Imagining the Internet Project


 Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the 2012 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.  

Credited responses to 
a tension pair on the
evolution of apps and
the Web by 2020

This page includes a selection of the credited responses to a question about people's perceptions of the likely future evolution of mobile apps and the Web as people's gateways to creating and sharing information. This is one of eight questions raised by the 2012 Elon University-Pew Internet survey of technology experts and social analysts. Results on this question were first released by Pew Internet Director Lee Rainie and Imagining the Internet Director Janna Quitney Anderson in March 2012.

Survey participants were asked, “Will the Amazon, Apple, Google model of apps, app stores, and controlled devices dominate to the point of diminishing the importance and utility of the open Web by 2020? What are the positives, negatives, and shades of grey in the likely future you anticipate?”

Many of the experts surveyed by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project predicted ...

>To read the official study report, please click here.<

>To read anonymous responses to the report, please click here.<

Following is a large sample of the responses from respondents who chose to take credit for their remarks in the survey; some are the longer versions of expert responses that are contained in the official survey report. About half of respondents chose to take credit for their elaboration on the question (anonymous responses are published on a separate page).

“Within the next decade (if not already) all will be seen as part of the same thing. Culturally, however, we will still understand ‘the Web’ as the all-encompassing source of information, playground, communications channel, and environment which apps work to connect us with. The ‘app’ will be the dominant way software is understood: The ‘Web’ will be the totality of media, communications, information, and virtuality which make apps useful.” —Matthew Allen, professor of Internet Studies, Curtin University, Perth, Australia; past president of the Association of Internet Researchers

“The Web will be stronger than ever although apps will continue to be popular simply because many small developers appreciate app stores as commerce platforms. Many large content and commerce service providers are growing resistant to sharing revenues with app store operators, and so will increasingly directly offer advanced services on the Web built on standard capabilities like HTML5 and subsequent developments.” —Mike Liebhold, senior researcher and distinguished fellow at The Institute for the Future; at one time or another, a consultant for the FCC, Congress, the White House, OSTP, NTIA, the Internet Society, IETF, Internet2, and other key organizations; based in Palo Alto, California

“This could go either way, but I would bet that HTML 5 is going to make the Web very attractive. There are a lot of advantages to an open Web, and I would hate to see that go away.” —Hal Varian, chief economist at Google; based in the San Francisco Bay area, California

“I’m sad about this. Really sad. Apps are like cable channels—closed, proprietary, and cleaned-up experiences. As at Disneyland, there are no back alleys or surprises—anything unexpected was planned by someone at headquarters. I don’t want the world of the Web to end like this. But it will, because people’s expectations have been shaped by companies that view them as consumers. Those giant interests will push every button they can: fear, inexperience, passivity, and willingness to be entertained. And we’ll get a cleaned-up world that can be perfectly billed for. It’s not good. It wasn’t the point of the decentralized Internet. Even the commercial Web wasn’t the point of the decentralized Internet. It was all supposed to be about human communication, unlimited, unfiltered, and full-bandwidth. But instead of being known (which is the goal of humans, always) we’ll be counted by apps. Some of us will continue to ignore apps, and in turn we’ll be thoroughly ignored and rendered irrelevant by the new world. But when you’re bored, come visit.” —Susan Crawford, professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; previously a leader on the ICANN board, President Obama’s Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, and founder of OneWebDay; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“The idea of ‘Internet’ or ‘apps’ will give way to connectivity and the idea of Netness (a concept proposed by Sheldon Renan). Instead of devices connected to the Internet, information will be able to speak on networks. Networks, fields of connectivity, and the idea that everything is loosely entangled will be the norm. The paradigm will be that ‘everything wants to be connected’, ‘connectivity is opportunity,’ and that connectivity will make the invisible visible. Opportunities will be lateral, allowing different information stores and devices to connect to other stores. Networks will be redundant and loose instead of tight and brittle as they are today. If one cannot connect on one network, or a device switches off, another network will arrive to take its place. The ‘World Wide Web’ will be a term no longer used. Perhaps just a simple term meaning connected or not. Connectivity = life.” —Amber Case, CEO of Geoloqi, a company that creates location-based software for commercial and enterprise use; cyborg anthropologist and professional speaker; based in Portland, Oregon

“This conflict has been fascinating to me since I first saw the Wired magazine cover declaring that the World Wide Web is dead. Apps, and their children, are amazing vehicles for distribution, commerce, and user experience. This, just like software previously and the browser itself, are part of the cyclical natural ebb and flow of product innovation and evolution. I do think that the clean, natural frameworks of apps here to stay with us for our structured data and services requirements. When we know what we want or have a goal to accomplish they will always be the simplest and best way to do this specific, repeatable, and widely desired outcome. What apps do terribly is the thing that makes so many like John Perry Barlow afraid of this stage of evolution. The Web is about discovery and serendipity, it’s about finding something you weren’t looking for. To lose that would be to take a step back in our progress as intellectual humans, the equivalent of burning a digital book.” —Richard D. Titus, a seed funding venture capitalist at his own fund, Octavian Ventures; producer of documentaries, including Who Killed the Electric Car?; chairman of the board for European video tech start-up Videoplaza; based in San Francisco, California, and London, UK

“The next infrastructure—or cyberinfrastructure—will be the wireless grid, which can integrate and subsume both the open Internet and proprietary apps. So, open and closed will continue and neither side will win, as both become part of a new infrastructure including both proprietary and non-proprietary gridlets linked by open interfaces across devices and networks, on and off the Internet.” —Lee W. McKnight, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, Syracuse University; founder of Wireless Grids; co-founder of Summerhill Biomass; president of Marengo Research; principal investigator of Wireless Grid Innovation Testbed (WiGiT); based in Syracuse, New York

“I don’t think there will be a clear winner but I chose the second scenario because it’s likely webpages will become more and more app-like—users will think of it as the Web, but evolution of the platform available in Web browsers means that the experience when you visit a webpage and the experience when using an app will converge, possibly to the point where there is little practical difference between a ‘bookmark enabled for offline use’ and a ‘downloaded app.’ Already many apps just render a Web page in a ‘chromeless’ browser window, so the distinction becomes a very thin one based on the UI used to launch the app/page. Given this answer, a different slant on the question is what will be the dominant monetization strategy for Web pages and apps? The current app-store model includes a one-time-up-front-payment model, which doesn’t really exist on the open Web. It could be that this difference in monetization models is the only practical difference between apps and webpages.” —Mark Watson, senior engineer for Netflix and a leading participant in various technology groups related to the Internet (IETF, W3C), specifically dealing with video standards; based in San Francisco, California

“Apps are nice, but both users and providers are starting to rebel against the ‘walled gardens.’ We are already seeing the pendulum swing back towards the Web, with many companies bypassing the app store and delivering their content using HTML5.” —Christian Huitema, distinguished engineer, Microsoft Corporation; active leader in the IETF; based in Redmond, Washington

“I wish it weren’t true, but the history of enclosure, centralization, and consolidation makes me very pessimistic about the open Web winning over the closed apps. There will always be a Web, but it may end up like the imagery of a person standing on a soapbox, referred to more for its romantic symbolism than mattering in reality.” —Seth Finkelstein, professional programmer and consultant; 2001 winner of a Pioneer of the Electronic Frontier Award from Electronic Frontier Foundation for groundbreaking work in analyzing content-blocking software; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“There seems to be a steady trend toward ‘app’ culture. The idea of the ‘open Web’ will exist as a quaint notion in 2020, tinged with nostalgia and faded utopian desire.” —Mark Callahan, artistic director for Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE) at The University of Georgia; based in Athens, Georgia

“We are quickly moving away from the so-called ‘open Web’—which means one based on browser-based access—to an app-based model of Web access. This is not really being driven by security issues, as suggested in your question, but rather a combination of other factors. First, Apple and other platform companies can retain greater control of the user experience, and guarantee a uniformly better user experience in the app model, based on a controlled distribution of apps through platform-based app stores. This also has enormous economic incentives for app and platform companies, since blocking low-cost low-quality apps raises the average price for accepted apps. Much more important: The ‘open Web’ is based on relatively old principles and tired metaphors, like disconnected computers, HTTP, and the desktop operating system of folders, files, and executables. Platform companies— especially Apple and Google—are moving to new meta-architecture principles, such as tablets, touch and gestural interfaces, ubiquitous connectivity, and social networking. These are being baked into the core platforms so that app developers will be able to take advantage of them, natively, without having to reinvent those wheels over and over again. Note that this provides a second and enormously large economic leverage for app developers, and by extension, for users. Put another way, the platform companies will push a great deal into their infrastructure, and app developers will be able to push much higher into ultrastructure, providing a much richer user experience via post-browser-Web apps. In the very near-term, like 5-7 years, the browser will drop from the most used tool to the least used, because of this change. Just look at how people use their iPhones, already. The browser will be something like the terminal program on the Mac: a tool for programmers and throwbacks, only occasionally used by regular folks. A few years ago, I worked on a project for the Mozilla foundation, on the future of the browser. I was the first to raise my hand and say that in ten years the browser would be dead. The Mozilla guys laughed it off, but I am standing by my original prediction.” —Stowe Boyd, principal at Stowe Boyd and The Messengers, a research, consulting, and media business based in New York City

“By 2020 the question of whether or not something is an ‘app’ will be moot, and customers won’t be able to discern an app from a service. That’s already true of many apps. The question of whether a program is stored on the client machine and updated extremely frequently, or stored directly on the server, is increasingly irrelevant.” —Alex Halavais, associate professor at Quinnipiac University; vice president of the Association of Internet Researchers; technical director of UCHRI Digital Media & Learning Hub; managing partner of Forward Memory; author of Search Engine Society; based in New York City

“The answer will be somewhere in the middle. The best application will win, whether it’s categorized as an app or part of the Web (2.0, 3.0, 5.0, 42.0, doesn’t matter really). The clearer view is that the lines between ‘the Web’ and ‘apps’ will continue to blur, with the important thing being that the method employed makes the task easier, more intuitive, more convenient, richer, and better tailored to the device being used to complete the task. The only constant is that the ubiquitous connectivity that terms like ‘the Web’ have come to represent will continue to be stronger than ever in users’ lives.” —Wesley George, principal engineer for the Advanced Technology Group at Time Warner Cable; he also works with IETF; based in Herndon, Virginia

“In some sense, apps and Web will both be winners, as many apps will be written in successors to HTML5 and so the distinction between the two will be less obvious and less important than it is today. There is some burden to having an app, so that there is a limit on how many people are likely to need or want, with ordinary Web services filling in the remainder. —Bruce Nordman, research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; co-chair, EMAN, Internet Engineering Task Force; based at Berkeley, California

“No ambiguity or middle-roading at all, this time. It’s the Apple 1984 ad all over again, but this time the Big Brother on the telescreen is Steve Jobs and the hammer thrower’s wearing a Linux penguin on her t-shirt.” —Kevin A. Carson, research associate at the Center for a Stateless Society, the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, and the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives; based in Springdale, Arkansas

“The apps model looks like it’s going to win, though not necessarily because of the apps themselves. And there’s some evidence the Web is already receding. Over the last several years, the amount of HTTP traffic crossing the Internet has diminished substantially in proportion to traffic overall. The apps model as developed by Amazon, Apple, Google, and the like is another form of the walled garden made notorious by AOL. Then, as now, large numbers of people online are going for this model, and mostly for the same reason—convenience. Starting in the late 1990s, Steve Case saw a huge market among newbies who had come recently to dialup and had no idea how to navigate around the Web, let alone use dedicated Internet protocols like FTP. That model finally broke because a) broadband happened and b) the newbies grew up and wanted to venture out past AOL’s proprietary offerings.  What’s different today is we’re getting a lot more growing in our gardens. They look better, offer more choice, and get real things done reliably. What’s not so different is we’ve still got the walls. Or to put it in Zittrain’s terms, a lot more tethered appliances—think iPad—and fewer generative devices—think iMac, though even here Apple is tying us tighter and tighter to their servers and commercial services (no more OS on a disc). I sometimes think I’m giving up too much freedom of choice by sticking with Macs, or putting too many eggs in Google’s basket. But wild horses couldn’t tear me away from my MacBook Pro or Google Analytics. On the other hand, loyalty to these ‘controlled’ devices and services isn’t the same thing as running everything from the app store. The research indicates most people use only a tiny fraction of the apps available, and many downloads get used once and then vanish. I’m therefore not convinced apps will make general-purpose browsers and computing devices disappear. Nor am I sure that having 130 apps (like my daughter does) is a way to make your life more convenient. But I have to admit the ‘open’ Web is certainly changing. Just ask the 750 million people on the anti-Web, aka Facebook.” —David Ellis, director of communication studies at York University, Toronto, and author of the first Canadian book on the roots of the Internet; his blog is titled Life on the Broadband Internet; based in Toronto, Canada

