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The Death of the App Store

Why I think in 10 years all apps will be found on the web, not through the IOS or Google Play store.

Apple released its app store on July 10 2008. It was a revolutionary platform that enabled users to quickly and easily download their favourite apps. It created a compelling marketplace that empowered developers to reach a large audience with a push of a button and meant users enjoyed better and faster apps due to the marketplace’s competition.

However, as the years have gone on both the google and apple app store have become steeped in controversy, from censorship to most recently the debate around the monopolistic practices of Google and Apple. As a developer, it is making less and less sense to develop apps for Android and IOS. This article will discuss why I think the app store will die in the next ten years.

The Future Is Web

Web technologies have been advancing at breakneck speeds. Modern websites like Twitter and Pinterest are almost indistinguishable from their native mobile apps due to a new technology PWAs — progressive web apps. A progressive web app is a website which feels and performs like a native mobile app. The future is one where there is no difference between a mobile app and a website, websites have and will continue to develop to the point where there is simply no difference from a user experience perspective.

What adding a PWA to your home screen looks like

PWAs have several truly compelling benefits over native mobile apps.

Developers do not need to pay a 30% commission to Apple or Google.

If your app sells a digital service over a mobile app, 30% of all revenue earned through the app goes to Google or Apple. Apple and Google can do this because they own the app store, users are using their phones, and you can only download and use apps (mostly) through their app store. Whether or not this is fair is a good debate; however, from a developers perspective, it is not a debate at all. The choice is to lose 30% of revenue by using a mobile app or lose no revenue by publishing your app through the web.

This 30% commission has been everywhere in the news recently with the recent Epic Games lawsuit (They make Fortnite) against Apple for their monopolistic practices over the app store. Many huge companies (Spotify, BaseCamp, MatchGroup) have banded together to use their collective bargaining power to get Apple and Google to reduce their fees and address many other issues.

Write once run everywhere.

Android apps are written with a programming language called Java/Kotlin. IOS apps are written in Objective-C/Swift. This means that developers have to write their applications twice in two different languages to publish on both platforms. Consequently, development costs increase, and it takes longer to release new apps/update existing ones.

However, all websites in the world run using a single language called Javascript. Meaning developers only need to write their app once, and it can run on every phone and computer in the world.

Some tools allow developers to write cross-platform apps that enable developers to use one code base to publish to both Apple and Google app stores. However, these tools still require a developer to step in and write specialised code for one platform or another somewhere down the road.

Variety of other benefits

There are many other smaller yet significant benefits like

  1. Instant updates, developers need to wait 24–72 hours before an update is published to the IOS app store due to a lengthy approval process. Changes published to the web are instant, and there is no approval process.
  2. No need to download apps. There is friction in downloading apps, searching for the app and then waiting for it to download. The web is again instant, simply type in the URL in your browser, and you’re done.
  3. Free and fair marketplace. Apple and Google have incentives not to promote apps which compete with their own. Apps like Spotify need to compete with Apple Music and Google music; news apps like NYTimes or the Washington Post need to compete with Apple news. When Google and Apple own the product and the distribution channel, it can easily lead to unfair practices.

Depending on how Apple and Google play their cards, I can see a world where the app store does not exist anymore, and the only distribution channel is one through the web. What do you think? Will the app store die? Would this be a good or a bad thing? Let me know what you think in the comments.

This post is part of a 30-day writing challenge I am doing. Every day for 30 days, I am posting an article of at least 500 words. If you notice that I miss a day, I will buy you lunch.

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Tamir Shklaz

Tamir Shklaz

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Founder & CTO of Strive Math (YC S21) — Teaching Math Through Code