Have Apple's closed apps killed Google's open web?

Have Apple's closed apps killed Google's open web?

Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners -- who previously made headlines before they sold Palm to HP -- is back with some interesting views on how Apple's App Store might have already killed Google's open web.

McNamee asserts that search, which makes Google billions in advertising revenue on the desktop, has been reduced to 1% of mobile activity, effectively obliterating it as a business. He blames/credits that to Apple and their App Store model, where they present the internet not in open, standards based web pages but closed, proprietary native applications.

The open web was too wild for the mainstream, MacNamee says, which makes Apple's iPhone and iPad far more accessible, approachable, and comfortable. (He also thinks iPad is the most important device since the IBM PC and urges everyone to get one.)

McNamee doesn't seem to be casting Apple as the villain of the open web, or the hero of the app mainstream, but rather both, or rather still commenting on the re-closing of the web.

That's something we've been speaking about a lot on our podcasts lately. Compuserve, Prodigy, AOL, etc. all started as mainstream-friendly, walled-gardens built on top of the internet. Eventually, they had to give users real email and real web access, and the walled gardens fell.

Now, however, the App Store has repackaged it again. And Facebook has erected a new, more social, but just as walled a garden. And Google is having to walk the line with Android and Plus and other services to provide a good experience while still staying as open as their original philosophy allowed.

MacNamee thinks it's done in Mobile. Google's model lost. I'm not so sure. "It is what it is" is far too easy and final for the turbulence we're still undergoing. Apple is all in on open HTML5 as a second development platform, for example, so just like Google they're embracing what they feel is the best of both models. That might be the new normal. We might finally be recognizing one model doesn't work for everyone, and a combination of the two is more than the sum of it's parts -- or its soundbites.

Video after the break.

[Fortune via Android Central]

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Have Apple's closed apps killed Google's open web?

29 Comments

I laughed listening to this.
First, to even suggest that Google is just clinging to web when they have an app distribution model is silly at best. Then to suggest that nobody will ever search again is even sillier. He even goes to say half of all phones are iPhones (which it's more like 1/4 in America, less than that globally), so it makes it hard to believe what this man is saying when he can't even get basic numbers and wording right.
Then lest we forget, majority of the world is still on non-smartphones. So therefore the app model doesn't apply to them, so how are they doing it?
I'm not against the app model, I've been saying the future of the internet is in apps on mobile devices. But he just doesn't bring any viable proof in my eyes. Just a bunch of sideline cheering for the company that he hopes will bring this about to make him look certifiable.

The guy is clearly delusional.
Search is still the big dog in the internet. Take a informal survey and you will find most people have their home page set to google even on iphones.
If anything, the latest stats from Google indicate mobile search actually is increasing faster than Desktop search.
Even on smartphones, most people do not open an app to find things. They search.
With apple gutting functionality more and more (can't purchase a book from Amazon or B&N, and you can't even mention the possibility of doing so via the web), the walls of the garden are getting higher and higher. Contrary to popular belief even frogs know enough to jump out of water as it gets too hot.

Agree with the other posters. McNamee is being quite overwrought. Google is not promoting an "open" web, nor is Apple a "closed" web. The terms suggest to us that are more than Google or Apple.
Google's and Apple's business models are quite different, yes, but both use the web. Gruber pitched that Apple is in essence a web company. They use "http" in basically all of their products. The app store uses "http". App Store apps use "http". What Google does is "browser" centric. Everything is through the window of the web browser.

Gruber was mistaken or deliberately trying to confuse the issue so he could praise what he called Apple's "love affair" with "open" http. Use of http does not make something open or closed, nor does it necessarily make users of http a web company, unless you are also willing to grant that all Flash components that do not directly use sockets (~99% of Flash) are also open web products.
The salient point is not transport protocol, but the ability of the end user to embed, link (including deep link) and otherwise interact with the content outside the confines of a single application. You cannot do any with Apps.

Why does "the ability of the end user to embed, link (including deep link) and otherwise interact with the content outside the confines of a single application" constitute the "open" web?
Is there some kind of official definition here?
No (to my being a jackass that is), what does it really mean to be open or closed? Especially in relation to gigantic companies like Apple or Google. Like we've said before, you can't shoehorn these entities into a dichotomy of choices.
I thought Gruber's point was really in counterpoint to Apple being a closed, proprietary and anti-Internet company. You can extend the reasoning until it breaks yes, but the point is that Apple is not some evil and closed entity that only uses Apple stuff.
We can very easily say the Google is closed in its own way and is not good for the Internet. Or that there's this trend of the Internet becoming walled Internet gardens again like it was in the AOL days, but the new names are Google, Facebook, and Apple. But this kind of argument is really overwrought. It really doesn't stand up. All it does is make sale-able headlines.

