The Web Giants Are Raising The Performance Bar On Everyone

The Web Giants Are Raising The Performance Bar On Everyone

Will you make the leap?

Throughout 2015, tech-industry leaders have made a series of bold moves under the noble guise of preserving Web performance—the speed and reliability of Web pages—for end users. There’s no doubt these companies ardently support creating the fastest, most reliable, and convenient digital experiences possible.

But there are other motives at play, leading to fallout for several industries. So if you do any business on the Web, or via an app or mobile site, your revenues may be at risk.

Mobilegeddon Is Here

In April 2015, Google announced that a new mobile-search algorithm, dubbed “Mobilegeddon,” would begin penalizing sites not optimally designed for mobile use, resulting in lower site rankings in both mobile and desktop search results.

In November, Google expanded this algorithm to penalize mobile sites featuring app-install interstitials that hide a significant amount of site content upon rendering. You’ve likely seen these come-ons that suggest you install an app rather than show you a mobile Web page.

It’s not clear if we should consider these interstitials ads in the traditional sense. House ads, maybe. Ideally, better use of deep linking into apps would obviate the need for them. But whatever you call them, they can be aggravating for mobile users, and Google is justified in taking a stand against them.

But by discouraging—or at the very least, increasing the risk factor for companies considering—interstitials, Google is actually erecting a barrier to what has been a common means of promoting apps. Lower app adoption would cause the perceived value of in-app advertising to decrease, and likely sway companies away from in-app advertising and back to the more traditional realm of online advertising—which is where Google makes most of its money.

The App Switch

Apple, on the other hand, has a vested interest in encouraging companies to switch from advertising on websites and mobile sites, to in-app advertising, a potential goldmine for Apple. In news that rocked the online advertising industry—particularly news sites, which depend heavily on advertising-driven revenues—Apple announced that iOS 9 would support ad-blocking capabilities on mobile websites in its Safari browser.

Once again, Apple positioned this news in support of end-user experience. But it’s hard to ignore the obvious—that ad blocking is aimed at traditional websites and mobile sites, not in-app ads; that ad blocking is not possible on the just-announced Apple News (increasing the perception of the service as a “port in the storm” for performance-challenged news publishers); and that ad blocking hurts ad serving (Google’s bread and butter).

What’s really going on here? No one is saying that Google and Apple aren’t genuinely interested in creating the best possible online experiences. But the recent announcements are skirmishes in a bigger war for Internet dominance, with these behemoths and others trying to stifle each others’ business models, sway advertising trends in their own favor, and gain a bigger piece of the online advertising pie. The end-user experience argument is their Trojan Horse, and other companies, large or small, are unwilling pawns in their master plans.

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