Pew: Apps Could Overtake Web Browsers As Main Internet Linkup
March 26, 2012

Pew: Apps Could Overtake Web Browsers As Main Internet Linkup

Brett Smith for

“The Web uses what are called ℠hyperlinks´ to transfer from one page to another, or one computer to another. Just point the mouse to a hyperlink - a highlighted word, picture, or symbol - click and, zoom, you're off to related information,” Reid Kanaley, The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 27, 1995.

As the World Wide Web exploded into the human consciousness at the end of the 20th century, people marveled at their ability to travel from website to website via hyperlinks. That view of the Internet, where people spent the majority of their time clicking on links, might seem quaint and old fashioned very soon according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of tech experts and critics.

The results of the survey report that the average time spent on Internet use through apps has surpassed the amount of time spent on a web browser. In June, researchers said Internet users spent 81 minutes a day with apps compared to 74 minutes a day on the Web. That gap had widened from 7 to 22 minutes by December, according to comScore, Alexa and Flurry Analytics.

This gap makes sense when looking at Nielsen social media survey results from the third quarter of 2011 showing where people spend their time online. Social networks and blogs are the biggest draw accounting for just fewer than 23 percent of the time spent online. Online games (9.8 percent) and e-mail (7.6 percent) came in at a distant second and third in the survey.

With apps for these top three results consistently ranking as the most popular sold in the App Store, it´s easy to make the connection between mobile device use and the decline of the World Wide Web.

“The trends are quite clear,” the study reports. “Mobile tools such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptop computers are now a primary source of Internet connectivity in highly developed nations, and the uptake of technology tools in less-developed regions of the world has also been dominated by small, wireless devices.”

The Nielsen survey echoes this point in reporting that social networking app usage is up 30 percent and mobile Internet users account for 47 percent more unique visits to social networks than from the same time period in the previous year.

The Pew survey also asked the experts and critics to project how the Internet will be used by 2020. Almost 60 percent of respondents agreed with a statement that said, “there will be a widespread belief that, compared to apps, the Web is more important and useful and is the dominant factor in people's lives.”

About 35 percent agreed with a statement expressing the opposite that said most people will access the Internet using apps as they “will be seen as superior” to accessing information through the Web in 2020.

No matter what the outcome, the study´s respondents cited a number of factors that will play a key role in shaping how the future Internet will be used. These included the emergence of HTML5, development of “the cloud”, consumer perceptions, and the debate on the pros and cons of having an open Web versus an Internet dominated by “closed” bubbles of apps.