be a kind of arbitrage phenomenon that will ultimately lead to competitive pricing and roughly equivalent quality).
Some of us can remember all the way back to when flickr.com was going to take over the world — and indeed: for several months, maybe even a couple of years… it was TEH website. News broke there. It was sort of like tumblr.com, mashed up with instagram.com and a dash of pinterest.com — all in one. It was taken over by yahoo.com (as now — more recently — tumblr, too), and thus also had a “WhatsApp” moment. Why do I drag out all of this web history?
Well, because there may be quite a few millennials who can’t remember it, and perhaps also some more experienced investors who apparently have forgotten it. What was commonly referred to as the “dot com” crash of 2001 (which I prefer to refer to simply as the first “dot” crash — since “dot com” valuations still seem to be quite high) ruined many people and many businesses… — and that can certainly happen again.
Today, most of the businesses that survived the crash in 2001 have done so by employing the old-fashioned publishing methods of mainstream (or “traditional”) media (also known as “retard media”): mix up “editorial” and “advertising” content and sell the bundles of content as media packages / deals. I don’t know why, but many advertisers and advertising agencies seem to be quite happy with this arrangement (by which Google and Facebook are able to rake in huge sums and make an absolute killing — and which has lead to booming cottage industries for “SEO services”, “clicks” and “Likes” in many third-world countries… whether those be automated bots and/or child laborers earning pennies per click, well all of that is largely ignored).
While it may seem as though Facebook and Google have the “one size fits all” market pretty much cornered, I wouldn’t be so sure. I hardly ever use Google any more at all — mostly because the results are so God-awful bad. The only thing that I expect Google to return is wikipedia.org (which Google itself has financed for most of its existence — probably in order to have at least one result that is not obviously of dubious quality), mainstream media websites and also other advertiser sites. It is simply no longer informative, and Facebook is looking more and more like a retirement home day by day (by comparison, even broadcast television programming seems like it might be comparatively “exciting” ).
In contrast, those who are “leaning forward” and actively engaging are doing so on computers and laptops with responsive and actual hardware keyboards, upon which creatives type at lightning speed — and screens with many windows and innumerable tabs open at the same time. This brings me full circle to what is probably the main difference between web domains (i.e., websites and/or web apps) and mobile applications: Whereas websites are made for literate users, mobile apps are made for people who simply push buttons like they might use a soda machine. If they want a candy bar, then they will (instead) use a candy bar machine / app. Since each application is rather constrained and limited to only certain, very specific types of interaction, this does not “scale” well (at least not from the literate / qualified user’s perspective).
On thing many investors seem to be presently overlooking is that you can only squeeze a very limited amount of information out of a “Like” button.