Gruber's point misses the point. "Open" in this sense means you the user have unencumbered access to the underlying content. That is not the case with Apps (or with Flash, for that matter); apps are closed and proprietary. It does not mean they have no place; I use them all the time -- but the attempts by Gruber et al to claim they are somehow open because they share some technical roots as other open conduits is disingenuous at best.
Let me try again.
It really matters very, very little if a program uses http if you can't get at the content except through one way proscribed by one company. It does not matter if the protocol is http or carrier pigeons, nor does it matter if the company is Apple, Adobe, or Google. If one single company controls the only way to get at the content, that content ain't open. Period.

"It really matters very, very little if a program uses http if you can't get at the content except through one way proscribed by one company."
Why should the content be free, accessible? And why does such a fact mean the web is open?
"If one single company controls the only way to get at the content, that content ain't open. Period."
The Internet, the WWW, is rife with such companies. You can likely link to it, but it's only available through the company's website. WSJ, NYT, even Tipb, the content belongs to them. Reproducing them is kind of frowned upon.

We can't nest replies any deeper, so this is a response to a post below...
I'm not arguing should, or making value judgements on it. I'm arguing is.
One of the dictionary definitions of "open" is "not barred, as in a passageway." Content only accessible via one means is closed to all other means. It is restricted. Your NYT/WSJ/tipb examples also have restrictions, but far less of them. That makes them more "Open" by definition.
"Open" and "Closed" is not binary, but a continuum -- the more avenues you have to access content, the more open it is. The pure "Open" web (if such a thing exists) has no restrictions, but sites like the NYT have terms and conditions on their content, and allows use on far more platforms (and interacting with the content in far deeper and more interesting ways) than does any iOS app. iOS apps have one and only one means of access -- through a proprietary binary platform approved and controlled by a single company through an opaque process. Some damn exciting apps I use every day come out of this process, but the process and result is about as far to the closed side of the spectrum as you can get without actually shutting out all light. Again, not a value judgement, just an observation.
You are confusing "free as in beer" (zero price) with "free as in speech" (few restrictions.) "Open" has nothing to do with the former.

I love the revisionist history here. AOL, CompServe and Prodigy all pre-dated the Internet (not necessarily ARPA net) and were not built on top of the Internet. Their failures came because the Internet was open and they tried to wedge the Internet into their already failing proprietary closed "walled gardens".

How can the "predate" the internet. They were service providers (access) to the internet. There were ways to get access before them, but you had to have some tech knowledge--but they did not predate the "internet.

Before the Internet, you would dial your modem into either AOL, CompuServe or Prodigy to connect to them. You had local access numbers for your area and there was no interrelation between these groups. T-shirts were worn to display your allegiances. It was a different era.
Once the Internet became more prevalent, you could dial into someone like AOL and not only do all of your AOL stuff, but access the Internet as well.
I agree with the previous poster, this guy has his facts backwards.

Okay you first have to understand that the Internet as we know it didn't come into being until the mid 1990s'. Prior to that, ARPA net connected the military to research universities and businesses. uunet connected hackers and some organizations, and bitnet connected universities. Their technologies date back to the '60's but most companies and individuals, and universities not working with the military could not access a common network.
CompuServe has been around since 1969 and was primarily a dialup service running on a set of servers (DEC-10's mainly) in their Columbus Ohio offices. All data was held on their servers and they didn't connect to the outside world. AOL and Prodigy both came along later and tried to oust CompuServe as king of this kind of service with graphics and sound. You accessed both services by dialup and connected directly to their servers.
When the World Wide Web formed and non-military could access ARPA net turned into the Internet, CompuServe, AOL and Podigy all opened up their email and started bringing Internet content to their customers still connecting to their dedicated servers.
Eventually the business model of a service like CompuServe and AOL failed because most of their content was available directly on the Internet now for free (instead of content they owned on their own). People no longer needed to pay for an ISP and an online service. AOL and CIS tried to become ISP's but eventually that didn't work out well either.

