With much ado about the "decline of the mobile web", we've glossed over the most important difference betweens websites and apps: What an awful experience it is to expose URLs to end users
I first learned about the web in 6th grade gym class (I'll leave it to your imagination what one peak-pubescent boy was browsing on the web that made it so vital to recommend to another). One of the things I remember most about this exchange was my classmate spelling out "h","t","t","p","colon", etc. and how computer-geeky that seemed.
While many of those problems have been obviated in years since, there are many reasons why URLs continue to be a terrible, unforgiving way of presenting things to end users:
Following Flurry's report that mobile users are spending less and less time "browsing the web", Chris Dixon and Fred Wilson lamented that the lack of openness in the native app ecosystem is slowing innovation. John Gruber was right to point out that the web is a lot more than just firing up your browser. We tap on web links from within apps all the time, and that should surely count as web usage.
Yet there's another aspect of the web vs. native app debate which has been overlooked: Apps don't have standard URLs that would enable clicking from one app to content in another app. That's a real drawback of apps, as it prevents users from clicking to and discovering something new in an instant.
Re: web versus apps, I think the most important thing missing from apps is a consistent, universal way to point to in-app content via a URL.— Nick Lockwood (@nicklockwood) April 8, 2014
It would be great to have open, robust URL schemes on iOS & Android. Ideally, if users don't have the app they clicked to, they'd end up on that app's page in the App Store, with the deep link preserved. Or to the app's mobile website.
But let's count our blessings that such a scheme would be completely hidden from users. I think we can all agree that the best experience, both on the web and on mobile, would be to make URLs a thing of the past.
Just take a look at what Google might look like with the title of websites instead of URLs. I'm not sure how we'll get from here to there, but I think we'll make it. Wouldn't surprise me if it happens on mobile first.