“The very notion of attempting to draw a valid distinction between the World Wide Web and apps, making them into separate entities, one independent and divorced from the other, is an absurdity of faulty logic and a vain attempt to be profound. One cannot exist without the other, and a close look at present-day apps reveals their inseparable connection to the Web. GigaOM’s supposed ‘anti-Internet’ is little more than a shallow attempt to call the Web by any other name and pretend it is no more the Web, when it is the Web—and evolving. Apps are the logical extension of a late 1990s movement among freelance developers that produced thousands of snippets of software known as ‘shareware,’ some freely given for the love of the game, others launched into the Web in hopes of attracting donations or enticing users to purchase more robust versions of the snippet, now known as the app. There is nothing new but the level of corporate control—much higher—and the narrowing of options for the individual. Apps are also an outgrowth of a Web that has slowly but inexorably come to be dominated by a handful of major players and the insatiable institutional greed that motivates them to develop and promote tightly restricted and highly monetized iPads, Kindles, Nooks, Droids, and all the other sleek little tools and playthings designed, ultimately, to smother individual initiative and strengthen corporate control. This shall not change for the better by 2020.” —Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, owner and managing editor of, committed to the non-commercial roots of the Internet and World Wide Web; based in rural Washington County, Arkansas

“The Amazon, Apple, and Google model of apps will diminish the importance and utility of the open Web by 2020. There will be again a digital divide, this one will be between those who will prefer to use ready-made applications and those who are building ways or searching on their own to find the needed solutions. This will occur especially for the simpler functions, where a ready-made application could save time and brain energy to obtain the pursued goals. Instead of ‘couch potatoes’ you’ll have ‘app-potatoes.’” —Giacomo Mazzone, head of institutional relations, European Broadcasting Union; based in Geneva, Switzerland

“The huge advantage of the open Web is that it enables innovation. As we have seen over history with Unix, Microsoft, etc., building apps for one or more proprietary platform(s) will always end up being a dead-end street for developers and users. The more likely scenario is ‘thin’ apps integrated with open Web solutions.” —Bill St. Arnaud, consultant at SURFnet, the national education and research network building The Netherlands’ next-generation Internet; research officer at CANARIE, working on Canada’s next-generation Internet; longtime Internet Society leader; based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

“Apps vs. the Web is really a false dichotomy. The Web browser is an app, and apps will make use of open Web technologies.” —Peter J. McCann, senior staff engineer for Futurewei Technologies; chair of the Mobile IPv4 Working Group of the IETF; based in Bridgewater, New Jersey

“Neither scenario. There is too much of a caricature in both.” —Dave Burstein, editor of DSL Prime and Fast Net News; based in New York City

“I like the Web. It’s a simple, useful operating platform. Evidence suggests that people like simplicity. If people come to look on apps as simple and easy-to-use, this may change.” —Ken Friedman, dean of the faculty of design at Swinburne University of Technology; based in Melbourne, Australia

“Does ‘most people’ mean most of the 6 billion people on the planet, or most of the people I happen to know? It makes a difference. It could also be somewhere in between, such as ‘most people who are not starving.’ Also, what does ‘2020’ mean? Does it mean the actual calendar year 2020, or does it mean ‘some time off in the future that will probably come before I die?’ I’ll interpret ‘2020’ and ‘most people’ and go pessimistic about big changes in that timeframe here. These wet dreams of actual and would-be commercial interests have been around since the days of Prodigy and CompuServe and I doubt we will see a change here. For one thing, the Internet has become a key location for the inevitable generational rebellion to play out, which will keep things in too much flux to be locked down to the degree this implies, and that may extend well beyond 2020. I suppose it is possible that some anonymity-removing, spam-free Internet will come along and people will give up some freedom to reduce risk—I’d certainly consider it—but not, I think, by 2020 for ‘most people.’” —Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft; based in Redmond, Washington

“The Web will be one of the online destinations, with the Internet (via apps) and walled destinations (e.g., Facebook) that people will spend their online time.” —Jim Jansen, associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University; sits on the boards of eight international technology journals; serves on advisory boards for three Internet start-ups; based in Charlottesville, Virginia
“For most users, the distinction will not be clear. Government laws, regulations, and policies will be an extremely significant intervening variable here. If we lose network neutrality (the costs of accessing minority voices and sources of information goes up), any right to anonymity (the danger in posting minority perspectives and alternative information goes up), and the notion that the Web ought to be a free speech environment (censorship becomes a known filter), increased reliance on apps over the Web as perceived by those with technological sophistication will become more likely.” —Sandra Braman, professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; chair, Law Section, International Association of Media and Communication Research; editor, Information Policy Book Series, MIT Press

“Oh, I have downloaded lots of apps, but I use only a small number of them and I have seen research showing that this is typical—this survey showed that people use apps for certain obvious activities, such as games, but use their browsers for content, mail, and other functions. Since that data was gathered, Angry Birds was ported to HTML5 and the browser. The browser—or its future equivalent—will continue to have key advantages over apps: They are connected to the entire Net, they offer full interoperability, and they give the user more power than the developer or publisher. Yes, publishers have dreamed that apps would return to them the control of content, experience, business model, and pricing that the Net took from them, but they are merely deluding themselves. The value is not in their control of content but in the ability to become platforms for users to do what they want to do.” —Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism; author of Public Parts and What Would Google Do? and blogger at; based in New York City

“It’s unclear what the distinctions will be at that point as the browser becomes a portable execution environment. The real question is whether people will just use the surface apps or build upon them for their own needs.” —Bob Frankston, computing pioneer, co-founder of Software Arts and co-developer and marketer of VisiCalc, created Lotus Express, ACM Fellow; based in Newton MA

“Jonathan Zittrain is right. There’s an incredible threat to the open Internet. Despite that, I think that the gated bubble worlds formed by app markets, Facebook, and other private spaces will bloom and fade, while people will keep gathering in the open spaces. Here I’ll distinguish between iPhone apps and other apps, which ought to be more open. Android phones outnumber iPhones in the world, a trend likely to grow. On this one, I may be too optimistic.” —Jerry Michalski, guide and founder, Relationship Economy Expedition (REXpedition); founder and president of Sociate; consultant for the Institute for the Future and corporate clients in many different industries; based in San Francisco, California

“This is not an either/or game. Both will be used more heavily than either are used today. And given the early stage of apps, it will appear that they are used even more. But the vast majority of apps are simply a wrapper around Web content that makes it as accessible as a bookmark. And the ‘Web’ is filled with DRMed content already.  So creating a clean division between Web and apps is going to be more impossible anyhow.” —danah boyd, senior researcher with professional affiliations and work based at Microsoft Research, Harvard Law School, New York University, and the University of New South Wales; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Because the Internet is creating a ‘convenience society,’ specified applications on iPads, smartphones, etc. make it easier to access content that will satisfy particular and normally regularly accessed information needs. However, the World Wide Web provides and encourages wider access to other issues and subjects that tend to come up in everyday conversations and everyday life, so that the World Wide Web will always be an important conduit to meeting people’s information needs without restriction— be they for good or for evil.” —Maureen Hilyard, development program coordinator for the New Zealand High Commission; vice chair of the board of the Pacific Chapter of the Internet Society; based in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

“Ease of use always wins.” —Fred Hapgood, technology author and consultant; moderator of the Nanosystems Interest Group at MIT in the 1990s; writes for Wired, Discover, and other tech and science publications; based in Boston, Massachusetts

“The world is gravitating towards mobility as a primary attribute. Apps have proven to be exceedingly easy to develop and to deploy quickly to perform specific tasks very well. The preeminence of the Web as the first point of contact for transaction and informational needs will diminish. By 2020 the specificity of apps vs. Web vs. anything else will begin to fade as there will likely be more sophisticated ways of engaging programs through input methods using voice, gesture, possibly even hard wiring either through implants or sensors. What this should tend to do is to further drive the technology into the background. We won’t care whether it’s an app, Web app, or other devoted software as long as it gets the task performed seamlessly. If I had to place my bet, the Google approach and openness will trump the Apple approach of exclusivity.” —Sam Punnett, president of FAD Research Inc.; analyst for public and private funds supporting media and tech development; contributing writer to the Canadian Internet Project a part of the World Internet project run through USC; based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“I recently read that there are now more mobile devices than toothbrushes. I also observe my teenage and young adult children sleep with their phones (smart phones). This dizzying pace of adoption in the mobile category makes me believe that the apps are the future. Actually, my preferred response would be c) mobile, which is the mobile access of apps and the open Web. I really believe the access to the open-Web, useful focused apps, and Cloud based applications via mobile devices will be the most likely outcome in 2020. I am also wondering how the semantic Web (Web 3.0) will influence these predictions—will they be apps, open-Web or both?” —Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs; named one of the Top 100 Most Influential CPAs by Accounting Today and one of the Top 25 Thought Leaders in Public Accounting Technology by CPA Technology Advisor; based in Towson, Maryland

“I sincerely hope and believe that the open Web prevails. Until there is a ‘Wordpress’-like app builder, the open Web has less barriers and more voices.” —David Cohn, founder and director of journalism organization Spot.Us; lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley School of Journalism; based in Oakland, California
“Specific apps will rise in importance, but they can be open and behave in Web-like ways. Apps will be easier to develop and will become more modular, enabling app ‘Lego-ing.’” —Cathy Cavanaugh, associate professor of educational technology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

“The future is in mobile-optimized websites, not in apps. Except in really narrow instances (perhaps mobile banking, games, etc.), apps will be backseat to websites optimized for mobile devices. Organizations will not see much value in developing both a website and a mobile app; instead, they will develop a website that is easily accessible on a smart phone.” —Daren C. Brabham, assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

“The Web itself is already moving toward a delivery platform for AJAX/Javascript/Flash ‘apps’ masquerading as Websites, so the line between an ‘open Web’ and an ‘app-dominated world’ as in the question is kind of an arbitrary one. Certainly, the world is moving away from open protocols where anyone can play to proprietary, more easily monetizable services (e.g. Twitter or Face-book messaging instead of SMTP/IMAP). HTTP will probably continue to be an important transport/session layer protocol, and Web browsers will continue playing a part in application access and installation. But the dream of the Web as an open, level playing field where anyone can publish or provide services was as dead after its first ten years, as it was in the case of radio. Security threats, real and imagined, will tend to decrease the appeal of the open Web for both providers and consumers; for example, electronic banking, where the risk of a security breach is especially high, is already moving toward closed access on the customer end (virtualized or dedicated PCs for customer access, or proprietary devices for session and transaction verification).” —Brian Trammell, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology; a contributor and RFC author with IETF; based in Zurich, Switzerland

“The answer here really is ‘neither’ because apps and the Web will co-evolve and each adopt characteristics of the other, and by 2020 we’ll have some other model entirely. In more detail, the importance of apps will continue to grow, but after a while, people will have too many to scan through, and then people will require a way to manage apps, including a way to search them. Meanwhile, the Web is being very much changed and influenced by apps, and every year, what it means for something to ‘be on the Web’ changes. There will always be a need to find general information, and apps by their nature do not provide a centralized way for information to be shared. There will then be a need for a way for apps to communicate among themselves, be better found by search engines, and so on, and they will become more weblike.” —Marti Hearst, professor at the University of California-Berkley; member of advisory boards for major search engine companies; consultant to high-tech startups; based in Berkeley, California

“Right now we are all enthralled with our apps (driven in large part by the crack-like attraction of tablet computing), but Clifford Lynch of the Coalition for Networked Information has observed that apps are in a way a major step backward to an earlier era (pre-TCP-IP, pre-standards.) The Web-centric view sounds utopian, but it may also prove pragmatic, once we have lived with the inevitable outcome of our balkanized online environment.” —Karen G. Schneider, director for library services at Holy Names University; prolific author of books and articles on technology; based in Oakland, California

“The Web will continue to underlay the vast majority of apps, but it will increasingly be apps and app-style services that people resort to. In one sense, this can be seen as the logical extension of the Web into creating reasonably secure intelligent Web services. It is just that they are based on a sandbox specification other than Java applets or Flash which have been the dominant Web-application platforms in the past. What will curtail the dominance of apps is the fragmented app space, e.g. and principally, iOS versus Android, although others will continue to appear. This leads to incompatibility and will keep the tension in favour of the Web, because it is by design much more portable. Nonetheless, HTML5 and other technologies will continue to blur the line between Web and app, until the average end user would have difficulty assessing the meaning of this question.” —Paul Gardner-Stephen, rural, remote, and humanitarian telecommunications fellow at Flinders University; founder and director of the Serval Project; based in Adelaide, Australia

“The dominance of the large companies will be of greater influence than the drive to the Web and the cloud. iPhones and iPads have confirmed this. It is still seemingly faster to use an app than to get ‘onto’ the Web from a smartphone and I imagine the larger companies would like to keep it that way.” —Peg Achterman, assistant professor of communication, Northwest University, Kirkland, Washington

“One: The Web remains the source of many apps’ materials. Example: News portal apps, which duplicate website content. Two: Few producers can afford to build additional content and/or content production streams, alongside their Web work. Three: Consumer hunger to move content around their owned devices will trump walled gardens (i.e., Apple’s).” —Bryan Alexander, senior fellow, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), a non-profit organization based in Ripton, Vermont

