The web has lost a great battle, one that it was never given a chance to fight for. Apps got the upper hand for good. They’re easy to find: available through your favorite walled garden of a store. They’re are easy to use: they stay right there in your device, making use of all your device’s sensors; have access to all your files and contacts; they make sharing easy. Although HTML5 APIs are a huge leap forward, they are still in their infancy, whereas apps were the first to bear the benefits of sensors, notifications and offline functionality. All without breaking many UX conventions and the people’s safe zone.
No usage study would argue that people use their mobile phone’s browser more than they actually use the in-app browsers offered by default by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Search and co.
What was by design the core aspect of the World Wide Web, the “URL”, also known as web address, was irrelevant for in-app browsers. The user only needs to peek outside for a minute, then return to the silo. There’s really no need for multiple user journeys. And thus the address bar has vanished. I am frequently reminded of this from my parents, as they discovered mobile phones on their own, had little experience with computers beforehand. Even close friends, so called digital natives that can barely remember their life without internet, forget how to use the address bar. Why do if you can Google the website’s name?
The user can type a URL into the bar to navigate to a chosen website.
…says the collective author in Wikipedia: Address Bar. It still has a bit of truth in it. You can type a URL into it, if you can find where to type it. Even if you do have one, you are most likely using it for Google-ing.
All supporters of the open web should be alarmed. Reclaim your autonomy and make your property visible. Make the URL of your pages visible. Please don’t harm any beautiful hyperlinks in the proccess.