Are websites dying? According to Jon Lax, director of product design at Facebook, yes. But we’re not so sure.
What’s wrong with websites?
In an interview with Mashable, Lax postulated that the switch to mobile and the subsequent use of apps, rather than browsers, to enjoy social media platforms, news, videos, and games would kill the website as we know it. Basically, all of the Internet that people used to enjoy on websites is now being accessed through platforms, and that might render websites obsolete some day soon.
The public is already gravitating towards mobile usage over desktop. According to research, in 2015, 64% of Americans owned a smartphone, already up from 58% in 2014. And the mobile experience tends to be app-based rather than browser-based.
Paired with a wireless monitor and keyboard, there’s no reason why anything other than a mobile device will be necessary to do all daily computing tasks from answering emails to word processing, from checking the weather to catching up on social media. In the place of websites, the app/platform experience will rise.
How will this effect marketing?
Advertisers and content producers are already building into existing apps and mobile platforms to effectively reach customers. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram offer analytics and tools to turn posts into targeted ads. Facebook algorithms are set up so that live video streams and videos uploaded to Facebook (rather than links shared from YouTube, Vimeo and other sites) get better visibility in users’ news feeds.
“The really interesting thing is Apple just believed that native experiences were better than mobile web experiences — that’s really driven the success of apps,” says Lax.
For marketers, content that fits in well with the aesthetic and experience of a given platform like Facebook or Hulu will succeed. Digital marketing will encourage native advertising as it was meant to be; a partnership, a seamless integration of promotional messaging within the platform.
For an advertiser, this does also raise concerns about censorship, especially in regards to the recent Facebook scandal, where Facebook employees admitted to routinely suppressing news stories as well as promoting ones that weren’t organically trending on the social network’s influential “trending” news section.
What does this mean for advertisers? Will mobile platforms determine the success or failure of a business or the spread of a new story? How will this shift paid search and SEO?
What should be expected in the future?
Just like the switch from SD to HD television, there will be stragglers to adopt the technology, likely, those who cannot afford a smartphone or tablet, or older generations that refuse to adapt. Mobile devices are more affordable; those who could never before afford any computing device are now able to own one that fits in their pocket. Not only is the hardware more affordable, but the software is more accessible, with user interfaces designed to be as easy to use as possible and downloaded in under a minute.
We might see Broadcast television disappear into platforms like Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, so all video advertisements might become pre-roll and mid-roll spots. Imagine the NBC or Fox channel streaming on your device through such an app.
Data storage is also a possible concern, but with cloud-based platforms, data can be safely and privately be accessed anywhere.
Connectivity is a commonly cited concern, but as Internet users continue to shift from desktop usage to mobile usage, more and more wifi hubs will exist. Maybe one day we will be connected to the worldwide web in an actual worldwide system of wifi hotspots placed like cell phone towers create today’s telecom networks.
Overall, Lax’s website-less future is streamlined and ripe with opportunities for advertisers who partner with platforms, but the integration of all promotional content into platforms, is there still going to be room for the smaller businesses? Or will all businesses need to make sure that social media advertising is a focus of their digital marketing strategy?
Will the transition of websites into apps stunt innovation, or will development come from thinking inside the box?
Sources: Forbes, Wired, Pew Research, AdWeek