“Everyone from Microsoft to the phone company has tried to produce their own proprietary replacement for the Web, without success.” —Tom Worthington, adjunct senior lecturer, Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University; also active in CSIRO ICT Centre Telecommunications Board, Australian Computer Society; based in Canberra, Australia

“Collections of traffic data show that there are dominant, common destinations, but beyond those, the usage of the Net is highly diverse. Economic forces and our tendency to prefer smaller pictures lead to a view that there will be consolidation and apps will dominate, but in the big picture, I cannot see the highly diverse, millions to billions of destinations going away. I think the ability of the Net to accommodate unlimited diversity will continue and therefore there will be an open Web, never fully open because there are many competing forces, but diversified and fast-moving, as a reflection of human society’s restless character.” —Allison Mankin, employed at a research organization in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area

“If the apps model does, in fact, represent the dominant form of Internet usage by 2020, it will not be because of a ‘widespread belief’ in their superior utility, but rather because of market forces. The ‘apps vs. open Web’ debate is an industry insiders’ game. Most consumers will follow the technology that is affordable, readily available, and provides an intuitive user experience. The massive investment and rapid adoption of the apps model suggests its strong standing vs. open Web technologies. However, even if the apps model does predominate usage, the open Web will continue to thrive, sometimes in parallel to, sometimes interoperatively with, apps. The global Internet user population will be massive, some markets will prefer the benefits of free, open technology, and a lively community of Web developers will steward an open innovation space on the Web.” —Nathaniel James, social innovation consultant serving the philanthropic, social enterprise, and non-profit sectors; based in Seattle, Washington

“Not so easy to pick a winner here. On balance, I see that the World Wide Web retains its position as the framework on which people’s activities are based. However, the line between ‘apps’ that are independent of the World Wide Web and those which facilitate use of the World Wide Web will be hard to find.” —Adrian Schofield, manager, applied research unit, Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering; president, Computer Society South Africa; based in Johannesburg, South Africa

“Apps and the Web are already converging fast. Developers are creating mobile Web applications that provide the user experience of apps while retaining the openness of the Web platform. A good example is the Amazon Kindle iPad Web-app: It is launched by tapping on an icon, but is in fact a Website and thus bypasses the App Store’s rules and restrictions.” —Vili Lehdonvirta, researcher at the University of Tokyo and visiting scholar at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology; based at Aalto University, Finland

“Even though the apps may be seen as more secure, the world is moving to the direction of offloading your data with big providers and it’s really not important what protocol the people will use when accessing them. The problem with this trend is that the people will have less control over their data, there will be more snooping and more control from governments and big companies. It also means less privacy, which we also can see under the excuse of more ‘security.’ I actually think that there will be gap—there will be mass of people who will prefer convenience over privacy and security and there will be people who will guard their privacy, and then something in between.” —Ondrej Sury, chief scientist at the .CZ Internet registry, CZ.NIC; active leader in the IETF; based in Praha, Czech Republic

“We’ll see, this is a tough one, but I think the open Web will lead. More people can access it without downloads, etc. Apps are good but require too much work on the user, not too sure they are here to stay.” —Adrianne Bockhorst, interactive marketing manager, Johnson Financial Group, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“The Web is the foundation for the development of applications. It is where content is housed and applications serve as a ‘filter’ of sorts in order to more efficiently and effectively access the content germane to the needs of the end user. While apps accessed through proprietary devices may prove to be a convenience, those who become dependent on applications in order to locate and use information may find they could be missing all of the content available to them via the Web.” —David Lowe, innovation and technology manager, National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, a non-profit organization based in Arlington, Virginia

“I see both the use of specific apps and the Web itself to continue to grow over the coming decade. It only appears that apps are taking over because they are relatively new and still in the adoption phase, so their growth rate is more rapid than the already accepted World Wide Web. But neither will go away.” —David Morris, managing director of research for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; based in Lansing, Michigan

“Apps will continue to grow and their security will be important on mobile devices. However, many apps in use today point to the open Web, and I am not sure how that information will continue to exist. I am also not sure that in nine years, personal mobile devices will not have completely replaced larger personal computers in the workplace.” —Diane Dowdey, associate professor of English at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas

“The simplicity and robustness of apps, their single-use quality, will place them at the center of most people’s online activity. The economic incentives are also in favor of apps, as companies can more readily monetize the information they gather through app use and can control the information that people receive. A decreasing proportion of users will value the chaos of the Web, particularly as popups, etc., are increasingly used to try to monetize some of the wilder fringes of the Web. Apps that allow people to gather info from a variety of sources will mitigate the narrowing of options, and there are very few freedom absolutists who will continue to advocate for the use of the open Web. Also, html standards will narrow the difference between apps and Websites, so that it may not even be clear to users which they are using at any given point.” —Eric Siegel, director and chief content officer for the New York Hall of Science; based in New York City

“Apps will become an increasingly common access channel to the World Wide Web for many purposes but the underlying World Wide Web will be as important as ever. The question pair sets up an inaccurate distinction.” —Henry L. Judy, an attorney contracted for his expertise in corporate, commercial, technology, and financial law by Washington, DC, firm K&L Gates LLP; based in Asheville, NC

“The view of a divide between the Internet and ‘app-space’ is an apt one. Apps will be used for specialised functions, to quickly access specific information and perform certain tasks and the Web will largely remain a more open and creative domain for content creation and innovation. This is largely due to freedom from the content rules imposed by device developers such as Apple.” —David Saer, foresight researcher for Fast Future, a consulting business based in London, UK

“2020 isn’t far enough away for a total change in habits, and who knows what new innovations may be emerging by then. Most people will have a hybrid experience, switching between apps and the Web. Many apps will offer cut-down versions of a full Web experience.” —Carol S. Bond, senior lecturer in health informatics at the school of health and social care, Bornemouth University; based in the UK

“A closed Web is a dead Web. It might come, but it won’t be able to grow. If the Internet has a future, it has to be open.” —Glyn Moody, self-employed author, editor, and journalist; active voice in online social media networks; based in London, UK

“Non-technology people will fall in love with their apps to solve all their needs. The apps might grow up in restricted and guarded Internet spaces as opposed to the open Web. Although less likely, they can also grow with their roots in an open Web. The open Web will remain an important place for technology people, probably with interoperability standards allowing people to switch between applications. There will be less and less things you can do if you decide to remain anonymous.” —Miguel Alcaine, head of the International Telecommunication Union’s area office, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

“I disagree with both of these predictions. The Web and the apps will be one and the same. The app, if accessed by a large screen (formerly known as a computer) will automatically slide into a large screen mode to allow more advertising and ease of reading, navigation, and additional information. The Webpage will most likely sense when the user leaves the computer and transfer the same information to the departing user’s smartphone (or other device). Hundreds of examples might be stated which are all within reach with today’s technology and innovative spirit. But, once we allow for 8 more years of experimentation, technology innovation, and the co-mingling of ‘telephone’—laptop, tablet, smartphone, and all the rest—we must be prepared for the unknown. Yes, this will be an interesting eight years.” —William L Schrader, independent consultant; founder of PSINet in 1989, largest independent publicly traded global ISP during the 1990s; lecturer on the future impact of the Internet on the global economic, technology, medical, political, and social world; based in Sterling, Virginia

“The distinction between ‘apps’ and ‘the World Wide Web’ is artificial and ultimately not very interesting. Digital tools that park some code on the device and some in the Cloud (apps) will continue to proliferate, along with tools accessed through generic browsers (‘Web pages’) and tools that reside only on the device.” —Jeff Eisenach, managing director and principal, Navigant Economics LLC, a consulting business; author of numerous books and articles on technology and economics; formerly a senior policy expert with the US Federal Trade Commission; based in Washington, DC

“Walled gardens don’t survive forever in the Internet. As cheap, reliable, fast connectivity spreads, the open Web will continue to offer the best opportunities for innovators and market-breakers, especially as Internet-based economies grow in competition to the US.” —Pete Cranston, digital media, knowledge sharing and ICT4D (information and communication technologies for development) consultant; based in Oxford, UK

“The real issue is one of convenience. The Internet became a user-friendly tool when search engines made it possible to find what we were looking for without having to consult a hefty-sized book with a list of potentially interesting URLs. Just so, apps (as opposed to open-ended searches on the Web) seem to save us time. The problem, however, is that apps only take us where we already know to go. With open-ended searches, we may discover options we never knew to look for. This issue of content-narrowing is hardly unique to apps versus the Web. The same problem can be seen in having music playlists (as opposed to happening upon music you hadn’t anticipated by listening to a radio station) or tailored news feeds (as opposed to reading a newspaper and discovering articles on topics that stretch your understanding and imagination).” —Naomi S. Baron, professor of linguistics and executive director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning at American University, Washington, DC

“Neither of the two options. Mobile and Web will co-exist peacefully.” —Marcel Bullinga, futurist and author of Welcome to the Future Cloud—2025 in 100 Predictions; based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“We’re stepping into an era where the line between today’s Web and today’s app become irreversibly blurred. People are starting to understand the difference between functionality and form. For example, Netflix is great functionality available in a variety of forms. I can start watching a streaming movie on my iPad, pause it, and later start watching it via my Web browser. When I update my list of movies that I want to watch, that data is available across all the devices I use to access Netflix, regardless of whether I use an app or the Web. Users will come to expect a great level of flexibility and functionality from many of their uses of the Internet. This will ultimately lead to the demise of the proprietary ‘app market’ that is currently in vogue and we will see a much more open and flexible generation of apps that deeply integrates with the Web, making it better and richer and blurring the line between the two. In 2020, it will be obvious that the Web is yet another layer that we can build on, and not an app unto itself.” —Ross Rader, general manager at Hover, a service of Tucows; board member of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority; based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“The hybrid Web/apps online environment will be the norm in 2020 because there is a decent likelihood capacity constraints in networks will dampen the ability of mobile apps to win, i.e., there won’t be enough spectrum in the market (and technologies to more efficiently use spectrum will advance quickly, but just not quickly enough). Plus, as hot as apps are today, I think many are still very limited in their design and functionality to substitute for the Web. Of course, time will take care of that to some degree—but not fast enough (in conjunction with capacity constraints) to trump the Web.” —John Horrigan, vice president of TechNet, a research organization; formerly at the FCC working on the National Broadband Plan and, before that, a researcher with the Pew Internet & American Life Project; based in Washington, DC

“There is no clear advantage of one method over the other. However, people will gravitate towards the more-open solution, thus if I can get everything I need via Web applications regardless of platform, I am more likely to use solutions that meet my needs no matter how I’m connecting to them.” —Mack Reed, principal, Factoid Labs, a consultancy on content, social engineering, design, and business analysis; COO, F8 Interactive, developer of life-like, non-violent games; longtime member of the WELL and the Burning Man community; based in Los Angeles, California

“The use of apps will continue to proliferate. However, there are still a significant number of activities that will be more conveniently accomplished on a larger screen in a private, non-mobile, and more contemplative setting. I do not expect to see the Web disappear at any time in the near future.” —Hugh F. Cline, adjunct professor of sociology and education at Columbia University; retired from a position as a senior research scientist and administrator in an educational testing company; lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and works in New York City

“What is commonly referred to as the Web is a set of protocols and namespaces that will continue to be useful and well used in combination with newer technologies and protocols and namespaces. The result will be an evolution of what we have now.” —Larry Lannom, director of information management technology and vice president at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI), a research organization based in the Washington, DC, metro area

“The best answer to all these questions is Seymour Papert’s: ‘This is a matter for intervention, not prediction.’ No question that young people are embracing ‘apps.’ I hate them. My bank has an ‘app,’ which I have on my phone, that allows me to deposit checks and make transfers from anywhere, which is great, except that since it’s an app instead of a browser, it doesn’t have Password Hasher, and so I had to make up, and have to remember, a specific password for my bank, instead of just my one Password Hasher master password. Plus, apps also don’t have Privoxy or Ad Block Plus, so when I went to check the weather on my phone, for the first time in my life I saw an Internet ad. Apps are a privacy nightmare. Android tries to help by telling you what each app wants to access when you install it, but they all want to access everything, and it’s way too much trouble for each individual to try to police them. Whereas my browser has NoScript, so the websites I visit can try all they want to pry into my life, and it’s someone else’s job to protect me.” —Brian Harvey, lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley; based in Berkeley, California

“I do not foresee apps coming anywhere close in 2020 to where the World Wide Web is today.” —Jose Cordeiro, director, Venezuela Node for The Millennium Project; faculty member at Singularity University at NASA Ames Research Center in California; based in Caracas, Venezuela

“I actually see the future lying somewhere between these two extremes. There is certainly an appeal to having your entire digital world available at any computer you use. For me, however, having control over my data and its security is very important, so I favor an app-based model for most things. I, however, realize that most people do not share my interest/perspective on this issue, so not having to worry about installing applications and worrying about where your data is stored will be very appealing.” —Michael Goodson, assistant project scientist at the University of California-Davis; based in Davis, California