You are confusing the "Internet" with the "World Wide Web" - The Internet was invented in the 1960s, whereas the World Wide Web is a layer on top of the Internet, and it was invented much later by Tim Berners-Lee using a NeXT computer.
You say that AOL, etc. predates the Internet, but you are wrong.

I am not confusing them. The "Internet" was called ARPAnet prior to it becoming available to the general public. The technology that drives the Internet, i.e. TCP/IP, UDP, Telnet, FTP, etc. all existed well before there was "The Internet". But regardless AOL, CompuServer and Prodigy did not use these technologies to get people on to their services until after the ARPAnet transformed into the Internet and the WWW came on line.

Apps are where it's at, Safari doesn't even grace my first home screen with it's presence anymore. Love the Bing app, down with Google.

I don't use any of the apps, I prefer the web versions of most (not all) things. Reason: I can block advertisements on the web on iPhone with Mercury Browser (no Jailbreak needed). I don't want 'em, I don't need 'em so, I arrange things so I don't see 'em.
Incidentally, that's the real reason Apple locks down iOS, to make it as hard as possible to keep you from blocking ads. They want app versions of web sites so that iAds are the only channel for advertising on the iPhone

The guy has no idea what he's talking about. How he can relate Apple's App Store to web searching on Google is astounding and takes a serious amount of drugs to correlate the two. He has mixed two completely different things together so that only he can understand what he's talking about.
Apple's App Store has no impact on Google searches, they're completely different things. And it sounds like he just pulled those numbers out of thin air.
He's obviously just cheering for Apple in the dumbest way ever, web searching is web searching, you do it from a browser regardless of it being a computer or mobile device. Saying Apple made web searching easier and more user friendly is retarded, as the default web search on iOS devices is Google.
If he was to compare Google's app store philosophy to Apple's it would make more sense. Google's app store is open to all developers and most of the stuff is free and lots of stuff is garbage. Apple's app store is closed, which means that there's quality control and app developers are more likely to make more money on Apple's store because of the quality control they have.

It has never been Google's web to 'open.'
Open standards that work on the web or an app are key (like Facebook, email, etc).
Stoned guys with many errors and bad lighting at press releases may miss this point.

You can't people for wanting a closed, apps based ecosystem. Web based apps are slow in many cases. Walled gardens like FB are popular because email became over run with SPAM, malware and viruses. FB has a little more control, then the wild west WWW which has done little to address these issues.

They are not all over the web sites when I see 'em. Adblock + on pc, Mercury Browser on iPhone, AdFree on rooted Android.
Being simple is why AAPL says they are locking it down. If that were true they would ship the phone locked down but give users a simple option to unlock. The lock down is, pure and simple, to create a revenue stream by prohibiting side loading (all app sales generate revenue for AAPL, they'd like to get iAds to that point too.)
I'm not exclusively mad at AAPL either. Why does ASUS not ship the transformer, which is WiFi only, rooted with their stock ROM?

You are correct that most of the revenue from iPhone is from hardware sales, App sales are barely at 1% of AAPL total revenue. But it is hardly a conspiracy theory to suggest a vendor would lock down hardware to make you buy software through them, its a business model. AAPL did not even invent the model, they got it from IBM who did the same thing with mainframes.
And what, pray tell, would AAPL have to support to allow us to side load apps? If I have a MacBook Pro, load some squirrelly software and it breaks the machine, would AAPL be responsible for that? I hardly think so. So let it be with iDevices. People who don't want to sideload would hardly be required to do so, but those who wanted to could.
And some more thoughts, why am i forbidden to remove certain preinstalled programs and replace them with others. MS does not have to support me if I uninstall notepad and then can't get it back. Why can't I replace Safari etc.?
Some say these are not computers, but they are, and peoples expectations are going to be that they will allow them to do everything a computer does. And they will be right to have those expectations.
By the way, my iPhone, which I like very much, is not jailbroken. It was but it got to be too much of a hassle. Not looking at ads on your phone is as easy as downloading the Mercury browser app from iTunes and turning on adblocking. The gotcha' is that home screen web links only open in Safari. No plugins or alterations to Safari are allowed. Does this not seem wrong to you? After all, its my hardware, not AAPL's and they are not trying to force me to buy apps from their store (wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean).

The story/video is vert informative and , I think, hits the nail on the head. So, I guess we're in for another technological and cultural upheaval, with probably lots of losers and some very nick winners.

...see Google's recent earnings call if you don't understand why this Guy is full of something "magical.."

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