According to a recent Comscore report, total mobile activity including mobile browser usage recently eclipsed desktop use, reaching 60 percent of browsing time. And Europeans are at the forefront as they spend 18% more time using apps than their US counterparts. This is a historical shift which requires us to rethink and appreciate that the web, once a singular digital distribution model, is now mobile and multifaceted. After all, this is the ‘connected’ generation.
The numbers are staggering. What was once considered a second hand choice and appeared to have too many limitations to carry out a full range of online activities has now become a first port of call. In fact, John O'Donovan, CTO Financial Times, speaking for the news sector at Digital Action Day 2014 even stated, "it's not about mobile first but rather desktop last", as he presented compelling figures showing how readers would prefer to access the site via their mobile devices when given the choice (ie during the weekends). The same trends are noticeable across the globe. In France, traffic for almost 2⁄3 of apps increased during December 2013, while traffic for almost 2⁄3 of websites decreased in that same period. [AT Internet, 1/14]
Mobile web is therefore not just web on a smaller page. Users love apps. 7 out of 8 minutes of mobile phone usage are spent in apps [Comscore Report, 2014]. If you’re on a mobile device, you’ll go directly to your apps to communicate, read news, make purchases, etc. Mobile phone users spend 89% of their time in apps and only 11% in their mobile web browsers. [Nielsen, 3/14]
This is good news for the European industry which is strong in that sector (19% of the global app economy) and the future is looking bright for apps developers worldwide. Increased bandwidth, the numerous opportunities for new services and brands to emerge, retailer apps, etc. will allow for more unique and compelling technology applications to rise.
This evolution is remarkable and has an impact on how we should think about the notions that we usually apply when we think about ‘tech’ or ‘online’ - particularly as it relates to startups and entrepreneurial innovation.
New businesses don't think about the desktop environment – they think mobile first, if not mobile only. Tech start-ups today are apps.
Web and mobile respond to different business models, consumer needs and expectations, and will entail different devices or trigger other forms of interoperability challenges. User experience matters in a completely different way and some of the policy issues we aim to tackle in a desktop environment make less sense in the mobile ecosystem.
And let’s not forget that there will be a growing number of people who will not ever have used a desktop (especially in the emerging economies), so have different customer expectations.
The influence of this evolution on consumer behaviour and business is becoming clearer, but we don't yet have a good grasp on what this means from a policy / regulatory standpoint.
One thing is certain: if we are going to ride this wave of innovation and economic growth in a manner that fosters trust, we need to understand how we can harness it without doing unintentional and inadvertent harm.
Director, European Policy and Government Affairs