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浏览器在移动互联网应该扮演什么角色?这个问题业内争论已久,无论是从不同内核解析排版能力的纯技术层面,还是到是否有资格成为一个强势资源分发渠道的商业层面。

目前并没有任何一种观点能够成为绝对的主导者。这与支撑新一代移动Web产业发展的底层技术——HTML5标准的不确定性密切相关。

但本文目的不在于讨论标准和技术,而是以外围生态系统的“容忍度”、国内主流移动应用形态的变迁作为切入点,详细分析浏览器在移动互联大产业中将会遭遇的“隐性危机”。

上游危机

浏览器必须要走平台化的路线,这一点在PC平台上就已经得到业内共识。

平台化的本质在于,将浏览器从单纯的“页面浏览工具”转变为服务载体,汇聚整合所有外部资源,然后以个性化的方式向用户输出价值。

大方向没有错,但移动浏览器想要照搬PC的思路,却要承担大得多的风险——来自上游操作系统提供商的钳制。

PC平台上的第一次浏览器大战,微软用免费预装的方式彻底击垮Netscape后,就不思进取了,IE浏览器的发展长期处于停滞状态。直到Google提供免费的Web应用反向渗透桌面之前,他们根本就没想过去认真研究浏览器,然后就有了“微软失去的十年”这种说法。

移动平台就完全不同了。目前三大主流操作系统采用的都是以应用商店为中心的分发模式,尤其是iOS和Windows Phone,任何系统级的修改都是它们不能容忍的——你最多只能调用,而不可能替代某一组件。第三方浏览器不约而同地选择平台化,对操作系统的潜在威胁在于:替换应用商店这一分发渠道,从而圈住资源跃升为“亚操作系统”,将底层操作系统管道化。

这也许是一种极端的说法,但苹果和微软对第三方浏览器的反制其实已经很明显了:浏览网络的程序必须使用它们定制的框架和渲染引擎——换一种说法就是封杀一系列私有API和内核,将主要基于HTML5的Web App体验控制在一定水准之下,形成对现有App生态系统的保护。

更倒霉的是采用私有Presto内核的Opera,面向中国市场的欧朋浏览器始终被App Store以各种理由拒之门外,公司甚至不得不“违心”向苹果解释“其实我们做的不是浏览器”。

Android对于第三方浏览器的态度最为缓和。但随着移动版Chrome的正式推出,以及Google为解决碎片化对于系统定制权限的收紧,没理由认为宽松的政策会一直延续下去。

惟一不受制于人的方法就是脱离这些平台,将浏览器从“亚操作系统”彻底衍生为真正的操作系统。就像Firefox那样,直接推出基于Gecko核心的Firefox OS。

很显然,无论从技术还是市场角度看,这个选择都太过沉重。

跨维度攻击

即使移动浏览器能够挣脱操作系统的压制,实现平台化,这一产品形态也将遭遇新的挑战——来自其他移动应用平台的竞争。

目前移动应用平台化主要有两种路径,第一种是类似Evernote的“品牌平台化”,在单一产品获得优质口碑之后,开放API推出各种垂直定位的子产品,利用云端技术整合数据形成平台;第二种则是国内应用的普遍做法,对某个用户量规模化的产品开放API和叠加各种基础功能,追求流量和资源的最大化,例如微信、微博以及地图。

这里主要讨论第二种形式对于移动浏览器(目前它们的平台化也走这种形式)的影响。其实质在于:随着平台化进程的不断深入,应用的工具属性将逐渐消解,各种产品从不同的维度互相靠近,最后殊途同归地转变为一个个综合服务平台。

微博和微信是最先面临这个问题的一对应用。原本双方的工具属性和用户关系链大致平行,不存在竞争。但随着微信开放公众平台增强媒体属性,就立刻引发了与微博竞合的论战;而微信选择二维码和财付通试水O2O业务后,新浪微博也立刻启动类似的战略,据传已经与银联达成合作,以解决O2O中最难啃的线下支付环节。

近期火热的地图应用,百度、高德“不约而同”地选择转型生活服务平台,加入O2O大战。高德更是与新浪微博合作进军LBS社交,开始建立对一个基础平台来说至关重要的账号体系。

社交、LBS、通讯、媒体、O2O……你会发现,所有移动基础平台发展到最终形态,都将具备几乎同样的功能,形成跨维度竞争。

但对浏览器来说,这个过程要艰难得多。从产品功能的使用路径来看,用户在微信、微博中点击或者接受一个商业信息,通过社交关系链传播,最后转移到线下完成支付;地图平台中,用户则是从基于LBS的检索和推送开始,通过社交关系链传播,最后同样转移到线下。

如果将以上步骤转移到浏览器平台上,会发现使用过程极其生硬——你在浏览资讯过程中,会产生社交和线下购物的需求吗?——就算用户真的有了这种想法,也必须退出正在浏览的页面,在另一个页面中找到相关应用,再通过点击完成需求。这个使用路径远不如身出社交、地图工具的基础平台那样平滑自然。

现在的移动浏览器形态,实质上仍然是PC思路的转移:以链接为核心解析互联网结构。但移动互联与PC互联网最大的区别点就是连接线下,而这一点浏览器和Web应用架构还无法提供。这也导致浏览器平台在与其他移动基础平台的竞争中,不得不处于被动状态。

如果只是做单纯的媒体平台,在其他基础平台都拥有精准信息推送系统的情况下,浏览器平台同样也没有任何明显优势。

这就是移动浏览器必须要面对的“囚徒困境”:单一工具化变现能力有限,可能会错失HTML5的机遇,而平台化又将遭遇操作系统和其他移动平台合力绞杀的风险。

多方博弈中,什么样的产品形态能保证利益最大化?这是浏览器厂商要思考的问题。


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