Enough. The end of apps is not near, the app stores are not dying, the rise of instant apps does not mean the demise of native apps, and chatbots are far from creating better user experiences. If you pay attention to the mobile landscape you've probably read that the app boom is over and that apps are in decline. As a leader in mobile I often get asked how things like instant apps and chatbots are affecting mobile publishers and even my business of measuring app performance. The truth is that most people are misinterpreting the information coming across their screens. The app boom isn't over, it's just getting started. It's not declining, it's transforming and growing. The internet is becoming more appified through the mobile web, desktop and television.
Instant apps are disrupting the mobile web, not native apps
Instant apps provide a more elegant experience than the mobile web; they launch from a link in a web browser and offer the same powerful and rich experience of native apps without the pain points of downloading or taking up disk space. The first thing to know is that instant apps are still apps. They operate through the app stores just like a native apps do. Why are native apps a richer user experience compared to that of a mobile website? Because native apps have access to features on your phone such as location, camera, microphone, and most importantly, billing and payments. While instant apps don't have all the permissions (e.g. push notifications, backgrounding) granted to traditional apps they are fully native in that they are actually downloaded (rather quickly and invisibly) through the stores.
Both Google and Apple love the "appification" of the mobile web. For starters it enhances the mobile user's experience by enabling easy interoperability with deep links across apps and on the web. Basically things can work how you would expect them to, e.g. clicking an ad for a restaurant on Yelp will actually take you to the restaurant in the Yelp app even if it's not installed. What is more important is that the appification of the mobile web inserts both Google and Apple into the web payments equation. Payments are the holy grail, allowing users to make payments natively with a swipe of a finger rather than checking out over the web decreases friction and creates a more seamless experience. Not to mention this also helps line the pockets of Apple and Google.
Apps are also coming to desktop and TV
These platforms aren't safe from the appification of the internet either. If you are a Windows 10 user, you've been launching Netflix from an app rather than going to Netflix.com. Companies like Airbnb or Marriott would benefit from a desktop app as well. Instead of the user going to the web and facing endless opportunity for booking rooms, these companies can build more loyal users with their icon sitting in plain view on a person's desktop.
As for television, we're watching less and less content from our cable boxes. I stream my shows from a website, an app on my phone, or from an app on my TV. Similar to a desktop, if you have an Apple TV or any smart TV, you're also launching Netflix from an app. The same goes for YouTube and any other preloaded apps. As we move forward, better functionality in TV apps will be implemented and available to download. Measurement firms like Nielsen and Comscore will have to measure app performance now in addition to monitoring cable boxes.
Chatbots are still far off
Facebook wants chatbots to succeed so people stay in the Messenger app and spend money through the platform. Similar to instant apps, the idea is to eliminate the pain point of downloading a new app or having to switch apps to handle your tasks. Some retailers are turning to chatbots to enhance customer experience but we're a long way away from that. The reality is they don't work well yet and are not close to overtaking native apps in terms of the user experience they provide. This is another example of industry pushing something that isn't ready. Mobile payments were supposed to take off in 2014 but I've still never seen someone pay with anything other than cash or a credit card in a physical store checkout.
We're not seeing the decline of apps, we're actually seeing more apps being created across new platforms. Instant apps spell the death of the mobile web as we know it and represent a reincarnation of a better, native mobile web.