Earlier this month, Google announced the release of a new, long awaited feature, called App-Streaming, which will enable mobile users to search for in-app content and browse through the app without having to download it (it’s ‘streamed’ to the smartphone). According to Marketing Land‘s Danny Sullivan app streaming will remove the biggest barrier between mobile users and new apps, which is the obligatory downloading. This, in turn, will pave the way for the ‘web of apps’.
Why is this such a ground breaking move? Because despite the robust penetration of mobile and the fact it is bigger than desktop, the mobile online experience is as fragmented as the World Wide Web was in its early days, when content was consumed via a handful of services that were disconnected from one another, according to Sullivan. Contemporary mobile apps are the same – and without us even noticing, the use of mobile apps is as limited as the use of the young web was.
Discovery of new content/products/etc. is the prime casualty of this limitation because real ‘discovery’ does not exist in the mobile world as we know it. Mobile users can discover, but only as long as it is done within the boundaries of an app, or linked directly to it:
Content is discovered on Facebook, videos on YouTube, apparel on Pinterest, and so on. If users of one of these apps would like to ‘stroll’ away they will enter the realm of the mobile-web, where they will not last long. Hence, the further away from a source app a mobile user will usually venture is a single mobile web step (e.g. from FB to Mashable website, but not from Mashable to another page).
App streaming is now in an experimental phase, but it is clear that within a few months it will be available for everyone searching through Google on mobile. How long will it take for this concept to be implemented by Facebook, and then by all mobile apps as a norm?
My guess is that not long, and once it’ll be widespread we will be able move between apps like we move between sites. The world of discovery and the mobile experience will meet, opening the door for true mobile discovery, one that is not limited to a single step’s distance from Google results, Facebook posts or Pinterest Products photos.
Decentralized content discovery services like Outbrain and Taboola are just 2 examples for services that will benefit from this move, as apps will enable content discovery between themselves. Did Google shoot itself in the foot? On one hand the equation is simple: more discovery=less search. On the other hand I’m hesitant of foreseeing that Google will be impacted from this move, because Discovery is a direction Google is also taking (e.g. Google Now). One thing is certain – with so many players and the obvious need from the users, it will not be boring.
It will be interesting to see how will this trend impact the parallel-but-somewhat-opposite trend of the buy buttons and the ‘inhousing’ of a broadening array of online experiences under a single roof, because app streaming lowers the barriers to buy products outside of Facebook and Google.