Google and Apple, given their competing visions, are recasting the online world as a dipole, as The New York Times (NYT) would have it. Apple is primarily a smartphone-led company. So, for it, apps are where the future is. Google, on the other hand, relies on tailoring ads to people’s Web searches, and, therefore, would rather lead the world towards increased Web usage, including on mobiles. Of course, it is not a clear polarisation—Google does make money selling apps while Apple is making inroads in both search and advertising. Nevertheless, the two companies are straining the online world at opposite ends—so much so that many publishers are either trying hard to straddle both worlds or simply going with one. NYT reports that The Atavist, an online publication recently gave up its app avatar to focus solely on web as it found getting readers to download the app was far harder than promoting a story through social media sites. The American user, though, has overwhelmingly voted for apps over mobile internet—as per a Goldman Sachs report, 60% of online time was spent on apps, 30% on desktop computers and just 9%on mobile internet. Yet, some publishers are finding the costs of developing, maintaining and marketing apps too much to swallow.
The app-Web polarisation is getting exacerbated, thanks to the two digital giants’ new moves. While Apple has offered ad-blocking on mobile websites on iPhones and iPads, directly threatening Google’s business model, Google is bearing down against websites that prompt users to download their apps by placing them lower in search-engine results, a move that NYT says “some have called ‘app-blocking’”. While critics see it as the two companies manoeuvring users to get addicted to their respective business models, even if there emerges no clear winner, it is small developers and publishers who are caught in the crossfire.