Apps – Not so Fast

The internets are abuzz with the reverb from the presentation by Forrester's George Colony at Le Web, with his three thunderstorms proclamation, one of which is that the apps universe has a lot more momentum than the network dependent internet/cloud model, primarily because processing and storage capacity growth outpaces network growth.

I agree with the premise, but really find the "internet's dead, long live the app" hype a bit exaggerated.  The app's are not a new phenomenon. In fact, the PC paradigm was based on the app model: executable code processing real time locally.  The apps of today are getting all the attention mainly thanks to Apple's phenomenal innovations on mobile computing interfaces: namely the iPhone and the iPad.  Apple's led the way to take the advantage of i/o and design innovations, and other tech co's are just following suit.  

And what makes the apps more than just updated desktop applications, is the seamless way they interact with the cloud and the data on other devices and the cloud.  In fact, I think the current app paradigm, which keeps data in tubes (i.e. not easily accessible like HTLM), has an achilles heel.

What has made the web the most powerful computing advent to date is its openness and neutrality.  The apps either have to find a way to make themselves permeable, or go the way of the dodo.  The apps have unfortunately broken the internet, while bringing us fantastic user experience.  Now disrupters need to find ways to open them up.  Whether Apple likes it or not.

Going back to Colony's death of internet meme, I found it to be a bit short-sighted, with smart analysis of a very short period of trends and data. I plan to write a bit more about his two other points soon:  social saturation and enterprise.

By the way, there are quite a few people who thing that HTML5 will bridge the app usability and internet network effects.  I have not got my arms around HTML5 enough to opine on this, but quite excited to see the innovations on that front.

For those interested, there's a good debate in the comments on Fred Wilson's A VC.

UPDATE: I just got sent a link to a good post by Dave Winer on the same topic.

Here's Colony's presentation from Le Web:


Culture is Important in Global Services

Fred Wilson had a very important post last week, examining the non-US growth of a few web properties, and concluding:

There's a lot of money "rest of world" and I suspect that will only be
more and more true over time. So we should start building web
businesses with that in mind.

The topic is very relevant to my business thesis, so i have been thinking about it over the weekend.  At the heart of the discussion is the notion of global web businesses.  The thinking here is pretty linear.  In capitalism, most businesses enjoy economies of scale.  In the connected, digital economy, since most physical points of friction are eliminated, the economies of scale allow for significant economic advantages to the largest players.  Therefore, it's natural to see large, global, dominant players emerging.  Fred is saying that these players will eventually have their non-US markets larger than their US markets and should behave with that in mind.

It makes a lot of sense.  And, we're already seeing this in action with Google dominating search in most countries, and Facebook killing all sorts of local social networks that preceeded it at the local level.

Is there not a segment of internet business that is inherently local?  I think there is.  And the secret sause there is cultural.  eBay has een very acquisitive in its global expansion.  However, the eBay acquisitions always come with their unique local flavors. It's in the community if not the product but all auction-based local ecommerce businesses I have seen have a unique cultural component.  The same is true for dating services, classifieds, recruitment sites…

I think it's very difficult to build, from scratch, a truly global service, except in pure technology-driven ventures (such as search, as in Google, or VoIP, as in Skype).  Each company is built with its own cultural unique points and then, as they expand globally, adopt or acquire practices that fit into other cultures.