“We are seeing convergence, so I expect there to be challenges to the ‘gated communities’ such as represented by closed operating system apps. There is a large body of psychological research that argues that people prefer fewer choices, rather than more. Apps represent a filtering system, where individuals can offload that responsibility. However, I expect the boundaries to be continually challenged by 1) innovators and mavericks who embody the sense of freedom and democratization implicit in the concept of the Internet and 2) the innate need of humans to connect across systems. Closed systems interfere with human connection.” —Pamela Rutledge, director, Media Psychology Research Center, Fielding Graduate University, and instructor, UC Irvine Extension Business School; based in Palo Alto, California

“Apps will be an established part of the wired society, but their focus and breadth of application are too limited to lend themselves to the more serious work that needs to be done. Therefore, the open Web will be utilized as the workhorse of getting big jobs done, both individually and collaboratively.” —Donald G. Barnes, visiting professor at Guangxi University in China; former director of the Science Advisory Board at US Environmental Protection Agency; based in Alexandria, Virginia

“This was hard to choose. I have been on the net for 40 years, since the beginning. I have watched it unfold. I have watched it grow from an amazing source of expertise to a global dumping ground from valuable and useless information. By 2020 it won’t be much better for the global citizens. There will be amazing tools to track everyone physically and track behaviors. The Net will be another example of how the world continues to move to being a police-planet. For the common earthling access to the Web in 2020 may be less expensive, but the percentage of garbage will increase significantly.” —Bill Daul, chief collaboration officer at Social Alchemist, NextNow Network, and the NextNow Colaboratory, non-profit work based in Palo Alto, California

“This, frankly, is already happening. The degree to which people interact through apps is already quite high, and it is only a matter of time until the majority of users of major sites like Facebook, Google, and others will be thoroughly via apps.” —Steve Jones, distinguished professor of communication, University of Illinois-Chicago; a founding leader of the Association of Internet Researchers

“App development and use will be become easier and more inclusive as low-threshold development tools become as widespread as office productivity tools. Education will turn to app development as project-based demonstration of learning and to custom, adaptive assessment apps for other measures of learning. Individuals will use app creation and modification as a creative medium.” —Cathy Cavanaugh, associate professor of educational technology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

“I would strongly prefer the second option, but I think I am not alone in having no clue as to how the Web will be used nine years from now. That, in itself, is very disturbing to me.” —Sharon Collingwood, lecturer in English at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

“The open Web is at risk, however I also recognize the utility of apps. The open Web may be at risk from more than just the proliferation of apps. The openness of the Web is a threat to many governments, big businesses, etc. Providing ‘closed’ apps and environments is a way of control and surveillance that most people are not sufficiently aware of. The survival of the open Web is dependent on critical cyber-literacy that features the discussion of the positives, negatives, and shades of grey that are present in any human technology interaction.” —Sherida Ryan, lecturer in adult education and community development and director of the Social Economy Centre at the University of Toronto; senior research analyst for Metaviews Media Management; based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“The open World Wide Web will conquer the future of social elements and learning environments. Apps will be competing to find innovative ways to attract their stakeholders to serve better and better.” —Hakikur Rahman, chairman of the SchoolNet Foundation of Bangladesh and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Minho, based in Portugal

“This question is about a distinction and not a difference—people never cared about the Web vs. apps and devices. They want free stuff, entertainment, and services when they want them, and on the device they have in front of them.” —Mark Walsh, cofounder,; chairman, board of trustees, Union College, Schenectady, New York; board chairman, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Maryland; board member of many start-ups, angel investor; based in Washington, DC area

“Whatever is simpler in terms of consumer adoption and protocol standardization is what wins over time. As the back end of the Web gets smarter, and API protocols get richer, browser, the cloud takes over for most uses. Apps are a great intermediate play, a way to scale up functionality of a primitive Web, but over time, they get outcompeted for all but the most complex platforms, by simpler and more standardized alternatives. The idea that apps are more secure than the open Web is incorrect. It’s very easy to create Trojan apps and always will be. What will get complex will be the ‘artificial immune systems’ (see Stephanie Forrest’s work on this) on local machines. What will get increasingly transparent and standardized will be the limited number of open Web platforms and protocols that all the leading desktop and mobile hardware and their immune systems will agree to use. The rest of the apps and their code will reside in the long tail of vertical and niche uses.” —John Smart, professor of emerging technologies at the University of Advancing Technology; president and founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation; based in Mountain View, California

“This is a false dichotomy. Both will continue to grow in ways that are impossible for most to imagine, even months ahead, let alone nine years. One area of particular interest will be the spread of apps into other devices. Please can we have coming generations of Photosynth ported to real digital cameras? Apps are generally better for narrowly defined repetitive tasks, especially where your needs can be narrowed by your location, time, etc. The Web will remain better for asynchronous exploring and continue its gateway role. Substantial media delivery will always be cleaner via apps, especially as multitasking tends towards keeping several open alongside at most a few browser tabs.” —Tony Smith, secretary for the Kororoit Institute Proponents and Supporters Association; publisher at Meme Media; Open Source Developers Club; based in Melbourne, Australia

“With the opening of our most populous, our most youthful parts of the world (i.e., non-Western) to the Internet, there will always be more inventors and more authors than there will be apps to be purchased by those in the West with our fancy gadgets. Have you seen what a child from Southern Africa can do with castaway bits of tin, rubber, and rags? I have a deep and abiding faith that as the rest of the world comes online, we will be constantly surprised and in awe of what we in the West had never imagined could be done.” —Randolph Hollingsworth, assistant provost, University of Kentucky; Webmaster for Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice and other organizations; member of H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences Online) Council; Wikipedia editor; based in Lexington, Kentucky

“These scenarios only hold for the more advanced economies. One may question whether apps and Web are antagonistic rather than complementary. For the time being mobile devices and apps are pushed by industry because of the unprecedented and artificial opportunity for profit. Their expansion will depend on the cost-benefit for users.” —Michel J. Menou, visiting professor at the department of information studies at University College London; based in Les Rosiers sur Loire, France

“I’m on the fence on this one. Apps will be challenged by HTML5 on the technical side. But it’s the social and business side that will make the difference.” —Paul Jones, clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

“Apps and Web each excel in different areas. Apps are great for social connectivity and the mobility that is provided gives it advantages at doing certain things. Web is great at dealing with large complex data sets and doing multiple tasks much quicker. For arguments sake, let’s say that mobile devices have the same connectivity and processing speed as a desktop or laptop. If a small business owner is inputting information on quicken, managing inventory or manipulating photos for their Website, they will not have the same level of efficiency on a mobile device as they would on a laptop. I am denoting devices, as apps tend to be synonymous with mobile devices making this explicitly tied to device. If not tied to device, esoterically, apps utilize the Web as their backbone for information transfer. That would still be framing the question at the wrong level, it would be like comparing HTTP vs. HTML/CSS or internal combustion vs. diesel motors. Apps, HTML/CSS, or diesel motors wouldn’t be without the counterpart.” —Kris Davis, user-experience designer for Webvisible; based in Costa Mesa, California

“Things are made of atoms that are rapidly becoming easily manipulated, controlled, and molded into whatever material object we need in the moment. Information, shared purpose, a sense of belonging and contributing, virtual connections between intelligent repositories—these are the resources of real value as we transform into what we are now creating. The Web will be the context in which we live and relate to others. Apps will be the shared tools we use to facilitate relationships and create a future that we cannot fathom from our current vantage point. The Web will become the context for everything. Apps will make that context work for the benefit of the whole.” —John Davis, independent distributor based in San Diego, California

“As long as apps are platform-specific, they will never be universal. Open protocols that are the foundation of the Web reach more people on more platforms. Apps will still be popular for high-end devices, but the Web should still be the default for anyone trying to reach and connect people outside of affluent, first-world iPhone-types.” —Ruby Sinreich, director of new media strategy and the Digital Media & Learning Competition at the Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory based in Durham, North Carolina; lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

“The move in favor of the World Wide Web vs. specialized apps is already there. It seems to me that this is a non-reversible move.” —Raimundo Beca, partner at Imaginacción, a Chilean consulting company, and longtime ICANN leader; based in Santiago, Chile

“This is a question that will only be asked for a short window. A year or two ago, apps weren’t yet sufficiently ascendant to offer a major challenge to our Web-based future; a year or two from now, the ascendance and elaboration of HTML5 is going to make the distinction between apps and Web seem somewhat artificial. We’re already seeing the rise of mobile-optimized HTML5 sites that are designed to be locally stored, like apps, on a smartphone or tablet device. What we haven’t got quite yet is a standard, cross-platform way to attach a payment mechanism to those sites (which are often sites that could be described as Web-based applications) so that people can be asked to pay for HTML5 apps the way they do for Apple or Android apps. Some manufacturers (notably Apple) will be strongly motivated to create developer tools that make native apps superior to HTML5-based apps, but the advantages of cross-platform portability and pricing, not to mention anxieties about vendor lock-in, privacy, etc., will likely make HTML5-based apps a strong, if not dominant, part of the app market. The real question is whether consumers will perceive those HTML5-based apps as part of the Web. Even today, many apps are essentially just packaged-up versions of websites that don’t work in the absence of Internet connectivity, which are nonetheless perceived by the user as independent pieces of software that have nothing to do with the Web. What is worrying is a landscape in which so many people interact with the Web through these tiny little pinholes created by individual apps. If users’ experience of the Web is largely through the lens of their apps, will they still perceive themselves as users of the Web? Will they feel like they have a stake in Web standards, access, interoperability, and net neutrality? Given how hard it is to engage today’s users in these issues, it’s hard to see how people who have grown up or lived behind the app wall will really feel connected to the Web as a whole.” —Alexandra Samuel, director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University of Art + Design; based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“Apps vs. Web could go either way. In my opinion, the apps are usually for the rich side of the digital divide and Web is for the poor side. In the current economical development, the number of users that can afford the apps might become less and less because the rich people is gaining significant larger amount of treasure than the poor. If free app resources become widely available to take into account the need of the poor side, the Internet development might go to the app side.” —M.C. Liang, National University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan

“This is such a semantic difference as to almost be a non-question (sorry Chris Anderson). Actually, look no further than Wired’s special issue declaring the ‘Web is Dead.’ Michael Wolf and Chris Anderson took opposite sides, Anderson contending that the Web is dead, and Wolf countering it isn’t, by basically arguing the same thing. If you access the Internet on your washing machine and the washing machine uses the Web infrastructure to monitor your energy use, does it matter that you didn’t specifically type in an address in a browser bar? An address was accessed either way.” —John Capone, freelance writer and journalist; former editor of MediaPost Communications publications; contributor to The Daily, BlackBook, New York, The Fix and among others; based in Napa, California

“It sounds like you’re really talking about client-side apps versus Web-based tools and sources accessed via general-purpose browsers. If so, this is a user interface issue. People love their apps, but a lot of their apps are Web-dependent.” —Reva Basch, a communications consultant who was active in early social media (The WELL) and has been adept in pioneering information retrieval systems; based in Portland, Oregon

“By selecting the World Wide Web, what I am selecting really is open platform-based solutions. Apps can be compelling programs on proprietary devices, but they are not cross platform. They will be more the solution of the niche rather that the scaling market solution across all platforms and available to all users. The World Wide Web model of an open platform available to all innovators and accessible to all consumers and creators—that has a low barrier to entry, low costs of development, and does not require permission from the core network (or firm) to add a new innovation—this will continue to be the compelling model. The World Wide Web may evolve significantly, but the core design of open and scalable will make it the compelling solution on a global scale.” —Robert Cannon, founder and director of Cybertelecom; senior counsel for Internet law in the Federal Communication Commission’s Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, Washington, DC

“Apps may become more important if app developers learn to harness the power of metadata to help users better organize their apps and to improve the user experience of apps. First, the OS should learn which apps are used most often, on which days, at which times, at which locations (assuming GPS). Then, the OS should visually arrange the apps accordingly. Second, apps should learn how an individual user uses the app, and customize the experience so that, for example, the user interface is arranged in a way that makes sense to that individual. Or, for example, the app can make recommendations to the user based on previous uses of the app, date, time, location, presence of other people nearby (thereby leveraging social network data.)” —Natascha Karlova, PhD candidate in information science at the University of Washington; HASTAC Scholar; based in Seattle, Washington

“Beating end-to-end open nature of the Internet is something that big tech companies have always wanted—remember, for example, AOL’s walled garden. Tech and content companies will want to use their devices and the medium over which they operate to be like TV, i.e. something packaged for users. Governments will like the regulatory control that this offers. Most of us will be quite happy with this.” —Z. Sroczynski, software engineer at ION Geophysical; based in Edinburgh, UK

