The app-pocalypse ourobouros

The New York Times reports on Google et al.’s crusade to save us from app fragmentation.


The writer of the NY Times piece (and/or his sub-editors) has achieved the superhuman feat of not drawing any conclusions from this evocative material, but the signposts are all there:

“It is not just a matter of consumer convenience. For Google and Facebook, and any company that has built its business on the web, it is a matter of controlling the next entryway to the Internet — the mobile device.”

“But as people spend more time on their mobile devices and in their apps, their Internet has taken a step backward, becoming more isolated, more disorganized and ultimately harder to use — more like the web before search engines.

“How remarkable it is that we are back in 1997!” said Roger McNamee, co-founder of Elevation Partners, an investment firm in Menlo Park, Calif.”

“Take Google, which makes money helping people search the web. When people search in apps, it is mostly left out. And while the company has a fast-growing business selling apps through devices that use its Android operating system, that pales in comparison to its business selling search advertising.”

““Once we’re all using the same plumbing, everyone can go and build businesses and interesting experiences on top of that,” said Eddie O’Neil, a Facebook product manager working on the company’s program, App Links.”

The ironies are many, exquisite, and multi-layered. The complete and transparent prioritization of commercial value over social value is, well, honest. Let’s make some noise, then sell earplugs. One company’s sub-standard product is another company’s value-add opportunity. Well, actually, it’s the same company’s value-add opportunity. That what makes it so fun, amirite?

One of the more remarkable ironies is this: Apple, having created the app-pocalypse and crippled web interoperability with the whole Flash fiasco, remains “cool”; Google, having enthusiastically out-app-ed Apple and upped the ante by turning their web browser, of all things, into an app platform, remains “good” (or at least “not evil”); and Microsoft, having produced the most web-capable platform of the three (as I have remarked before), and been vilified by the tech press for its efforts, remains “evil”.