Last year, Alphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google bought a small company called Agawi. At the time, the company specialized in streaming native mobile apps over the Web, so users could preview them before deciding to download them. It's now clear why Google decided to buy the small company: It's going to stream mobile apps to Android users searching the Web for content.
Google has been indexing apps for a couple of years now, and 40% of searches on Android devices now surface app content. For many, that app content is tedious to access, but Google is streamlining the experience by opening the app remotely on its servers and seamlessly streaming it to users. This makes Google's search results more useful and decreases the need to download apps where users are more likely to see ads served by someone else, such as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).
App-indexing is now open to everyone
Google has been pushing developers to index their apps, so the search engine can show more relevant content to mobile users. Previously, Google required the same content in the app to be available on the Web, so it could link to the Web page if users didn't install the app. Now, with the ability to stream app content over the Web, Google is opening up app-indexing to all developers.
Facebook recently indexed its app content for Google's search engine, enabling searchers to open the app directly. Facebook may see more users access its app instead of the mobile site, thanks to Google's new streaming technology.
But Facebook may have more competition. Other social networks and news sources will be able to compete on the same level as Facebook's content now that users no longer have to install an app to view what's inside. That's great for Google, since it reduces the dominance of one of its biggest rivals in display advertising.
Taking back advertising share
One of the biggest problems Google has had with the mobile Web is that it's accessed through apps. Google can't rely on cookies to track users across apps as it can with the Web. As a result, its advertising efforts aren't as effective.
Streaming apps will enable Google to gather more data on its users and, in turn, help partners advertise in a more targeted manner. Previously, when Google sent a user to another app from its search results, all it knew is that a user opened the app. Now, Google can see exactly what users are doing inside those apps when it streams the content to them. That data could be incredibly useful for future advertising opportunities.
What's more, if Google provides the advertising network for an app it's streaming, it will be able to serve more relevant ads. That's because Google has all the information on the user who found the app through Google search.
This could help Google compete with Facebook for share of the mobile display ad market. Facebook's Audience Network continues to grow, and its ad platforms such as Atlas have some of the best tech for tracking audiences on mobile. Facebook leverages its near ubiquity on mobile to provide more targeted ads in other apps, whereas Google hasn't quite figured it out yet.
Google might find other opportunities with Agawi's technology as well. Streaming apps could help maximize revenue from the Google Play app store. Google could use links to stream apps as advertisements instead of app-install ads. There are lots of opportunities for Google to grow its mobile revenue, and search is just the first one.