Last week, Google announced an interesting project that it has undertaken—streaming apps via Google Search. What this means is that users don't need to install an app on their device to make use of its information and features. Of course, the project is still in experimental stage but the fact that Google is taking the effort to deeplink into the previously unexplored area of application data is something to think about.
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The project is still pretty much in its initial stages and users need to have a Wi-Fi connection to avail of the service, but it does bring up questions about the future of the mobile internet ecosystem. Consider; if a person has the freedom to get their work done via the web without having to install the app; how does it affect the developer and advertiser ecosystem? In-app advertising is, after all, the fastest growing segment within mobile advertising.
To be fair, these are still early days, so blowing the trumpet of doom is premature but we spoke to mobile advertising experts whether this scenario could become a reality.
According to Dippak Khurana, Founder and CEO of Vserv, Google's app streaming project is a way to combat a growing trend; where users search on mobile apps for their daily needs. “Firstly, what comes across is that Google is starting to believe that downloading mobile apps is a pain point for consumers. Mobile apps are an integral part of the mobile ecosystem and the global smartphone revolution is pivoted on the concept of apps. Hence this hypothesis by Google is questionable.," he said. Further elucidating on his point, he said, "This trend (of searching on apps) is hurting Google, as lesser search queries on their search tab in turn means lesser data. I believe this is what has led Google to experiment with newer ways to aggregate meaningful data for the world’s consumption such as app streaming. Apart from this, Google is also looking at ways aside from mobile which include wearable devices to gather user data. Google is at a point where they need to entirely reinvent themselves which would mean starting the company from scratch."
Similar opinions were echoed by a few others. When asked what the impact on in-app advertising would be if this service becomes mainstream, a senior executive at one ad tech firm said that it was too early to talk about impacts and it would take some time to see how the roll-out occurs before one could comment on it.
Abhay Doshi, VP (Product Management and Marketing) at Flytxt was of the opinion that there would be little or no impact in the short term as adoption depends on having a high-end phone or unlimited data plan (right now the service is only available via Wi-fi). He opined that if it did find acceptance, it would only be beneficial for the publisher and ad networks in the long run. "Something like this will significantly increase the usage of apps and increase the ad impressions generated by apps. It will eliminate all the hindrance of installing and moving between apps," he added.
From a publisher standpoint, one way of looking at Google's latest move is that users will only install apps that they have found useful. In this case, developers can look at it as a free way of showcasing their products to the user; much as websites work these days when Google Search is omniscient. Perhaps, the most installed apps can then even charge premium rates from advertisers? It remains a possibility.
From Google's perspective, says Rohan Patil, MD at AppLift India, offering the possibility to stream app content from the browser is perfectly understandable. "It is in their interest to drive mobile content discovery to something much closer to a desktop experience," he said.
But does it pose a threat to developers? Patil does not think so. He explains, "First, browser streaming relies on the opt-in of the developer and it will take some time to be rolled out. Then, let’s not forget that Google’s interest lies in search and Google discovery, much more than in content monetization. Even with mass adoption, Google should not get in the way of publishers making revenue from their traffic and should allow them to display ads within the browser view, just like on regular mobile or online websites."