Digital Media

Connected by the Web

“Content was never king. Contact was always king.” Douglas Rushkoff (h/t @aweissman)

One of the dominant memes in Silicon Valley today is that the “web is dead, apps rule.” And yet today we just announced we’re bringing Showyou to the web.

What’s going on? Are we clueless or something? Did we not get the memo?

As makers of a popular and award-winning app for the iPad and iPhone, we’re as bullish as anyone on apps — for the phone and the tablet. We believe, and have for some time, that it’s possible to offer more compelling, engaging and useful experiences with purpose-built apps. In fact, we bet our company on that belief, and pivoted away from and then sold a solid web business (if you really want to proof we put our money where our mouth is).

But lost in the hyperbole of the “web is dead” claims (hyperbole lathered on to make the debate more enticing) is this — that there is a new and yet critical role for the web in our increasingly app-centric world. As app-makers, we view the web not as a parallel platform to be colonized, but as an essential layer of connective tissue; a way to bring people together (our users, their friends) in this increasingly heterogeneous world where we use different apps, devices, platforms and indeed operating systems throughout the day.

We love to claim credit for a brilliant insight here, but this notion of the web isn’t really new. An argument can be made that Twitter was the first to take this approach.

That service started, indeed was envisioned, as a way to create and exchange short messages from the phone that you could then share with other users, with the web as glue. Apps for Twitter were a part of the landscape practically from the start, and the use of the web as a bridging medium is central to Twitter to this day, despite the fact that so many of use create and consume via Twitter apps.

Instagram — the app that so many people cite to support their claims of a new pure-play appified world — used the web as connective tissue right from the start, too. You could share a photo via Twitter, and if your friend didn’t have the Instagram app they could still see the photo on the web. Indeed, I first found out about Instagram when I saw a tweet with a link to a photo from my pal Om. I went and got the app straight-away.

Ask yourself this: would Instagram have grown, and indeed thrived, if it had been limited only to in-app sharing? The web played an important role as bridge for Instagram, connecting people who had the app with their friends who didn’t have it, or couldn’t get it.

So our launch of Showyou on the web isn’t about bringing Showyou to the web; it’s about letting people who use our app on the iPad and iPhone connect with their friends. We hope that many of their friends will download the Showyou app, of course. But some of them won’t be able to, or won’t want to. Happily, we can use the web as a critical bridge when that happens.

I’m an optimist, and my hope is that the web will become a more interesting, better place in this new world of apps. Something got lost these past 10 years, as the web became a mere extension of search, infiltrated and infested by spammers and search engine optimizers, and colonized by Google. Maybe in this app-centric world the web will be allowed to do what it does best: connect us in new and interesting ways.

*More related reading on the theme if you’re interested:

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/all/1

http://joehewitt.com/2011/09/22/web-technologies-need-an-owner

http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2010/08/is-the-web-dead.html

http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/15/mobile-paradox/

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