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Here comes 'Desktopgeddon'

Mike Elgan | Dec. 22, 2015
Forget about 'Mobilegeddon' -- the end of desktop Web supremacy is upon us.

Google thoroughly blurred the line last month between the mobile Web and the world of apps. It launched a new feature in Google Search on Android that indexes content formerly locked inside Android apps. When you select one of these results, Google will actually run a cloud-hosted version of the app in a browser and display the data natively. Because you haven't actually installed the app on your phone, what you're viewing is technically streaming from the Web, but for mobile -- and, specifically, Android -- phones only. Apps are included by permission only, and so far Google is streaming apps from HotelTonight, Weather, Chimani, Gormey, My Horoscope, Visual Anatomy Free, Useful Knots, Daily Horoscope and New York Subway.

Over time, we can expect hundreds or thousands of participating apps. That's a lot of data, and none of it is available via desktop searches.

You may also have heard about Facebook's and Google's schemes to radically speed up the Web. Facebook rolled out a system on iOS in May called Instant Articles, then released it on Android last week. Instant Articles lets publishers host their content with Facebook. The result is that when Facebook users see an Instant Articles-supporting story in their newsfeeds, tapping on it loads it instantly, rather than the old process of slowly launching a browser and having the browser launch the article.

I've found that while using Instant Articles on my iPhone, the articles truly are "instant," and load in a fraction of a second -- far faster than the same articles on the desktop. Facebook has already signed up more than 350 publishers.

Google launched an even more ambitious plan, which it calls Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, and which changes the way the Internet works for sites that support it. AMP replaces standard HTML with a modified version of it. The AMP version of HTML bans JavaScript and replaces many common HTML tags with AMP tags that load standard, universally used variants. Early estimates say that AMP pages load four times faster. And because Google Search favors better performing sites, AMP-supporting pages will rank better in Google Search results.

When Facebook and Google promote these initiatives, they talk about helping users with slow data connections or phones that don't perform well. But users with fast connections and fast phones get a major boost, too. For most of the people reading this article, using the mobile Web will become significantly faster than using the desktop Web -- because Instant Articles and AMP work only on mobile devices.

For all of those reasons, we're smack dab in the middle of a full-blown "Desktopgeddon," where the experience and quality of using the Internet from a desktop computer or laptop is being totally eclipsed by a vastly superior mobile experience.


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