The number of mobile-friendly websites is increasing faster than expected, according to the latest data from Taptu, a touch-focused mobile search company. Not only is the touch web growing, it’s growing at a faster rate than Apple’s iTunes App Store (s aapl), which currently has an annualized revenue rate of nearly a billion dollars.
Taptu forecast in December of last year that more than 500,000 touch-friendly websites would exist by the end of 2010. According to its latest count, there are 440,100 such sites — an annualized growth rate of 232 percent. In contrast, Apple’s iTunes App Store holds roughly 185,000 software titles, which translates into a 144 percent annual growth rate. Taptu now expects the number of touch-friendly websites to hit 1.1 million by year’s end.
Driving this trend is an increased availability of non-Apple touchscreen devices, a lack of a centralized application store for developers to contend with and the notion of the web as lowest common denominator. Indeed, the touchscreen is becoming a staple of the smartphone — a segment that’s expected to overtake feature phones before 2012 — which means companies and services that want to reach out to customers on the web need a finger-friendly interface. For while trackpads, optical sensors and trackballs on a phone can help, they typically offer a poor browsing experience by bouncing the user from link to link on mobile sites.
It’s too early to see if this growth of touch-friendly websites will upset the Apple cart, as it were, but there’s potential for developers to refocus efforts on the web and away from platform-specific applications. Could we be returning to where it all started for the original iPhone — web-based applications on the handset?
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