A few years ago, everyone was creating desktop-first startups. Now you're behind if you're not building a mobile application first, and a website second. Apple blogger and Google Ventures partner MG Siegler believes the first app you open in the morning is the equivalent to the new homepage on a web browser.
But apps are very clearly not going to be around forever. Certainly not in their current, bulky square form. There isn't enough mobile homepage real estate for each of the web's 500-million-plus active websites to have its own app and for everyone to download all of them.
Mobile apps are popular right now because mobile search is terrible and they lay out content in a small-screen-friendly way. If apps do stick around, they may transform more into bookmarks, where people have only a few favorites on their home screens, and all other mobile content can be accessed some other way.
"There is no doubt what we have today—screens of apps—is going to dramatically change," former Googler and Facebooker Paul Adams writes on Intercom, where he's now vice president of product. "The idea of having a screen full of icons, representing independent apps, that need to be opened to experience them, is making less and less sense."
Intercom thinks that apps might still exist in the future but will serve as notification systems that push content as necessary — not big bulky apps that take up prime homepage real estate on our phones. Notifications are getting more interactive, too, letting you text message someone back or take an action without fully firing up the app.
How could simple notifications fulfill all the needs of current apps? Adams thinks they'll morph into content cards, which will allow users to see more information and take more actions straight from a pop-up. Adams believes you'll be able to book a table, send an email, or post to Facebook all without unlocking your phone.
The cards could eventually become personalized and ordered by favorite sources, most important contacts, etc.
This will become increasingly important as screen sizes decrease to the size of a watch face or glasses, or even jewelry.
"In a world where notifications are full experiences in and of themselves, the screen of app icons makes less and less sense," Intercom concludes. "Apps as destinations makes less and less sense. Why open the Facebook app when you can get the content as a notification and take action—like something, comment on something—right there at the notification or OS level."
See also: An Inside Look at the Starbucks App