At Etsy, 20% of visits are mobile. This trend isn’t only happening at Etsy – it’s increasingly common across our web companies to find 20 to 40% of traffic coming from mobile, even for those who haven’t designed mobile specific experiences. Hardware sales are driving this trend. Mary Meeker shared data on tablet penetration in the US exploding by 10x in 1 year to reach 30%. US smart phone penetration has surpassed 50% this year – more Americans have smart phones than not.

But the mobile landscape has changed: mobile is blossoming as a distribution and engagement channel for a second time. 24 months ago, mobile app distribution boomed. No matter your question, the answer rang true: there’s an app for that. And mobile app downloads continue to thrive: there are 50M apps downloaded each day from the iTunes store.

But mobile is undergoing a second wave of distribution innovation: mobile web distribution. Facebook’s mobile app is driving huge amounts of traffic to OpenGraph enabled mobile web properties. This form of distribution is entirely parallel to iOS and Android because users arrive on HTML5 pages, not dedicated apps.

For startups, any new distribution channel is a boon. New channels mean better access to users. The rules for attraction and engagement are yet to be written. It’s a user acquisition gold rush. The biggest challenge is supporting multiple platforms and debating the best solution: dedicated development teams or cross-platform languages like Trigger.io, PhoneGap or homegrown systems. But that’s a solvable problem.

There’s no question that dedicated applications will continue to thrive, but if the data I’m seeing is any indication, HTML5 mobile web is about to explode.

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