Monday, September 5, 2016

Mobile Apps are More than Half of All Media Consumption

Smartphone apps now account for more than half of all Americans’ time spent online, according to comScore. That provides some insight into the primary role mobile devices now play in the content ecosystem.

But that fact also might illustrate one more way the “open Internet” is being reshaped, as well as illustrating why “open” continues to compete with “closed” as an approach to Internet-related devices, apps and services.

In fact, some might argue that “open” is not always the “best” approach. One downside of “open” Android is fragmentation, compared to the closed, walled garden approach taken by Apple.

And it is very hard to argue that consumers are worse off when they have convenient access to “walled gardens” such as Free Basics. In fact, even critics must concede that consumers are better off when they have access to such “walled gardens” because free-to-use Internet access is available.

The same argument applies for many other types of sponsored usage. Consumers often benefit from offers that are bounded or customized, rather than “open.”

Some might argue that a world dominated by apps is more a “walled garden” than a world where web pages are the way most people use Internet content and apps.

Some nations ban some apps. That’s one angle. But should consumers be prevented from choosing products they prefer, even if more “closed” or “packaged” than might otherwise be the case?

Choice itself always leads to winners and losers. We might rightly object to external constraints on “choice,” such as application bans. It is harder to object to consumer choice. And sometimes that choice is for a more “closed” approach.

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