There are close to 3 million apps if we combine Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, the two major players in mobile app distribution. The app industry has come a long way since 2008 when organized app marketplace came into being. The ecosystem of mobile apps has evolved and is taking huge leaps. Earlier the apps were primarily for fun and entertainment but today apps have acquired importance like never before.
Let us rewind to the past, to an era before web browser happened. There were services by AOL, MSN, Yahoo, etc. that wanted the users to install them on their computer if they wished to see the premium content. There were some sort of restrictions on what the users could watch on the internet without any walls. After the web browsers became popular, these walls were no longer there. The users could switch between the services and content as per their wish.
In order to understand the scenario that is brewing with the mobile apps, let us imagine a situation. Suppose, in order to browse the internet, you had to download a separate app for each website that you want to visit, i.e. an app for Amazon, second one for Facebook and so on. That would be a nightmare. You enjoy the internet because the content is delivered to you without any walls. You just need an application called browser that connects you to apparently the entire internet.
Detached Word Of the Mobile Apps
The mobile industry has grown by leaps and bounds but the growth has been quite paradoxical to the web. “There is an app for that.” This is one of the most common buzzwords that we have been listening since the app revolution happened. However, in the frenzy surrounding the new kind on the block, we missed the point that we are limiting the content around us that was once outside of all walls. Until recently, you could not access another from the app you are working on. If you are being told to install an app just to use a service once, it is pretty annoying. For some app-only services, the situation is even worse.
Another issue that is faced due to the disconnected realm of the apps is with searching the content on the web. If the service has a mobile site, the search engine gives results that redirect you to them. However, with increasing number of app-only services, Google has nothing to show if App indexing is not involved.
Web of Apps initiated by App Linking and App Indexing
The inability of the accessing one app while being active on another was solved to a certain extent with App Linking. To understand App Linking, we can think of the situation where you click on a YouTube link within an app and you are taken to the YouTube App for playing the video. This bridges the gap between the apps a little.
Coming to the issue of content discoverability, app indexing/deep linking gave some respite. Google, Bing, and Apple have come up with solutions that let the third-party content providers push their in-app content in the search result. When the users click on those deep-links, the app corresponding to the link is opened. However, it will be possible only when the app developers put in the extra effort to incorporate deep-linking in the app.
App Installation Roadblock
There is again a catch with the deeplinking or app indexing. If the user does not have that app, he is directed to the app store for app downloading. This can get pretty annoying. Nobody would download an entire app, for example, for reading a small article. There is a dearth of space on low-end phones and no one would like to make their phone a collection of apps where even finding them becomes a nightmare.
Here Comes App Streaming
This barrier of app installation could be removed only when a more realistic and effective conjugation of web and app occurs. And this is where App Streaming from Google takes the center stage. App Streaming, as the name itself suggests, will stream the app on your browser and provide access to the content or the service offered by the app without having to install them on your device. If the App streaming announcement by Google is anything to go by, you will be able to browse the apps exactly in the same manner you browse the internet.
You will be able to stream the part of the app that you require and can terminate it as soon as you are done with the job. Google’s App Streaming is still in the experimental stage and is likely to be rolled out when they are done with the testing part. Google has also issued a GIF that illustrates how this service is likely to work.
Some Pre-requisites for App Streaming
As of now, this service is being tested with 9 app publishers in the US and will be available for users who use Google App on Android 5 or 6 phones. Also, you need to be using US English as your setting while searching on the web and use Wi-Fi. It has been made clear by Google that this service will not be available for iOS users who are using Google App. Chrome users on Android will also be excluded in this service. These restrictions are subject to change when the App Streaming gains traction; however, everything is in the research stage.
The Need To Have App Streaming
We discussed how app indexing or deeplinking solved the app discoverability barrier. If Google indexes the content of an app on its search result pages, the users will definitely be able to view it but will not be able to access it unless they install the app. This can be a tricky situation and a tad detrimental for the app. However, if app streaming is active, it is safe to index the app content as the users can access them without installing the app. Hence, the combination of app indexing and app streaming can yield magical results and a sea-change in the UX offered to the users. The USA does not have much app-only content as of now but the global need for App streaming is quite evident as countries like India and China where the mobile phone is the primary device people use, need it.
We hope this blog provided you with a lot of insight on App Streaming. Let us know what are your views on it and how you are preparing to welcome this move by Google.