Aldo Agostinelli

We are so used to relying on apps for everything that we may find it difficult to picture an appless world. However, at the time of their first appearance on the market, apps were an evitable technology. And nowadays we can start thinking we may live without them. Let’s take stock of the situation.

What would happen if we could play games, purchase things, watch Netflix and read news on our smartphones without using apps? Shira Ovide has pictured a possible scenario in an article written for the New York Times in which the author wonders what may happen if our smartphones and computers went back to be only some instruments to be used to surf the net via browsers. An exciting topic which may shake those beliefs we may have absorbed passively due to laziness: we have been giving for granted the use of apps, but it is not necessary so.

Let’s reverse: from apps to browsers

First of all, apps are not inevitable. In the early days of smartphones competition among technologies which were more similar to websites was fierce and apps, as we know them now, won especially due to the fact that they were technically the best option. At the same time, though, browsers have improved and now the cloud computing allows users to access a huge amount of complex data without having to cram our phones hardware. Of course, there are still some technical obstacles; nevertheless, over the past few months, Microsoft Xbox, the popular game entitled Fortnite and other companies creating videogames, have  developed several new technologies enabling users to play online, via browser, by using their smartphones. We are talking about an important step: videogames are among the most popular and more sophisticated software. If they can do without apps, maybe also the other sectors can(To Fight Apple and Google’s Grip, Fortnite Creator Mounts a Crusade).

An alternative digital reality to Apple and Google rule

Apple and Google mostly decide what we can and cannot do by means of our phones all over the world and basically control our whole digital life. On the one hand, this ensures our smartphones security. On the other, we must not forget that both Apple and Google add a significant extra charge on most in-app purchases and very often set relevant limitations for manufacturers: for instance, you cannot purchase Kindle e-books via the iPhone app. The increasing number of complaints from apps producers show that the disadvantages of such a dominant position may have overcome the advantages. Therefore, we need to imagine an alternative reality in which businesses may not need to spend money to have some bespoke apps for iPhone and Android created. A condition which may allow also smaller companies to access the market and users to have better, cheaper and more various services (Apple’s App War Needs Peace).

Facebook superpower

Facebook is a business. But – as stated by the author of the article herein- it is also the biggest mass mental control experiment in the world. For instance Facebook overshadowed divisive posts in its news feed to give more relevance to information coming from distinguished sources concerning the US elections. Facebook is not a static product. It consistently evolves in reaction to the company’s targets and external pressures. In any case, what we can see or cannot see is determined by the company policies. And it has always been like this. So – wonders Shira Ovide –  is it acceptable for a company controlled by a sole individual to have such a strong influence on the preferences and behaviours of billion of people around the world? Should we really leave such power in the hands of a single business? (Facebook Struggles to Balance Civility and Growth).

The questions asked by the New York Times journalist have opened an exciting debate which foresees the opportunity to re-establish the right balance in the digital world. Should the price to be paid be giving up the functionality and immediacy of apps, to which we have all got accustomed, we may decide to take it into consideration.

Would you be willing to use some software via browser on your smartphone instead of using apps? Tweet @agostinellialdo

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Aldo Agostinelli