The Future of Web Apps (After the Olympic Phenomenon)

I hope this post title doesn’t bring on a cease and desist… I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of web apps lately along with the “return to simplicity” movement we’ve seen of sorts. At the core of the issue is that we’re all human and with it come all the quirks and flaws that make us human. The explosion of information technology has changed our lives mostly for the better, I think we’re now more or less confused and bewildered by what the web has to offer.

When the web first emerged for the masses in the late 1990s, it did so with all the promises that came with such a revolutionary collection of technology. It would provide the crucial leverage for ordinary people to reach a bigger audience. Fast forward to contemporary times and just imagine if the web emerged in the form that it is in now. Great sources of information on any topic, free high-quality pictures and videos, free international phone calls, cheap hosting for your website or application, various publishing platforms, rich social networks and so on. The stuff we had in the 1990s was practically nothing more than an enhanced collection of MS Word documents online compared to what we have now, yet in a sense things “feel” less exciting than 10 years ago and even noticeably more than say 5.

Now that the novelty of the internet has worn off a lot of things about the internet have more or less faded into the background or the realm infrastructure. Just as none of us get excited about being able to talk to someone on the other side of the world via traditional land lines (unless we’re 5 years old and using a phone for the first time), we’re now at a point where we take the internet for granted. It’s such a seamless part of our lives that it’s hard to give it a place of its own. The only time we’d realize how integral the internet to our lives is would only be driven home by a total, global outage.

The Olympic Phenomenon

I call this the gift and the curse of open source (yes, “curse” is pushing it). If you’re just starting out in development of any kind, chances are you can find a variety of open source languages, frameworks, tools, or software to make it possible. Just look at the top 10 social networks out there (by whatever metrics). I’d be surprised if you even know the number 10 social network (I certainly don’t). However, in terms of features you probably wont notice much of a difference.

The reason why I call this the “Olympic Phenomenon” is because when you have everyone in the world competing against each other the difference between 1st place (a Gold Medal) and 10th place is very little indeed. In a lot of timed competitions the difference is measured in fractions of seconds. It takes a lot more talent and dedication to separate yourself from the fray while mediocre solutions are a dime a dozen and more or less free.

When you look at the Olympics, it’s likely you’ll only remember a handful of people and most of them would be medalists unless you root for a home country that doesn’t do so good. Yet, when you think about it, all the competitors are the top of the top athletes in their home country.

You see this on the internet a lot where someone will take a popular web app only available in English and copy it in another language to launch a successful domestic IT venture. Building your app in English means competing with the best in the world as well.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Information

Let’s face it, we’re all inundated with more stuff than we can handle. We tend to have a handful of favorite destinations and another roster of destinations that get visited less and less frequently. For an increasingly jaded audience applications have to be:

Categories: web