“I firmly believe that the open Web is here to stay given its malleability and flexibility. Apps are sometimes handier, especially in a mobile context, so I wouldn’t consider them a fad that will go away. However I think many platforms and functionalities will continue to be presented with both Web and app interfaces, each leveraging the strengths of that approach. I was validated in my thinking about this in a discussion of news apps I moderated at the last SXSW Interactive—professional journalists tended to think that people would ultimately prefer browser as thin client for news access, vs. dedicated apps.” —Jon Lebkowsky, Internet pioneer and principal at Polycot Associates LLC; consultant and developer for mission-driven nonprofits and socially responsible companies; president of the Electronic Frontier Foundation-Austin; based in Austin, Texas

“This is an unfortunate trend that seems to be evolving. I hope we can actually maintain the open Web and the open Internet because that will ensure innovation and creativity will thrive. Increasing use of apps also has the effect of building ‘walled gardens’ and could potentially limit choice and competition. The mobile platform is where most of these ‘apps’ will grow and spread from as we can already see limited Internet services being delivered with mobile services, e.g. various social networks, which is quite unfortunate as users don’t really have the full use of the Internet in this manner.” —Rajnesh Singh, regional director, Asia, for the Internet Society; founder or co-founder of multiple companies; based in Singapore

“The dichotomy between apps and the Web seems somewhat specious. They will become indistinguishable as some segments of a capability will be ‘downloaded’ into some sort of personal device, but much of its functionality in use will be accomplished by leveraging the Web.” —Charles Perrottet, partner at the Futures Strategy Group; author, speaker, and a leader on the Millennium Project Planning Committee; based in Glastonbury, CT

“The truth will be somewhere in between. Driven by commerce and profit, apps will thrive. But it seems before long we will reach some kind of app saturation level where people will want more functionality integrated with their browsers and just more integration in general. I already feel app overload and I bet like most people, I regularly use only a handful of the apps I’ve downloaded to my iPhone. This bubble will burst and we’ll swing back to wanting more of our information (which will be nearly all in the cloud) accessible across platforms and apps.” —Richard Holeton, director, academic computing services, Stanford University Libraries; co-leader, EDUCAUSE Learning Space Design Constituent Group; author of Cyberspace: Identity, Community, and Knowledge in the Electronic Age; based in Stanford, California

“Movements to support open access and open global environments will grow and be supported by most users.” —Tapio Varis, professor emeritus at the University of Tampere; principal research associate with UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); based in Helsinki, Finland

“I teach and research political economy of the Internet, hoping that the Web’s commercial core will not dominate the Web fully. I think the interplay between closed and open systems always in operation online will continue and will survive the blows from new-media moguls. But then maybe that’s only wishful thinking. I tend to think that if you do the stuff Apple does, Web users tend to get angry at some point and punish you for this.” —Korinna Patelis, professor in the department of Internet and communications studies at Cyprus University of Technology; Greek Internet policy consultant; based in Limasol, Greece

“I am tempted to agree with the Web-as-apps argument, but I won’t be against the innovative capacity of the Web’s next billion users. As much as the major players would like to be a funnel for the creativity of all, the long tail—and regulation—will affirm the importance of an open Web.” —Fred Stutzman, postdoctoral fellow, Carnegie Mellon University; creator of the software Freedom, Anti-Social, and ClaimID; based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“Specialization is for insects. In technology development and market adoption, there continues to be a challenge between the Swiss Army Knife one-size-fits-all world, and the single-function BOB (‘Best of Breed’) approach. There’s no simple answer to this tradeoff. Consumers are fickle and readily shift between one of this spectrum and the other. The focus of technology marketers is to make their technology, services, and ecosystem as the solution, and sometimes this means approaching it with a narrow BOB offering and other times with a broader offering. The reality is that it’s not likely to be a simple world, with all consumers choosing the same approach for all products. Instead, consumers will continue to hope for solutions which encompass the entire spectrum of functionality, and while that’s been the mythical silver bullet of design, it simply doesn’t exist.” —Dan Ness, principal research analyst at MetaFacts, producers of the Technology User Profile, now in its 29th year; based in Encinitas, California

“Convenience in the form of apps will probably win out in the end. The danger of that is that information can be ‘censored’ as it passes through these apps—showing users only what someone else thinks they need to see.” —Diane Kendall, editor at Children’s Software Press; primary columnist for Power to Learn, part of Cablevision; based in Houston Texas

“Both scenarios will be nearly equally true. There is no doubt that apps will continue to gain prominence, but the competition between the technology companies (cries of ‘open source’ notwithstanding) will fragment the market and diminish the utility of apps.” —Marcia Richards Suelzer, senior writer and analyst at Wolters Kluwer, an international information provider; based in Riverwoods, Illinois

“A comparison could be made here to the physical environment where apps become a major commercial hub, but the open Web remains the public square. So apps grow in importance but not entirely at the expense of the open Web.” —Peter Mitchell, chief creative officer at Salter-Mitchell, a company that builds behavior-change programs, relying heavily on inventing digital products; based in Alexandria, Virginia

“I guess I do not see much of a difference between the experience of using an app or using the Web.” —Elizabeth Swift, integrated library systems administrator at the Jefferson County Library Cooperative; based in Birmingham, Alabama

“This is how the Millennial generation is remaking our world. While apps will continue to grow and become a major force, the Web itself will never ‘lose.’ Its infinite convening ability to put everything in one Web will never be appifiable. Apps will serve as the primary tools to curate our ever-growing and expanding Web and to organize our online lives. We’ll have more apps as we get more organized, but the Web will always be our overarching home.” —David D. Burstein, founder of Generation18, a youth-run voter-engagement organization; author of FastFuture: How the Millennial Generation is Remaking Our World; commentator on Millennials, social innovation, and politics; a senior at New York University

“Apps and Web-services will blend with device functionality and become invisible to the consumer.” —Paul McFate, an online communications specialist based in Provo, Utah

“Most people want benefits of the Internet, but don’t care about the Web. The Web is complicated, confusing, and risky. Apps deliver the benefit without the risks of the open Web. When you’re spending most of your time on Face-book, Twitter, Amazon, and a handful of services, would you even miss the Web if it went away? The Web will continue to thrive, but with a smaller overall audience.” —Barry Parr, owner and analyst for MediaSavvy; editor and publisher at; based in Montara, California

“Ultimately, people dictate what it is that they want and how they wish to interact with technology. Apps will surely be around but will be waning utilities. That something else that we are not currently aware of will be on the horizon.” —D. Moore, formerly worked at a government agency, currently unemployed and notes that the reason is “advances in technology—the machines have taken over”; based in Atlanta, Georgia

“Consumers today are in the early stages of app fatigue. The management cost of a multitude of open apps will mitigate the relatively feature-poor and buggy nature of the open Web. I believe, perhaps naively, that the breadth of minds represented by distributed Web users (half a billion in China and counting) will continue to fortify the benefit of the open Web. Apps sure aren’t going away, but will reach an uneasy detente with the vibrant open Web.” —Perry Hewitt, director of digital communications and communications services at Harvard University; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

"Most people use and enjoy their apps and do occasional Web searches. Specialists will go farther and deeper into the Web that we can imagine now by 2020.” —Janet D. Cohen, self-employed futurist, writer and Internet specialist; assignments include work for World Future Society publication, World Future Review; based in Minneapolis, Minnesota

“Apps are great—but most of them are just extensions of websites repurposed for a specific device. The Web will become more mobile friendly over time and mobile devices will become smarter as well.” —John Bobosh, digital media strategist, American Institutes of Research, a consulting business, based in Washington, DC

“The applications we have—e-mail, Skype, etc. —that are what is crucial to people, not the Internet itself. It is just a facilitator for the apps that people want and use. An analogy would be telephones. We don’t care much about the nature of the lines we use—what is most important is that we can make phone calls.” —Arthur Asa Berger, professor emeritus of communications, retired from San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California.

“The success of any app turns on perceived value, functionality, and content. All things being equal, preferring applications to surfing cuts off streams of potentially valuable information that might impact purchasing decisions and general exposure to valuable alternative sources.” —Pat McKenna, president at MojoWeb Productions LLC; teacher of Web design, principles of e-marketing, and social media for small businesses at Waukesha County Technical College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“The Web is the closest to a true free market that we have yet created. Hopefully, this will give the Web enough energy and creativity to contain attempts of individual players to dominate it.” —David Salisbury, senior science writer at Vanderbilt University; based in Nashville, Tennessee

“Apps are enclosed gardens, offering the same experience every time. But the World Wide Web encourages exploration and learning, communication and socializing. Apps will have their uses, but people’s needs will exceed those limits.” —Lisa E. Phillips, senior research analyst at eMarketer, Inc.; based in New York City

“Apps will continue to grow in use and importance, but the growing number of apps will create a kind of noise and clutter that will ultimately limit their appeal. So we will use apps for key interactions, services, and businesses that are key to our lives, like banking and social media. But we will continue to use the Web, which will continue to grow in sophistication over these years. Expect browser-based apps to grow in sophistication and ease of use during this time as well.” —Steven Swimmer, self-employed consultant; previously worked in digital leadership roles for a major broadcast TV network and a major museum; based in Los Angeles, California

“Da Vinci ideas will proliferate as more and more people get used to techno-fluency. So many creative ideas will emerge.” —Bonnie Bracey Sutton, technology advocate at the PowerofUS Foundation; an international education consultant who has done work for the George Lucas Education Foundation and as a volunteer; based in Washington, DC

“The open Web will become the basic fabric of online—much like it is now, and apps will continue to be the hardware that attaches to it. They will allow you to get something done (or to waste some time), but they will still serve as an adjunct to the Web.” —Tom Rule, an educator, technology consultant, and musician who holds down seven different jobs; based in Macon, Georgia

“Recent industry reports are that users who use smart phones exclusively, having no landlines, use the traditional Internet much less—only approximately 39% such users do. In developing countries, the trend is to use smart phones instead of traditional computers to access the Internet. On smart phones, this is likely to be perceived as using apps, not using the Web, even though many apps will continue to access the Internet and Web, although users may not think of it as such, rather seeing the app driven use as qualitatively different. The mass users appear likely to increasingly shift toward an app-orientation, while specialized users will always have a need for access to the open Internet and Web.” —James A. Danowski, professor of communication, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois; co-editor of “Handbook of Communication and Technology”; program planner for European Intelligence and Security Informatics 2011 and Open-Source Intelligence and Web Mining, 2011

“By 2020, the Web will continue to be the larger field of digital interaction. Apps and the Web will not be mutually exclusive, even though there may be little murmurs over time, where apps and devices take ground formerly owned by the Web. Personalization will continue to drive app adoption while the Web will continue to sniff, track, and fingerprint users to make both apps and the Web experience more relevant. This will continue to abrogate privacy and users will continue to decide, app by app, whether convenience and the cool factor outweigh privacy incursions.” —Barry Chudakov, principal at Metalife Consulting and a visiting research fellow in the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto; based in Winter Park, Florida

“Facebook is a harbinger of what we will see in 2020. It consistently abuses its users’ privacy, but this apparently has no influence on its growth. The lure of Facebook is formidable even without apps, but apps permit it to act as the middleman between users and independent developers. Valve’s Steam does something similar for the game industry. I think individual users are wary of the way software companies have been milking their wallets with tiered pricing and an endless stream of version upgrades. App stores are different because they allow users to buy software in byte-sized chunks at reasonable prices. The unintended side effect of the successful app business model is that the middlemen now loom uncomfortably large.” —Charlie Breindahl, part-time lecturer, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen Business School, Danish Centre for Design Research, Copenhagen, Denmark

“With additional advent of SAAS or software as a service and cloud computing, there is no need for the basic thing that we now call the World Wide Web. We have come a long way from DARPA. Essentially, we have now gone back to the ‘caveman’ pictographs on our smart phones. Just give me an app for anything I want, whether it is for shopping or my contact list or anything. I find the picture of the app that I have already or was pre-installed and touch it and the information or event or purchase it accomplished. I can reach the world. On a recent Saturday I spoke by phone to my brother in Texas, sister-in-law in Taiwan, my dear friend and cohort in Kumasi, Ghana, and my business contact in Shenzen, China. And that was half and half—mobile/computer.  Next, I will do all of that with just my 10.2-inch Droid touchpad that I just purchased for $173 and has subsequently dropped another $50.” —Robert F. Lutes, founder and executive director the non-profit Valley Housing And Economic Development Corporation; its newest project is developing a distance-learning project in Ghana; based in Fresno, California

“Invisibility of the tools is the future. Creation, maintenance, and development of the tools will be important to many workers who will do it largely in the background. New tools will be built on these in as yet unimaginable ways, but the demand for always on greater access to cloud-based, streaming everything will keep us using and demanding more and more from the open Web worldwide.”—Alan Bachers, director of the Neurofeedback Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Northampton, Massachusetts

“The flexibility of getting things done using both local and online synchronized apps will make the open Web less important for business tasks. Being able to work local without dependence on a connection will be much more productive. The Web for personal social communications will still be important.” —Nickolas T. Fasciano, founder and principal, InfoTech Solutions LLC; previously worked with IBM; based in Atlanta, Georgia

