Google made a secret acquisition to get you to stop using apps because it makes most of its money from search

Google google searchPHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty ImagesGoogle wants to claw users back to search.

Google made a secret acquisition of a company called Agawi, a startup that allows people to access apps on their phones without actually downloading them first, according to a report from The Information’s Amir Efrati.

What’s interesting about this acquisition isn’t its size, but what it says about Google’s intentions. It wants to shift people away from apps and onto the mobile web.

The growth of apps doesn’t necessarily work in Google’s favour. Yes, it owns the Android operating system, and the Google Play app store, but at its heart Google is a search company.

Google doesn’t split out its search revenues, but eMarketer predicts it generated $US38.4 billion in search ad revenues in 2014. Google’s total revenue for 2014 was $US66 billion. As one ad tech CEO told us on Thursday, all its self-driving cars and robot armies are essentially smokescreens for the fact that Google is a search company.

Hardly any apps integrate search. So Google wants to make sure you’re using the mobile web, because that’s where it can monetise your browsing through ads. Google is working with some developers to allow their apps to be indexed by Google’s search crawlers, but that will take time.

The Information reports that Agawi was spun out of a Silicon Valley startup incubator called YouWeb. One of the technologies it first brought to market allowed software developers to stream their games, letting potential users try out games before they downloaded them. The name “Agawi” stands for “any game, anywhere instantly,” The Information says.

Agawi also had ambitions to make it possible to stream PC games from a web server to a mobile device. It claimed to make this possible by having technology that reduced the time it took for commands from the user to happen in the app — even though the game itself wasn’t yet stored on the device.

Google’s ambition with Agawi could be to make the web more app-like. As The Information points out, it has already been started doing this with its Google Now personal assistant app, which presents relevant “cards” — such as football results, airline bookings, and reviews — which users can read without having to perform or search or open up a separate app.

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