There is no question that mobile is the fastest growing online space. As millions worldwide migrate to smartphones, the number of people who are downloading apps and browsing the web on their phone is growing at an incredibly rapid pace.

We use desktops, laptops, smartphone apps and browsers – any idea what different type of applications we access? Let’s take a look…

Desktop Application
I am using a Word processor on my laptop to write this blog. We use Media player or VLC player for playing audio / video on our desktop/laptop. These applications that run stand alone in a desktop or laptop computer are known as ‘Desktop Applications’ – any software that can be installed on a single computer (laptop or a desktop) and used to perform specific tasks.
Website / Web Site / Web-based Application
I access Flipkart on my laptop using a web browser (IE, Firefox, Chrome, etc.) – ‘Flipkart’ here is nothing but Web-based application which requires a Web browser to run – a set of related web pages, typically served from a single web domain, hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network, through an Internet address known as a uniform resource locator (URL) in this case.
Web Apps / Mobile Websites / Mobile Web Application
I access Flipkart on my smartphone using a web browser (e.g. Chrome) – the site rendered is different from how it was rendered on my laptop, a website adapted to tablet and smartphone formats (Flipkart lite). ‘Flipkart’ here is nothing but a Mobile Web application. User need not download & install the Web App on his phone. It can be accessed via Mobile Web browser. An internet connection is required in order to gain access. A Web app is typically built using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.
The obvious characteristic that distinguishes a mobile website from a standard website is the fact that it is designed for the smaller handheld display and touch-screen interface. If it’s not a mobile responsive site, the standard website looks clunky and is nearly unusable on mobile devices.
Mobile Apps
I visit my device-specific portal such as Apple’s App Store, Android Play Store, or Blackberry App World >> Search for Flipkart App >> Download & Install it on my Smartphone for a given operating system. ‘Flipkart’ here is a ‘Mobile App’ that is downloaded and installed on my mobile device, rather than being rendered within a browser.
The term “app” has become very popular, and in 2010 was listed as “Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society.
Native Apps
In simple terms, Native apps live on the device and are accessed through icons on the device home screen. Native apps can run without connectivity, however, to provide any sort of meaningful functionality, data exchange via an Internet connection is required. Native apps are installed through an application store (such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store).
Hybrid Apps
Finally, there are hybrid apps, which are a combination of both Web and Native, allowing Web technology to be leveraged within a Native app. Hybrid apps are part native apps, part web apps. Like native apps, they live in an app store and can take advantage of the many device features available. Like web apps, they rely on HTML being rendered in a browser, with the caveat that the browser is embedded within the app.
Both apps and mobile websites are accessed on a handheld devices such as smartphones (e.g. iPhone, Android and Blackberry) and tablets. Generally speaking, a mobile website should be considered your first step in developing a mobile web presence, whereas an app is useful for developing an application for a very specific purpose that cannot be effectively accomplished via a web browser.