About a year ago, I was a strong believer in the fact that native applications would only be a passing trend and the web page for mobile would start to overtake them in usage volume due to the transition to the full HTML browser in Smart Phones, the larger volume of web sites and the ease of access via search and social media links. According to Wolfram ( and a variety of other sources), I was able to find out that on the web there is over 150M websites globally, there are over 8Billion page-views a day from the major Search Engine leads and over 8Billion page-views a day from clicks on links from Social Media. Even though there are still only hundreds of thousands of Apps, this is a tiny number compared to the relative business of the web and that over time the app would become part of the web experience with all content tied to links for ease of discovery. In the case of a Native application that has been developed for a device like the iPod, iPhone or iPad is a self-contained black box and the content seems to only be accessable via installing the app and going to the home screen of the App. Deep content in the App may be difficult to tag today for SEO ( Search Engine Optimization) and this will leave many of the publishers of Apps only in a position to drive a user to the App and possibly not all the content contained in the app. The fluidity of what we have know as Search Engine Marketing or Social Media Marketing that is the art of driving people to your site or landing page of content does not seem to have the same foundation around Apps in the internet that we have know to love with a one-click to get to the rich deep content.
Many SEO’s have struggled with the use of Flash in a site from the standpoint of this discovery and it has been a pain point in marketing for the greater search or social media marketing community. New methods of tagging or marketing the Flash content and the use of other meta data/ keywords on a site have been used to refer to content , but it has not been optimal.
As Apps become more and more relevant and devices centralized around this experience has made it so that today we are looking at an entirely new Internet in my mind. An Internet that has been structured by massively indexing webpages of content and the discussion and road map of the future of the Semantic Web. Everything has been tied to links and now the rise of the meta-tags that can make discovery and access that much easier. All of the things from the deep content we can search and discover to the apps and content that once was discoverable from a webpage. Now with the growing trend of user experience and content consumption that are really self-contained packages derived from App stores the type of search needs to be treated differently. This could be a new revolution for the advent of a new search engine to take on the Google, Yahoo, Bing of today that could essentially even be more social-media friendly as a search architecture. Lately, I have found Google to be a mess in search relevancy, and I have been using Twitter as an alternative search engine for news and discussions more then 50% of my time. It is also interesting to hear that if Apple were to launch a new kind of search engine for applications it would clearly make sense given the course of this new Internet.
However, my gut still tells me it is going to be very difficult for one company like Apple to take on the world and create the next generation of Global Search Engine. Rather a Search Engine for its own world and hopefully we will see some of the cool social elements associated with it. What I believe could be the case from this strong spike in user adaption and the massive effect of apps on all of us is rather a new debate that stems back to the HTML5 vs. Flash discussion. As Apple has been a strong advocate of the usage of HTML5 and has left Flash as the proprietary rich media standard out of its devices, there is room for the new innovation of leveraging now HTML5 as the new Application platform of choice for many media companies and developers and to breed an entirely new industry of Search Engine Optimization around HTML5 as it becomes the next foundation of the webpage and the run-time widget architecture of the Web.
Of course we will probably continue to see this self-contained in the closed ecosystem of Apple, and even through they are working with these open standards of HTML5 and others, there is this new paradigm shift toward Apps that will exist across all platforms that makes this discussion quite interesting. Last week, at CTIA, I was discussing this with several different App developers from the Blackberry camp and found that they have started to do unique tagging of content even in the alert and push architecture of content from Apps. This could be another hook into strong opportunities for searchable methods to all of this content that is formed from push experiences. Apps have now been definitely know to be able to give us better experiences then typical web pages, but the opportunities surrounding them from the standpoint of market discoverability of the deep content is still very open. Will Blackberry at some point come up with there own search engine as well? Will we see multiple search engines for different forms of App content that will then lead to the subject of an open API for the massive crawlers of the world to link each one in a greater search interface to find across multiple different channels? Will this phenomena of the app keep evolving and create the opportunities for a new internet of channels and deep search accross those channels with dedicated tagging platforms within the apps of a each of the different platforms?
As the iPad’s application ecosystem evolves and so does the application ecosystems of Blackberry, Nokia, Android, Palm, Windows, we will need to have a new kind of search and discovery mechanism that will lead us to a new form of Internet? Look at all the Apps that live across Facebook and other social media and the opportunity for discovery requires one to be living in that portal. A simple Google or Bing search may take you to the App, but not the content within.
I would have never expected to see Apps over take Web pages, but this phenomena is getting so strong that it has and will create a New Internet or Branch of the Internet that will keep evolving with the phenomena of mobile usage case. As we saw a strong growth in the area of SEO, SEM of the last 10 years, will we see a new form of SEO called SEOA ( Search Engine Optimization for Apps)?
Regardless of where this all goes, there is clearly new business opportunities for the SEO’s to start to design services and products for Application Publishers and Developers in designing their marketing and discovery platforms in a new way that is related to this phenomena of the mobile usage case.