In the era of mobile, the web will live on
FORTUNE — Not long ago, pundits were declaring the death of email due to the rise of Social Networks. They were wrong.
Earlier this week, Chris Dixon, one of my favorite writers and investors, wrote a piece on what he sees as the inevitable decline of the web as the world transitions to mobile computing. The thesis is simple — mobile is dominating, and apps dominate mobile. Ergo, the web is dead. However, Chris misses a critical distinction that must be made to understand the future (or possible non-future) of the web. “The web” heretofore has meant two things:
1) A distributed platform for publishing content globally
2) A frictionless delivery system for Internet-enabled software
Unfortunately, these two things are often conflated, which has led to countless confused conversations. My favorite recent example has been the Healthcare.gov debacle. The actual “website” for marketing content performed flawlessly. The tremendously more complex “software” for managing healthcare enrollment was the part that fell over. Yet in the end, the conversation was distilled to, “How could President Obama screw up a simple website?”
Webapps = software, websites = content. The two serve separate purposes.
So here’s the truth in Chris’s post: Clearly, mobile will be the dominant medium for computing. Rich, native mobile apps provide a significantly better customer experience over web apps loaded via a mobile browser. For this reason, Internet-enabled software will transition primarily to mobile apps.
However, that doesn’t mean mobile apps will displace the web as the world’s primary publishing platform. More devices and more users will only drive demand for more and better content. Content will continue to be primarily published via the web.
Newsflash! Hardly anybody uses publishing companies’ mobile apps for content consumption — they stink. Uber (an obviously mobile-centric company) has a stunning website for a reason – it’s central to how they market themselves as a lifestyle brand. Mobile apps, such as Twitter (TWTR), will only make it easier for consumers to discover and share great content, and therefore will make the web more integral to the Internet over time.
Indeed, in the era of mobile, the web will live on and prosper.
Zachary Rosen is co-founder and CEO of Pantheon, a San Francisco-based company whose professional website platform lets developers, marketers, and IT users build, launch, and run all their Drupal & WordPress websites. Follow him @zack.