The history and future of the mobile web.

App is Crap

As a rule I generally try to avoid reblogging things, preferring instead to link to original content via this site’s Twitter account. But every so often a piece comes along that needs to be shared.

Earlier this month Mark Shuster, a venture capitalist in Los Angeles, wrote a fantastic piece called App is Crap — a history of the mobile web and a look towards its future.

It’s a bit of a long read but entirely worth it. If you haven’t the time to digest it all I’ll do my best to summarize. But really, you should read it.

No? All right, then…

So, at the dawn of this century Japan had already embraced NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode and Europe was abuzz with the possibilities of WAP. If you’re interested in reading more about either I’d recommend this book about DoCoMo and this free PDF chronicling the fortunes of a Finnish WAP dot-com in the late 1990s.

The problem in those days for anyone wanting to build a sizable presence on the mobile web was that they needed to be “on-deck” — that is, secure a listing on a carrier’s mobile portal. If you couldn’t do that you were pretty much dead in the water for the vast majority of WAP users. And there weren’t that many of us to begin with…

Cut to 2007 and the release of the iPhone, and there was great jubilation in Silicon Valley. The hegemony was finally broken and true innovation could begin.

Except for one thing: Apple has pretty much replaced the overarching control of the carriers with their own.

What’s more, the future of innovation on mobile devices isn’t with apps, it’s with the browser. AJAX and Flash have made cloud computing possible on desktop computers; for mobiles the future is likely to be some clever new combination of the browser, the onboard camera and GPS — in fact, it’s already happening with augmented reality.

Does this get you more excited about that little connected computer in your pocket? It does for me — so why not read the whole story?


  1. AC:

    I’ll admit I’m an Apple fanboy up front (still using 2 PPC Macs, 2 iPods), but I see your point and Suster’s point: what’s bad for developers and mobile web is bad for end users like me.

    Makes me rethink the iPhone before I drink the Kool-aid….

    But, like everywhere else wehre DRM is involved, piracy follows, right? Fight the system and get what you need for free! Oh, maybe not…


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