“I predict a draw here; there are too many complexities to say that one mode of interaction will be a clear winner. Certainly the lower cost of entry for apps and the platforms that run them will make them very popular, but a high-cost means is also attractive to companies and other entities that want to deal with wealthier and more elite populations. The information and logic will always be on back-end systems that are robustly designed, but the various instantiations of that information will be platform appropriate. When people are on the move they’ll use the appropriate platform, and when they want a richer, more high-definition experience they’ll choose the richer system.” —Stephen Masiclat, associate professor of communications, Syracuse University; based in Syracuse, New York

“We are already seeing the move to apps now. Customization is the future.” —Karen Hilyard, assistant professor of health communication at the University of Georgia College of Public Health; based in Athens, Georgia

“The infinite potential for knowledge-development, information finding, connectivity, and content-creation of the World Wide Web is too enormous to be replaced by individual apps—many of which do not work as well as the ads promise. While apps represent convenient shortcuts for a set number of functions, they lack the interactive potential of the Web.” —Simon Gottschalk, professor in the department of sociology at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas

“It isn’t a question of Web vs. app. It’s a question of security and control of one’s data and resources vs. convenience, ease of migration and, hopefully, lower cost.” —Heywood Sloane, principal at CogniPower, a consulting business; based in Wayne, Pennsylvania

“As I have transitioned more and more to using apps instead of websites for things like checking flights, shopping, and so forth my experience has been that using the app is often far superior to using a website. Commercial websites will need to redesign their websites to be more like their apps. On the other hand, I do most of my research and content creation using the Web, not my mobile device. With one important exception and that is e-books (they are a boon for my research on literature and texts). I tend to use the iPad for consumer and entertainment needs and the Web for ‘work.’” —Suzanne England, professor of social work, New York University, New York City

“My choice here is torn between both selections. The semantic Web blends the use of the World Wide Web and apps. The device used i.e. Kindles, smartphones, Droid devices, iPad, and televisions. We are in the age of device wars all or nothing! —Dwayne Thompson, content strategist

“I don’t think the role of apps is going to be as diminished as this scenario makes out, and I hope consumer choice and need becomes more of a driver than technological dogma.” —Vanessa Clark, marketing director for Mobiflock and Twokats Communications and freelance journalist; Cape Town, South Africa

“Option two is the winner here because it includes apps as part of the overall user experience. Option one is ‘exclusive’ where as option two is ‘inclusive’ of both apps and Web. I believe the second choice is exactly where we are headed. We will see desktop apps such as MS Office become Web-based and off the desktop but to say that the focus of development will be purely apps I think is not going to be the case. Apps are growing at a furious rate but so is the user experience across the Web in general. Both will continue to evolve and improve. 2020 will be very different from what we see today, the Web will be more integrated with apps but both will see huge development efforts.” —Greg Wilson, a marketing and public relations consultant who provides organizational change management and service/execution process development services; based in Los Angeles, California

“Neither. Instead, the two will develop in synchronization to meet the varying needs and desires of certain population characteristics. Apps will provide gateways to work, play needs, and desires. The World Wide Web will provide the virtual world in which work and play transactions are negotiated. In essence, the two will complement each other in an augmented reality, which allows for the growing intermingling of people’s personal and professional lives.” —Michael Castengera, senior lecturer at the Grady College of Journalism, 26 University of Georgia, and president at Media Strategies and Tactics, Inc.; based in Athens, Georgia

“Apps are the future because they categorize and aggregate knowledge in useful ways. Because it is possible to rate them and fix them in response to users’ needs and opinions, they allow for continuous improvement. The Web just gets bigger.” —Joan Lorden, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, University of North Carolina-Charlotte

“Cloud computing will enable people to be more selective about how much they share or ‘do’ online. The World Wide Web will be at least as important as it is today but the threats of virus, bandwidth, and the impact of global activities distorting outcomes of searches will demand a ‘walled garden’ approach for many day-to-day activities. The World Wide Web will be stronger than ever because it is in more people’s lives because it is in use more. Negatives might be the increased attack threat to the cloud and the selling of freehold and leasehold data, by which I mean the ownership of a cloud might sell to another but continue to manage the relationship. Ethical cloud management, open source or more transparency of where data is held and who is managing it might become more important. In the United Kingdom, we allow foreign investors to buy our utilities, will all nations be content to allow foreign investors to buy their cloud providers?” —Jane Vincent, visiting faculty fellow, University of Surrey Digital World Research Centre; expert on emotions in social practices of ICT users; also an expert in mobile communications industry since 1984; based in Surrey, UK

“Like most media and mediums of old, the prediction of the demise of the open Web is premature. Moreover, the idea of the open Web is perhaps more conceptual than actual since access and infrastructure is tightly controlled by fewer companies and most traffic flows through established old media sites and a handful of newer ones. The open Web will continue to exist with applications as described adding to the availability of many specific services and tools. A more likely scenario is that digital convergence of mediums will completely collapse all media into one massive medium or mediums of which applications will be apart.” —Ted M. Coopman, lecturer, department of communication studies, San Jose State University; member of the executive committee, Association of Internet Researchers; lives in Santa Cruz, California, and works in San Jose

“Sadly, I think the World Wide Web will lose to apps. I think that the average user will not have much of a choice in this. We are beholden to what’s available to us. For example, most US cellphone users would favor open technology. We’d rather be able to use any phone on any network and have all of its features fully functional. That is still not the case in the United States so, we’re forced to use what’s provided to us. Companies will continue to seek dominance in every way imaginable on the Web. I don’t see more openness, I see the World Wide Web being more controlled by service providers and content makers. We will not like this but I don’t think we’ll have much choice. Additionally, net neutrality must be protected at all costs, for the good of the people. In this one instance, we must ensure that this medium not ever be controlled by any one (or just a few) entities.” —Lucretia Walker-Skinner, quality improvement associate with Project Hospitality, a non-profit organization based in Staten Island, New York

“I think this is likely to be a cycle—app development makes sense for dominant platforms, but the Web, as something that works on a range of platforms, even new, specialty, niche ones, will remain the backstop.” —Valerie Bock, technical services lead at Q2Learning, LLC and VCB Consulting; based in Decatur, Illinois

“People enjoy the freedom of choice afforded by the Web. Apps are helpful, but they’re very specific, and they limit what you can do and how you can do it. While some people will appreciate those features, many others will turn to the Web for more freedom.” —Erica Johnson, assistant lecturer at the Universite Paris-Est Creteil; based in Creteil, France

“The strength of the future will be in the ubiquitous access to information. Users will be empowered to access information as they see fit, and all our information sources will be fluid and interchange information whether mobile Web, traditional Web, or apps. Taking it a step further, we might not even be as depending on the format or platform of information, our world may be filled with smart devices (or surfaces) that allow us to interact with information in a way that is more invisible to us.” —Rebecca Bernstein, digital strategist, University at Buffalo-The State University of New York.

“Applications are the heart on which to base our daily actions, our work and other tasks we do daily. The upside of having warehouse-controlled applications is the security of having a complaint about a failure, a more controlled environment development and support, competitive prices, and evolving applications to capture greater market. In the gray area, we can open applications that have lower development times, lack of effective support, and although they are modifiable, require expertise and time that the user does not have.” —Daniel Ferrari, system analyst; based in São Paulo, Brazil

“Apps are tools, they are a means to an end—they are not resources and will remain so in 2020. The open Web will remain and continue to grow where all people do their work.” —Stephen Schur, director of online communication at Ramapo College of New Jersey; co-founder of the New Jersey Higher Education Webmaster group; lives in Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania, and works in Mahwah, New Jersey

“Apps are most useful for highly-specialized, task-oriented experiences. The open Web is better for information-seeking and more holistic access to the Internet. That being said, I think our ideas of what an ‘app’ is will change as mobile-optimized sites and new technologies such as HTML 5 take experiences that were previously only possible in an app or via Flash and take them to the open Web.” —Dana Allen-Greil, chief of digital outreach and engagement, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

“As much as app design has exploded, I still use the Web for most of my online activities. Apps are too restrictive and proprietary and I shouldn’t need to download and pay for an app to conduct business online. Since many people use the Web for access to information and entertainment, the Web will still be a very important part of our lives.” —Lee Hurd, senior user-experience designer for the State of California; based in Sacramento, California

“Apps and the Web are intertwined and will remain so.” —Sabeen H. Ahmad, new media director, Brodie Collins Consulting; co-editor,, a consulting business based in Washington, DC

“Other than control of distribution, the advantages of apps don’t seem to outweigh their disadvantages especially if the appropriate hooks to location, spatial, and other ‘smart device’ sensors can be build into Web browsers and players.” —Cyprien Lomas, director at The Learning Centre for Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia; on the advisory council for the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative “Seven Things You Should Know”; based in Vancouver, Canada

“The true answer in the middle. Apps are great tools but limited to doing a few things well (if and only if designed well). You have to build and update multiple versions for all the devices out there, which is time consuming and expensive. Mobile Web can’t match a full ‘desktop’ website but can come closer than an app for a lot less money. They are much easier to deploy for multiple devices and easier to make sure they are working across multiple browsers. The future of 2020 is a blend of both based on the need and objectives of the user and content owners.” —John T. O’Farrell Jr., vice president for interactive marketing at Pershing LLC, a subsidiary of the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation; based in Jersey City, New Jersey

“I don’t believe that the Web, as distinct from the Internet, is a concept meaningful to most of its users. I don’t think most of those using a Java applet today know or care how much of their processing is being done locally and how much elsewhere. I do see the triumph of something like current tablets as consumer devices in the rich world and the continuing triumph of something like current smart phones in poorer places. I do not see any replacement for BGP4 in view for either of those worlds.” —Donald Neal, senior research programmer at the University of Waikato, based in Hamilton, New Zealand

“People will use whatever does the job for them. Whether this is via a browser or dedicated applications doesn’t matter. What does matter is that people will access network services at will and won’t care about the details of the technologies delivering them.” —Mark J. Franklin, director of computing services and software engineer, Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

“Apps are a passing phase. Most apps can be created cross-platform with HTML, and this will be done.” —Anders Fagerjord, professor of media and communication, the University of Oslo; based in Oslo, Norwa

“Apps solve a problem with the open Web that the Web is now beginning to solve for itself with Web apps, responsive design, and other innovations. By 2020, platform-specific apps will be rarely used in favor of open Web tools. In fact, this will probably (hopefully) be prevalent by 2015.” —Phillip Herndon, communications strategist for New Media Strategies, a consulting business based in Arlington, Virginia

“Apps and the open Web serve different purposes. Some Web services will be displaced, and some groups of users will rely most heavily on apps. But the flexibility of the network will continue to foster innovation.” —R. Kelly Garrett, assistant professor at The Ohio State University School of Communication; based in Columbus, Ohio

“Networking effects are increasingly important to online success, and are best supported by open standards. The Web, integrated into always-on connections, will be nearly omnipresent and frequently accessed through personal, voice commanded AI assistants.” —Sean Mead, director of solutions architecture, valuation, and analytics for Mead, Mead & Clark, Interbrand; member of the Internet and Electronic Commerce Committee, 1997-present; lecturer at Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum; based in Dayton, Ohio

“The future of the Internet and Web will not consist of apps. While the availability of hundreds of thousands of apps today is remarkable and exciting, most people do not want (nor have the time) to seek out, investigate, and test apps that meet their specific needs. Apps—like the distinct software applications of the PC past—are an unnatural way to complete tasks.  Instead, the future Web will be app-less. Devices will be smart enough to discover exactly what users want to do and seamlessly provide the necessary services from the cloud.” —Dave Rogers, managing editor of Yahoo Kids; based in Santa Monica, California

“Stand-alone apps—like the Wang word processor—will fade as they integrate with other devices. Already we see the wide use of smartphones for many facets of everyday information and communication use. This will continue. Also, who wants to carry multiple devices—it is bad enough as it is already with our separate phone, camera, laptop and associated batteries, wires, and rechargers. Increasingly people will also demand Wi-Fi access everywhere in order to get to their Web-based lives. Along with increased dependence on the Web, we’ll see more dependence on infrastructure to enable access—from Internet to recharging (as already prevalent in tourist areas for recharging cameras). —Caroline Haythornthwaite, director and professor at the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies of the University of British Columbia, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“Apps don’t scale. No one can manage 47 pages of separate apps. Apps win for services that are used all the time, and for functions where the user almost always uses the same service on every occasion. But having a separate app for every site or service is inefficient and annoying.” —Walter Dickie, executive vice president and managing partner, C+R Research; based in Chicago, Illinois

“The line between apps and the Web will not be a clear one in 2020. Desktop apps on your home computer will be connected to the Web. Web apps on your devices will be indistinguishable from what we think of as apps now.” —Tracy Rolling, product user experience evangelist for Nokia; based in Berlin, Germany

“Apps allow companies to take a specific site feature or service and build a tailored experience around it. This has the potential to change the way we get information. Google succeeded by allowing users to ask a specific question and then return relevant answers, apps will allow users to instantly get relevant answers without the need to search.” —Bryan Trogdon, entrepreneur, user-experience professional, Semantic Web evangelist; work encompasses information and interaction design for rich Internet applications, immersive Web sites, and other digital interfaces (e.g., mobile.); based in Omaha, Nebraska

