A funny thing happened on the way to the Apple Store … Apps were supposed to be the salvation for publishers when the iPad morphed from unicorn status to the real thing last April. Plenty of publishers — newspapers, magazines and books — have built apps. Apple’s newest rules on subscriptions are placating many more.

But there is already a bit of a backlash, and a new awareness that the world wide (open) web may compare favorably to the walled gardens available on the iPad and other tablets.

Why are publishers already starting to re-think the future of media again? For one thing, there is that kickback to Apple —30% off the top — for selling through the iTunes store. Then there are those rules that seem to favor the functionality of Apple apps, like in-app purchasing. And, most ironically, there is the “Aha!” moment that the iPad itself has provided by highlighting what the optimized, mobile web can really be like.

The Financial Times blazed the back-to-the-web movement, abandoning the iTunes store in lieu of an HTML5 site that is still behind their paywall. Apple primed the pump by forbidding in-app sales. Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble moved their stores from their iOS apps to the web.

And, what do you know? The public is better served: In a device-agnostic universe it’s better to buy on the web, which is everywhere, and consume as you like on whatever devices you have, can borrow, may become invented or are available. Even a clunky laptop.

The iPad and apps were supposed to be media’s best hope. But an entirely unintended consequence of Apple policies, and the reality of how content is best served up on flat, multi-touch screens, the smartphone/tablet revolution has paradoxically contributed mightily to the reinvigoration of web design.