Beyond the potential threat to FLOSS, I am also increasingly concerned that the web as we know it--a collection of pages and files that can be read by (usually) any browser--will soon fade away.
Just look at e-commerce: already, major retailers do most of their selling and marketing via apps, and smaller businesses are encouraged to use apps of their own to sell their wares. But developing good apps, particularly action-oriented apps that want customers to do something--is not easy. In fact, it's not even that easy on "normal" web pages. Depending on who you ask, up to 40 percent of small businesses in the US aren't even online, and those that are usually have a basic "billboard" site that just lists their name and address and maybe a few (outdated) pictures of their products.
Now, try asking those businesses to come up with the knowledge and wherewithal to build an app. Even an HTML5 app. If SMBs, which are still remarkably underserved by technology, can't manage to build a relatively simple e-commerce site (and seriously, with WordPress, Joomla!, or Drupal, it is simple), how are they going to come up with the motivation to create an app?
They're not, and the big-box retailers know it.
Here's the most speculative part of my argument: as apps become more important, the browser interface may actually become less so. If that happens, then the Web could start to atrophy, as more and more content shifts to app-driven channels, and the World Wide Web starts to diminish just like Gopher did back in the 90s, as the Web became ascendant.
In such an environment, the operating system ironically becomes more important than ever, because not only will local apps be determined by the operating system, but also apps that drive online content to users, as well. We will find ourselves in a worse position than before, as vendors try to lock down how we view the online world.
Doomsaying? Perhaps. It could be that the more open, browser-based Web will indeed prevail, as independent developers reject the demands and restrictions of an app store mentality.
But if so many consumers adopt "appified" platforms, can developers help but follow them?
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