“I’m going to have to hang on to the hope and promise of the open Web. There seems to be a constant movement towards great expansion and then contraction by these companies, and they come and go as tastes change, abuses are exposed, or the ‘next big thing’ comes along. A major issue is that the current incarnation of the Web does not seem equipped to handle the kinds of interactions and experiences that we are moving towards. The real question will be whether or not there even is a Web by 2020—whether it starts to become a ghost town as we move towards more app-based experiences.” —Liza Potts, assistant professor of digital humanities, Michigan State University; a leader of ACM’s SIGDOC; formerly worked as a user-interface program manager for Microsoft in the early 2000s building early Web apps for them; based in East Lansing, Michigan

“We already have app fatigue. As useful as they are, it’s difficult to find apps that can seamlessly switch between various tasks and we’re left shuffling a whole desktop full of programs with limited dexterity. The Web offers a more flexible (and seemingly objective) approach to accessing the breadth of the Internet we seek.” —Kevin Gotkin, PhD student at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

“Openness is a critical concept, which like ‘sustainability’ is over-used but largely misunderstood or applied. Tools and apps will continue to be driven by user needs, innovation, creativity, and consumerism. They will foster difficult, reactionary, and disruptive changes throughout the world, if not developed in concert with humane approaches to our complex needs for better resource distribution, health and well being, sustaining energy strategies, and economic valuation based on the little bit we know about our place in the world which goes beyond the dangerous machinations of legacy political economics. Where is the app that allows us to simply view the slowly rotating earth from space? Where are leaders calling for simulation systems that allow us to view and run scenarios for improved local decision-support? ‘Where is the knowledge we have lost in information’ (T.S. Eliot)?” —Richard Lowenberg, director, broadband planner 1st-Mile Institute; network activist since early 1970s; prepared State of New Mexico’s “Integrated Strategic Broadband Initiative”; integrates rural community planning with network initiatives globally; based in Santa Fe, New Mexico

“The power of the network effect—for developers of content and for users—will continue to draw the marketplace towards the open Web. Apps will always have gatekeepers and innovators will use open technologies to circumvent them. Note, for example, Amazon’s promotion of its Web app for reading and purchasing e-books to Apple users, in order to circumvent Apple’s control of the app store and 30% transaction fee.” —Peter Pinch, director of technology for WGBH, a public media company – including television, radio, and online programming; based in Boston, Massachusetts

“There is a strong and sustained impression that the open Web will not lose its strength and power for a long time to come even though apps popularity will begin growing. After all, open Web has played a certain role in the contemporary technology make up. The public shed-off of open Web will be difficult.” —G.C. Gupta, professor of cognition and psychology at the University of Delhi; based in Delhi, India

“This seems to be a technical question about software architecture the first scenario attempts to draw a distinction that I think is nonexistent. Apps are nothing without the World Wide Web or its successor.” —Jim Hokom, Web manager, Crossroads Urban Center, a non-profit organization; based in Salt Lake City, Utah

“The corporate push is to close off the Web and rely upon apps, as they are easier to control and turn into commodities for sale. I hope this does not happen, however, as it is another click toward stripping citizens of their ability to create and control their technological environment.” —Jesse Drew, associate professor of technocultural studies, at the University of California-Davis; based in Davis, California

“One: Applications will become more advanced and useful, but users will become more and more aware of the limitations of varying degrees of compartmentalization that is inevitable in proprietary devices and proprietary platforms. This would be one reason why users will find the open Web to be the singular global hub for connections across these ‘compartments.’  Two: Applications are already numerous. There will be a greater variety of applications as it becomes increasingly easier to build and integrate applications. With tens of millions of applications available to choose from, the theoretical arithmetic of the average number of users per application would be in thousands with the exception of a few applications that may have tens of millions of users. So, applications would continue to attract users, but each application would cancel the other application out as a contender for universal adoption. The open Web will remain the ‘atmosphere’ beneath which the applications will exist as pockets.” —Sivasubramanian Muthusamy, president of the Internet Society-India Chennai; founder and CEO of InternetStudio, a Web development and IT services company; based in Erode, Tamilnadu, India

“My own experience with iPads points to the use of apps growing, though they may be more generalized than these paragraphs indicate. Some apps will be more open to the Web, on the model of Flipboard or Zite, but many specialized apps (though they may still be multifunctional within their specialization) will occupy more than half of Internet use on mobile devices.” —Guy Wilson, a history PhD and educational technology specialist at the University of Missouri-Columbia

“Apps will have growing importance but the World Wide Web will not be overshadowed—it will remain the place where new things emerge, where ideas are shared, and where serendipity is possible.” —Heather Blair, director of curricular technology for Viewpoint School (an independent K-12 school); based in Calabasas, California

“Either Facebook or Google+ will be the interface for the Web with our friends as our guides to what to watch and read and corporations will then build off and try to sell that information. I want to believe the World Wide Web will be stronger than ever, but the way our behavior online has changed so much in the last three years, it looks like we want our friends and people we look to (Twitter) to now help us curate this vast amount of information. The Web will indeed still provide an open space for information to travel freely but we will be looking at it through the lens of our networks.” —Tiffany Shlain, director and producer of the film “Connected” and founder of The Webby Awards; Henry Crown Fellow at The Aspen Institute; based in San Francisco, California

“The problem with apps is trying to remember which ones you have, where and when you need them, and which ones do what precisely. I use apps heavily, but I find myself relying on the Web to figure out which app of the many I have is the one I wanted. I could see a dependence on apps for the day-to-day routine matters that a person does often. However, for the niche tools and information needs, it is very helpful to have a diffuse, less structured, and searchable resource. I don’t know that people will be aware of this, especially folks who depend primarily on the routine daily tools, however, any researcher or person confronted with novel problems will appreciate the alternative.” —P.F. Anderson, emerging technologies librarian, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Michigan

“Users will perceive that apps have become more important than the Web because apps will control the user experience. Consumers will prefer the better user experience of apps because the apps can take advantage of the capabilities of the smart phone or tablet. However, your choices create a false choice between apps and the World Wide Web.  Open platforms, such as Android, provide fertile ground for apps to connect with and enhance the experience of using the World Wide Web.” —Nancy Callahan, senior director, mobility, for a SAAS enterprise solutions provider; 25 years experience in business management, product development, risk management of information services; certified information privacy professional; based in New York City

“The open Web will continue to serve as a backdrop and fodder for apps, and apps will be used to access it.” —Jessica Clark, media strategist, for the Association of Independents in Radio; senior fellow, Center for Social Media, American University; media policy fellow, New America Foundation; based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“This will become an artificial distinction—it is an artifact of a short-term technology platform evolution.” —Duane Degler, principal consultant, Design for Context; designer of large-scale search facilities and interactive applications for clients such as the National Archives, the Social Security Administration, and Verisign; based in Washington, DC

“Though I chose the first one, there are several shades of grey. The Web will not be completely removed from our lives by 2020. However, there may be something to replace both the Web and apps. As our lives become more tech-driven, we’ll want to customize our tools and how we use it. Though I may use certain apps to do everything from book hotel reservations to determining if my flight is cancelled, I do know that I still want a more intuitive experience.” —Lilyn H. Hester, media relations, PR, and social media for Capstrat Inc., a strategic communications firm in Raleigh, North Carolina; based in Cedar Grove, North Carolina

“This is a close tie. I wobble between the two options. Having just made the PC to Apple switch and being a long-time Amazon and Google user, I do like the model very much. On the other hand, I also use on a daily basis dozens of cloud-based services, from Evernote to Twitter to Diigo, so also see their utility.  I suspect the outcome will have more to do with government policies that either keep the Internet open or commercialize it. If I had to choose, I would support the open-access Internet any day—and have taken action on numerous occasions in the last several years to let my elected officials know I want net neutrality.” —Gina Maranto, co-director for ecosystem science and policy and coordinator, graduate program in environmental science and policy at the University of Miami; based in Miami Beach and Coral Gables, Florida

“Apps will continue to be fed (and archive) content from the open Web and technical/researchers will continue to use the open Web for in-depth research. But for day-to-day planning and activities, apps will form the primary toolset.” —Laura Lee Dooley, online engagement architect and strategist for the World Resources Institute, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC

“HTML5 and other design enhancements will bring the Web back to life, but the revived Web-user experience must compete with the elegant closed-app systems to stay relevant to users. Like most binary questions in this field, a mix of both is likely: The Web will be used for certain utilities, while apps a different set of utilities, related most likely to transactional nature of the task. Related to the first questions—how younger generations use technology—the big platform names of 2011 will concede influence to newer platforms written and led by today’s teenagers who think, operate, and experience joy differently than today’s. Legacy aspects of the Web and apps that are gratuitous for adults today will seem clunky and problematic for this generation, and they will either build new content delivery systems instead of iterating on top of the old ones.” —Edmund Carey, vice president for sales/channel partnerships at Undertone, an advertising network; adjunct instructor of new media at Fordham University Graduate School; based in New York City

“We are rapidly entering an era where the ease of using apps, rather than navigating to or through websites will create a need for the ‘appification’ of every function.” —J. Clarke Price, president and CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs; based in Dublin, Ohio

“The article from Wired magazine, The Web is Dead, shows apps and videos increasing and use of the Web decreasing. Learning apps that quickly empower and educate, delivering new useful capabilities, and building techno-social capacity will evolve quickly.  New forms of group collaboration that will integrate app, Web, and social media features—the age of widespread, meaningful collaboration to produce near instant visual results—is right around the corner.  Mobile devices and mobile learning with emphasis on peer-generated ‘instructional entrepreneurship’ video-capture tutorials will replace much of expensive institutional learning. —Frank Odasz, president Lone Eagle Consulting, a company specializing in Internet training for rural, remote, and indigenous learners; speaker on rural 21st century workforce readiness, rural e-commerce and telework strategies, and online learning for all; based near Dillon, Montana

“My sense is that both the Internet and apps models will thrive in a symbiotic way. And to try to predict the shape of technology, be it hard or software, ten years hence, is probably impossible. There are simply too many generations of tech development that will occur between now and then, and each one will result in tech opportunities that were not evident in the previous generation.” —David A.H. Brown, executive director, Brown Governance Inc., a consulting business based in Toronto, Canada

“More and more developers who are making apps are focusing on light ‘shells’ that are pulling open HTML5 feeds, especially in areas of frequent updates of data that is difficult to structure tightly. For example: news. Other areas—games, weather—that really can utilize app advantages will continue to be more app-focused. —Tim Olson, vice president for digital media and education at KQED, a public media company—including television, radio, and online programming—based in San Francisco, California

“Though all signs point to the growing importance of apps in people’s lives, and I don’t believe they are going away any time soon, the interconnectedness and common language of the Web is a remarkably powerful thing that offers too much value to fade away. What happens when someone wants to research a topic they’ve encountered in the New York Times app? The Web has taught us the value of seeking information from a variety of sources and perspectives, and people will only get smarter about how to do so.” —Matt Gallivan, research lead at one of the largest consulting companies in the US; formerly in charge of research and audience insight at National Public Radio; based in New York

“Apps are wonderful, but they don’t replace the Web.” —Cynthia Meyers, associate professor at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Bronx, New York

“Apps will not replace the Web because people value the information more than they value the platform that delivers the information. Apps like those on Apple’s iOS platform provide preferable interfaces for some tasks—showing movie times near my smartphone’s current location, for example. They are great for the use-case that the designer envisions. But a single app doesn’t often allow for divergent uses. People need the open Web to find new uses, new clashes, and new mash-ups. I’m not sure how it might work, but apps might become more dominant if apps could integrate with other apps. If your movie-time-finding map could do a graceful hand-off to an IMDB app, to a Wikipedia app, to a Twitter app, to a calendar app, the overall scenario might change. If you could find apps that fit your own use-case scenarios and move between them seamlessly, you might need the open Web much less. Apple’s Siri might be the kind of system that provides this integration. If Siri and Siri competitors take off, I might choose apps over the open Web. Even then, apps so far are better at accessing data than creating data. Siri could lead to broader app-only Internet use, but I can’t imagine people leaving behind the open Web.” —Nathan Swartzendruber, technology education at SWON Libraries Consortium; based in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

“Convenience is a big one here. Coupled with the increasing reliance on known sources and network recommendations, the infinite exploring of the Internet may lose favor to the quick and easy app market. I’ve seen my own ‘browsing’ decrease a lot, and I visit far fewer websites than I used to. Having my favorite sources delivered to easily readable mobile apps is great. Even having discovered the apps on the Chrome browser has been great. There is no more hunting for bookmarks.” —Sarah Vital, reference and instruction librarian at Saint Mary’s College of California; based in the San Francisco Bay area, California

“The past decade has proven that open solutions and the pervasive embrace and adoption of the World Wide Web demonstrate that open-solution platforms stimulate faster and more innovative solutions. Proprietary, closed-solution models will be challenging to justify and support and will be focused on niche applications by 2020.” —Jack Spain, principal at Spain Business Advisors; based in Cary, North Carolina

