Technology is our friend: The new digital divide? Couch vs. Desk
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April 9, 2010

The new digital divide? Couch vs. Desk

The iPad and especially iAds revealed that Apple obviously thinks that an open internet in browsers sucks. They cannot kill it at once, so here’s their step-by-step-approach: They are working on a new digital divide. Apple builds an Internet for couch potatoes. An Internet that they can control.

While using the web from your desk you will have a keyboard, a mouse and a screen that is not owned by anybody, and is something like your open app store. You are able to comment on articles, publish your own stuff, move easily from one to the other site and perform searches. You find unexpectedly relevant stuff by searching or from other users’ recommendations. You can discover stuff that you never thought it could exist.
Until last month, you would have similar opportunities while browsing from your couch. You would have a netbook or a laptop on your knees, or use the browser on your tiny little smartphone - where a few hundred thousand apps would not be able to compete with more than 10 billion websites, so only a few percent of your internet time would be spent in apps. With an iPad and a 60/40 split from iAds for developers, this might change dramatically. There will be a ton of new apps. For many developers (and maybe publishers, game developers etc.) the day could come where it might become more profitable to offer their stuff exclusively on apps instead of the free internet... your browser. You might use your “desk device” for work only – and apps for your spare time on your couch. Many people consider the iPad to be a laptop and netbook killer for the wide mass of audiences that would use the internet in their spare time only.
  • I don’t like this idea at all, as long as the most mighty and biggest app store happens to be controlled and censored by a single company.
  • I don’t like this idea as long as apps cannot be ported from one device to any other device that I may choose. 
  • I don’t like this idea as long as there isn’t a search and recommendation equivalent that works cross-applications.
Has anybody noticed how emails became shorter with blackberry usage and then reached an average length of 1,5 words when people got their iPhones? I don’t want this to happen to a significant part of the open internet.
  • I enjoy people’s comments on newspaper articles that they won’t write in apps, even if they had the chance to, because an on-screen keyboard sucks.
  • I enjoy flash browser games on ad-supported sites.
  • I enjoy getting a ton of links to websites (that I would have never visited by myself) from friends on Facebook. And I never got a deep link into a subsite of an app yet.
"Search and social" - as John Batelle puts it - is vital to the internet as we know it. Both is crippled in apps. So I hope iAds will not make developers focus on apps instead of software for the open web. I hope apps will not become so profitable that some services or contents will be exclusively available over apps only. A digital divide between couch and desk will turn us back into an audience instead of encouraging us to keep on contributing – which made the internet the marvelous thing it is today.