Google taps a mechanism that worked well for mobile phones

Where would we be without a web browser? Much of the World Wide Web would have been inaccessible, social networking would have been nothing more than a buzzword, and search engines would probably have been individual software applications.

Despite being so integral to the Internet experience, the basic architecture of the web browser has not changed much since the advent of Mosaic, which was the first widely used web browser. But things are set to change.

The Chrome Web Store, launched a few months ago, offers some pointers. It features more than 3,760 apps and has already recorded more than 16 million app installs. The phenomenally successful app environment is now slowly making its way to the personal computer.

The implications are significant, and could define the way the Internet evolves. Google has realised that web users are looking for a richer experience, and its strategy is to monetise web development by adopting the marketplace mechanism which has worked so well for mobile phones.

While there are around 100 million mobile Internet users, there are over two billion people who use a web browser. If the web is treated as a platform, the user size of Android or iOS would look tiny in comparison. Google is betting on the vast advertising potential, deeply integrated in-browser experience that will allow syncing of applications with mobile devices and a faster adoption of cloud-based platforms such as the Chrome OS.

A Google spokesperson said that as the web becomes ever more powerful, users will increasingly adopt web-based applications — and the better the web experience, the more people will use the web.

Mozilla has responded by launching its own open web ecosystem [https://apps.mozillalabs.com/appdir/]. A major difference is that unlike the Chrome Web Store, Mozilla's apps can be used in any web browser with the help of a plug-in.

The subtext to this whole new vision of software and application development is the remarkable democratisation of the space. Until recently, digital distribution was platform-centric, and the developer got only 30-50 per cent of the money from each transaction.

Apple unleashed the app revolution by reversing the revenue share, keeping 30 per cent and giving the developer 70 per cent. The $1.99 games and productivity apps started showing up, thanks to developers getting a bigger cut. Facebook Credits follows a similar approach.

The Chrome Web Store has taken this to the next level, giving developers 95 per cent of the revenue. By offering a higher revenue share, Google hopes to get iPhone, iPad and game developers to move over to Chrome Web Store (and Android phones as well). The plan is to make money through advertising and Ad Sense. Thus, the intense competition in the mobile phone space is changing the web. And it is ‘win-win' for both developers and users.