Eli5: Why do websites want you to download their app?

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What difference does it make to them? Why are apps pushed so aggressively when they have to maintain the desktop site anyway?

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The company can collect more information from your device if you use their app than if you use their mobile website.

They can send you notifications with the app to keep your attention and keep you coming back more frequently.

A well designed app can offer a better user experience than a mobile website which may make it more enjoyable for you to use that company.

Tracking is much easier and more invasive with an app. You can’t block ads in an app. You are less likely to click off and go to a different site when you’re in an app vs. a browser.

Users are getting more savvy with internet privacy. Many run ad-blockers and/or VPNs to block adverts and obfuscate their location, as well as limit the tracking cookies that the website can use – there are some browsers that are building some of that in.

An App can track you much more intimately, serve you ads with no real way to block them, and do lots more snooping on your phone by requesting things like media storage access, while also making it harder to escape that ecosystem just by switching tab. One user-experience benefit is that the app can download things like new stories in the background to provide a more seamless experience with intermittent connectivity.

In addition to the other reasons listed, 2/3 of people engage with the internet on a mobile device, and an app allows for much better control over the experience, which keeps users hooked. Almost any comparison of a site’s mobile web vs mobile app will make clear how much better the app experience is.

Everyone is mentioning ads and data collection, but I think it’s simpler than that: when you install an app it shows up on your phone’s home screen where you see it all the time. That might encourage you to use it more often.

Second, sometimes an app can do more than a website can do.