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Will 2030 be the last year of websites on the Internet? Are we in the last decade of websites? What will replace them?

How it all started, where might we go?

As the years go by, technology evolves and things change a lot. We usually don’t notice the changes as they happen, because new features and trends tend to roll out little by little. But when we look back, we notice how much things changed.

With websites that’s no different. They started as simple HTML pages with not the most pleasant colours and occasionally featuring a (very compressed) image or two. Then, slowly, they started getting some newer features: structured designs (thanks to CSS and newer versions of HTML), dynamic pages (thanks to JavaScript), server-side databases and social networks (thanks to server-side programming languages like PHP, as well as database languages like SQL), embedded videos, among many others.

While those old-style websites still exist, it’s clear that modern websites have been dominating the internet. However, are these changing too? Are we getting into the next version of the internet and haven’t noticed it yet?

Possibly. Let’s talk about it.

Meet the web app

If you are into technology, you probably heard the term “web app” being thrown around. The term is very descriptive, but it can also cause some confusion. When we read “app”, we think of phone apps, so what would a “web app” mean? A phone app that needs internet connection to work? Like the Facebook or Twitter app?

On the contrary, a web app is actually a website that looks and feels like a phone app. While programming languages like Java, Objective-C and Swift don’t work on the web, and such can’t be used to make web apps, you can get a similar look and feel using current front-end web technologies, like JavaScript, CSS, Ajax and HTML5. And there are also some tools around which allow you to develop an app once and run it everywhere, even as a web app, like the Flutter framework, developed by Google, and the Electron framework, developed by GitHub.

How widespread are web apps?

Right now? Still not much, surprisingly. While nowadays most websites have a sleek design that makes them look like an app (like Facebook and Twitter), they don’t feel like an app as much, because when you want to go to another section of the website, it has to load a different web page.

Good examples of modern web apps are web versions of famous phone apps, like Discord web, Spotify web and Telegram web. All of these look very much like their mobile counterparts and feel very similar too. They also tend to have a desktop version which looks and feels exactly the same. Other commonly used web apps are some Google products, like Google Documents, Google Sheets, Google Slides, among others.

The future

While web apps aren’t very widespread today, that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the near future. And it’s easy to see why: frameworks like Flutter and Electron don’t just make web apps. They are all-in-one frameworks: they give you the ability to create your app just once, and then deploy it everywhere, be it for the web, desktop (Windows, Linux and Mac), Android, iOS, you name it.

And, even better: these frameworks also make developing an app much easier than before, being shipped with easy ways to create dynamic and good-looking user interfaces, which can be adapted to the local operating system’s look and feel, and that also seamlessly and automatically adapt themselves to whichever resolution they are in, and natively support both touchscreens and keyboard and mouse. They are productivity marvels of our time, and shouldn’t be underestimated.

With the rate that technology changes and evolves, we may see major websites and social networks becoming web apps in the near future, but modern websites will still exist for a while. In the future, other technologies could take the place of web apps as we know them too. Maybe it could be decentralised apps?