Rubicon Consulting released today at the AJAXworld Conference in Santa Clara, California indicates that web apps have spread beyond the so-called "early adopter" set and have made their way into the consciousness of a majority of web users. "Most industry observers talk about 'Web 2.0' applications as something that's coming in the future, but our research showed that some web apps are already spreading rapidly through the PC user base," said Michael Mace, a principal at Rubicon Consulting of the report.A new study by
According to the study, which surveyed 2,000 randomly selected US adults who have a personal computer (Linux, Windows, and Mac), 80% said they had heard of web applications. More than half have actually tried a web application and 37% use at least one on a regular basis. That's more than the 16% usually thought of as early adopters, said Rubicon. The survey defined web applications as "websites that replace a task the user previously performed using a software application installed on the PC."
Things aren't so rosy for all segments of the web app ecosystem, though. Email and games enjoy the highest adoption rates, but well-covered (by blogs and the press) segments such as web office apps are still struggling to attract users. Just 2% of those survey had ever used a online database app, for example. Among those market spaces that have attracted usage, however, they are garnering a lot of attention from users. On average, those who used at least 1 web application regularly used web apps 40% of their total application usage time -- meaning that desktop apps are starting to be replaced completely by web apps.
Usage was even more pronounced among college students, where just 11% of respondents said they had never herd of web apps. Rubicon concluded that on college campuses in the US, using web applications is a mainstream activity.
So why do people not use web apps? The number one response was "I have no need for them," according to the study, indicating that many people have just not found any web applications that make them want to switch from a desktop app they already use. Surprisingly (at least to Rubicon), the second most frequent reason given for not using web apps was security concerns. "Based on this research, security fears appear to be a significant barrier to future growth of web applications," wrote Rubicon in the study, saying that the fears were not necessarily unfounded.
Rubicon offered some key take aways from their research:
- To web app companies: Users are incredibly practical; the products must be as well.
- To traditional software companies: No traditional software application is immune to web-based competition, so adopt web app practices now.
- Everyone: Address security now.
I think their second point is the most important. Web applications are not a thing of the future, and the early adopter types who read this blog and write about them on blogs like this one are no longer operating in their own little world -- web apps are quickly reaching the mainstream consciousness. Traditional software makers will need to address that or risk losing market share to smaller, more agile upstart companies that create applications for the web.
The barrier for entry into the web app market is very low and the barrier for adoption among users is equally low, making web applications a real and significant threat to traditional software developers who dismiss them out of hand.
Web 2.0 image from Aristocrat.