“This question sets up a false dichotomy, but in general the Web will come to resemble a segment within the ‘app economy’ more than the reverse. The current incarnation of the Web will continue to be important for certain kinds of human-computer interaction, particularly those that require sustained attention and a richer media experience. However, the rise of cloud computing infrastructure means that apps will have comparable processing power and capability as traditional Web applications, and in many cases will be superior to our conception of today’s Web. Amazon’s new Cloud-accelerated browser is an indication of where the Web is going, where more Web-delivered solutions will combine the best of local processing power and Cloud-based distributed computing.” —Jeffrey Alexander, senior science and technology policy analyst, Center for Science, Technology & Economic Development, SRI International; member, governing council, DC chapter of the Internet Society; based in Arlington, Virginia

“Apps seem to me to be a workaround for the fact that the Web can’t currently access all the power of individual devices. It’s already a pain scrolling through all the apps on my tablet trying to find the one I want. Much simpler—if the functionality is there—to use browser bookmarks and only have to open one piece of software. Hey, by 2020, HTML5 should actually be an approved standard. Right?” —Regina McCombs, faculty lead for multimedia and mobile news coverage at The Poynter Institute, a teaching, consulting non-profit organization based in Saint Petersburg, Florida

“Think about the qualities of the best websites. These have always been about delivering a subset of well-defined, quality content in a useable manner, focused around the needs of the user. Good websites like this still exist, as they always have, and will continue to do so. What the app did was to codify this, and deliver it on a phone. It was perhaps Steve Jobs’ greatest legacy—not the app itself, but the level of quality that he insisted upon. Apps—or more accurately ‘applications’—have been around for decades of course, but Jobs insistence on curation for the iPhone meant that every app was pretty much sure to meet the same criteria that had always been true for a great website— well defined, quality, useable, and meeting a need. In the early days of the app, you simply couldn’t create the kind of awful websites that (let’s face it) the bulk of the World Wide Web is made up of. This has given the app an almost holy level of regard. But all that is changing again. Jobs (RIP) is gone, Android phones are now more popular than the iPhone, and apps there are much more like the common garden website, with very little control on what can or cannot be called an app. Couple this with the changes that are being made possible using HTML5, and in time this will mean that apps will be viewed very much like websites are, and the distinction between what an app is, what a Web app is, and what a website is, will become so blurred as to be pretty much indistinguishable to the average user.” —Rich Osborne, senior IT innovator at the University of Exeter; based in Exeter, UK

“This is the old ‘walled garden’ argument. In the end, people seem to always want more, whether it is really enriching to their lives or not.” —Kelly Richmond, self-described “occasional dilettante, sometime educator”; worked in marketing at America Online from 1992-1998 marketing at America Online; based in Washington, DC

“It will lie somewhere in between. People enjoy apps because they tend to be simple, straightforward, and that’s how people use the Web as well. Google Chrome has been a prominent choice among the surfers because of its minimalist design and intuitive interface. It is a perfect example of a straightforward application that utilizes the Web to enhance its capabilities. The world is adopting the ‘cloud’ and so that aspect of the World Wide Web will stay alive for a long time.” —David Kimball, student at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington

“I think of apps as the fish swimming in the sea of the Internet—small narrow creatures that do one thing well. I do not see the Web disappearing, though I hope that its culture of openness continues to attract innovators. I see apps and Web as interdependent, and I expect that to continue.” —Sasha “Birdie” Newborn, editor, publisher based in Santa Barbara, California

“The Web will be used more than ever in 2020. Lots of people switch to using sites like Amazon and Apple because of its accessibility and wide range of options. I don’t see this need ever going away, even with all the new technology 2020 will hold.” —Katelyn Williams, student, Northwest University, based in Kirkland, Washington

“The Web is the vital underpinning empowering apps. One is not useful without the other. Apps mirror the human need for discrete labels and a mental model that helps us focus on one activity at a time. Without the Web underneath the apps, they’d quickly grow stale and unusable. The construct of a ‘webpage’ is probably on the way out, but the construct of a ‘website’ as the virtual representation of a business, organization, or individual, will continue to be needed. As UI technology develops, more virtual-reality experiences will allow us to ‘visit’ such a virtual establishment with an avatar, say. We’ll transcend the ‘page’ model as these interfaces become more seamless and easy to use.” —Susan Price, CEO and chief Web strategist at Firecat Studio LLC; TEDxSanAntonio organizer; Austin FreeNet cofounder; Knowbility board member; based in San Antonio, Texas

“It’s still hard to say which direction we will go in. On the one hand, we are a couple of generations away from either type of application/app being dominant simply because the hardware is not yet dependable enough and secure enough to mark which way things will go. It also depends on government encouragement and regulation—it would be very easy for the Internet as an open mechanism to become the mainstay of lower class persons who lack access to the equipment and apps used by the elite. On the other hand, the focus of most app development is frankly entertainment-based, with few creative and generative capabilities. This has more to do with hardware capabilities and could easily change over the next five years. However, in terms of adoption, the open Web still has a lot of power behind it. The jury’s out. My personal leaning is to the open Web as the more resilient of the two but I could easily be wrong.” —J. Meryl Krieger, lecturer, department of sociology, Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis; based in Bloomington, Indiana

“Telephones did not replace books. ‘Apps’ are extremely specialized information utilities, providing weather forecasts and restaurant locations, dynamically updated and short-form in content. This is rather different from the Amazon Kindle type of content, which is static and long form. The Web (e.g., our Website) offers long-form content that can be dynamically updated. What I need is a way to get people to pay to access our Website on a Kindle.” —John Pike, director of, former director of cyber-strategy and other projects for the Federation of American Scientists; based in Alexandria, Virginia

“The PC is dead, long live the PC!” —John Laprise, visiting assistant professor at the Doha, Qatar, campus of Northwestern University

“I have little confidence that I, or anyone, can predict how this goes by 2020. I know that people have security concerns regarding money transactions over the Web. However, I, and others, have used Amazon and other sites, or apps, with little fear of loss. My students like their apps and click without thinking. This displays a high level of trust among those who have always had the Internet. It will probably continue to be a generational choice. Young people are being connected, emotionally and technically, to their iPhone, or other device and develop great trust with it and the apps they use. Having grown up with computers (I first worked on them in the 1960s), I will always remain wary since I know that anything can be hacked, just a matter of time and effort.” —Ed Lyell, professor at Adams State College, consultant for using telecommunications to improve school effectiveness through the creation of 21st-century learning communities; host of a regional public radio show on the economy; based in Alamosa, Colorado

“Custom apps (ones that are individually developed by more and more consumers for their own specific use) will become more and more dominant due to huge gains in consumers’ abilities to learn to code themselves.” —Stan Stark, consultant at Heuroes Consulting; based in Houston, Texas

“Web resources will be increasingly immigrating to apps. The evidence seems overwhelming that that is the future. It seems as logical as the introduction of the mouse was thirty years ago.” —Don Hausrath, retired from the US Information Agency; previously worked abroad installing information centers, providing information about the US for policy makers in foreign governments, media, and related groups; based in Tucson, Arizona

“Though there have been setbacks in HTML5 apps supplanting native apps on devices, this has already started to change. Once HTML5 browsers and fully capable Web runtimes are in place on the common Kindle through iPhone, the Web app will begin replacing native apps. There will still be plenty of native apps in use to offer the utmost in user experience and performance, but the vast majority of applications look and work as much as their predecessors do while being served from the cloud rather than the local window manager. The problem of intermittent failure of Web apps due to loss of connectivity is addressed by putting the ‘server’ on the user’s device and allowing it to act in a cached mode when connectivity is lost. While this cannot work for tasks requiring live network access, such as financial transactions, this limitation also exists for the native apps and thus presents no new problems.” —Rob Scott, chief technology officer and intelligence liaison at Nokia; based in Sunnyvale, California

“The first scenario is already happening and so the date of 2020 is really too far out into the future, but it’s definitely the most likely to happen between the two. Web surfing is not even a term Millennials would understand. Google search will grow more and more cumbersome to use compared to specific apps. Opportunities for serendipitous discovery along with personalized information will make social media platforms the dominant first stop for accessing the Internet, rather than search tools or other customized Web environments, such as Yahoo! (which will be out of business by 2020).” —Morley Winograd, co-author of “Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America”; senior fellow, USC’s Annenberg Center for Communication Leadership and Policy; based in Arcadia, California

“The open Internet will serve the same purpose as public gathering spaces, bulletin boards, and coffee shops or bars. Apps are useful tools, especially for those who cannot write code themselves, but they are limited in function and thus not as creative. I don’t think apps will be frowned upon but I also don’t see them becoming dominant. I think they will remain, much as they are today, created by imaginative people for a specific purpose to share with others. The invention of blenders, apple slicers, cheese slicers, and other slice-based kitchen utensils did not replace the simple knife, but they did give some people more culinary ideas and potentially reduce cooking times. I see apps as specialized versions of a general tool—useful but limited and the limitations, will ensure the continued use of the ‘open Web.’” —Dana Levin, student specializing in emergency medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine; based in Philadelphia and New York

“I may be engaged in wishful thinking in my belief that the Web as a diverse world-wide community will remain dominant. Commercial powerhouses are very focused on making the Internet a big shopping mall. No doubt Web apps will continue to grow, but some of them are actually consistent with the Web as we have known it, so it’s not an absolute either/or scenario. The outcome of the Net neutrality issue is also important. Remember when AOL tried to make its portal the virtual world? People refused to be herded or contained, and I expect (and hope) that will continue to be the case.” —Tom Franke, chief information officer for the University System of New Hampshire; based in Durham, New Hampshire

“This is not an either or, it’s both. The value of the apps, even if they are just accessing a Website (RSS feed) for content, is speed and giving just the information needed. Weather apps are a perfect example—you can go to a weather website and enter your geographic location and then load the various pages for different kinds of weather information for that location, but it’s so much faster to just launch an app that is set to your current location, wherever that is, and give you the weather info you seek. On the other hand, if I want to browse weather information for other regions (like when there is a hurricane in the Caribbean) then I would rather go to a website to see what kinds of maps and other information is available rather try and find an ‘app for that’ and then configure it for the region I want. Both are needed, an app and a full website. And, I choose the best path depending on my need at that time. Apps are really great for narrowly defined information, often information we frequently want to get quickly. But, less specific information or less defined information is not well suited for an app and is a better fit for browsing the Web.   Also, at some point, there will be too many apps. The number of apps is just literally going to grow, and there will eventually be an app for practically every website or business, or task. Then, we will be saturated and won’t want to load one more app. Instead, we will want to just go to a website and avoid downloading one more app. Many apps are like a portal to a website. Eventually, your smart device will have too many portals and it will be less efficient to keep loading it up with more and more content-specific apps. The clutter of apps will be itself a problem at some point (if we are not already there now).” —Paul Dupree, chief information officer and assistant vice president of IT services at Asbury University, based in Wilmore, Kentucky

“The truth will be somewhere in the middle. The forces determining whether a particular purpose is served by an app or an open website are primarily based on financial benefits and end user convenience. I can best explain my view through the example of the Amazon publishing format typically accessed on its Kindle book reader. At the time the Kindle was first released, there were no tablet devices, and not much competition in the eReader market. Having a proprietary book format was no big deal. But after Apple released the iPad with its own iBooks application, Amazon had to make a compromise, and create a Kindle reader for the iPad. My iPad currently has the Kindle reader and the Nook reader, in addition to Apple’s iBook. I read books in all of those formats, but I am already getting a little frustrated with having to maintain three different libraries. I’m going to complain that I want more open standards for e-books, and I expect I’m not alone. At this point, though, I don’t see enough resistance to really lever Amazon and Barnes and Noble to standardize their book formats.  My guess is that for certain vendors, like Apple and Amazon, their current user base is large enough, and their offerings are rich enough, that they will be able to maintain there own separate formats for some time. For vendors that are smaller, that have more ‘niche’ types of offerings, the open Web may offer a better chance for financial success.  The only other force I can imagine effecting the choice between an ‘app’ and the open Web would be the ability to work offline. For example, Google Docs are quite handy for collaborating, but sometimes you need to work in a waiting room or other location where one cannot access the wireless network. In these cases, having an ‘app’ with locally housed files would be very important. The catch is that wireless data services offered by cell phone companies are becoming so pervasive, that the ‘offline’ state may not be needed much. Once again, the financial aspects of using, or not using, the data services will be the strongest influence in that choice. I have no idea how those aspects will sort out.” —Nikki Reynolds, director of instructional technology services, Hamilton College; based in Clinton, New York

“People prefer apps—that’s the direction in which we’re heading.” —Melissa Ashner, student at The College of William and Mary

>> Click here to return to the 2012 Future of the Internet survey homepage
>> Click here to read anonymous respondents' responses to this question
>> Click here to download a PDF of the survey report



A project of the Elon University School of Communications
All rights reserved. Contact us at