Are Web Browsers Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

Web Browsers are no Longer Required for the Internet

In the August issue of Wired Magazine, there is an interesting article “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet” which looks at the issue of no longer needing a web browser to interact on the Internet. The main point of the article is that users of the Internet are moving away from the so-called wild west of the Web for the “simpler, sleeker services that just work.” For example, the massive growth of Facebook and applications found on mobile devices and tablets are independent of any web browser and allow the user to interact without the previous requirement of using Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.

The primary insight here is that by moving away from Web browsers, users are allowing a proprietary solution for their Internet experience. In fact, each application accessed without the browser is tightly controlled by the developer and allows the data to be presented to the user in a custom, easy to use view. For example, on my mobile device I prefer to obtain data via an application instead of using the local web browser and going to the www site as the data is customized for my screen and not the browser. I don't believe I am alone in this trend as the Wired article presents a chart showing that in 2000 web browsers accounted for about 50% of all web traffic and in 2010 it is about 23% and shrinking.

One interesting argument associated with this trend involves the expansion of Facebook from a simple communication system to a complete proprietary Internet solution unto itself where users can obtain all the information they need without ever leveraging a web browser or search engine. Consider this case, a user is looking to find a store selling a particular product they need. Instead of opening a web browser and searching for the product, the user will simply post on Facebook a request for someone to help them and based on their connections someone will post an answer which can led them to the product within the Facebook system where the information they need can be obtained. Thus, the entire search is done via Facebook with no web browser or search technology.

So, I am interested in hearing back from you on this trend toward proprietary applications with no web browser required. Do you think this trend is permanent with users becoming more dependent on applications without a browser or is this merely a passing fad waiting for another disruption technology? Does it matter if people stop using the Web browser? I await your discussion.

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