The application paradigm is unsustainable

How many apps are you willing to install on your phone? 20? 50? 100? How about 1,000?

If this trend of building apps for every single thing continues, it won’t take long before installing 1,000 apps on a phone becomes the norm. Nowadays, it seems like every city, festival, mall, school, movie theater, pharmacy, grocery, taxi company, airline, public transit, restaurant, bank, insurance company, internet provider, sports team, newspaper, radio station, TV channel, celebrity, car, and appliance have their own apps. If nothing changes, it’s only going to get worse.

Forget about how expensive designing, building and maintaining these apps must be. Just think about how this situation affects you, as a user. Not only do you need to discover that an app exists, but you then need to install it, create an account, verify your account, setup a profile, add contacts or interests, change the default settings, learn a completely new UI, to eventually do what should have taken no more than 10 seconds in the first place.

Most people avoid this problem by ignoring these apps. They’ll dig for coins to pay for parking, order a pizza by phone, miss out on deals, carry physical reward cards, carry physical keys, duplicate their online schedules and appointments on their local calendar, start their oven when they get home instead of remotely as they approach, check-in their flight at the counter, arrive early to buy movie tickets, etc. They would rather do things the old way than have to deal with yet another single-purpose app.

As much as I dislike having to deal with all these apps, I can’t help but feel like ignoring them would be a missed opportunity. When you consider these apps individually, they do appear to offer significant advantages over the alternative. They let you do things that simply weren’t possible before, and ignoring that would be a step backward.

Clearly, the application paradigm has reached its limits and is no longer sustainable. We need an alternative. As I mentioned in my previous post:

Apps are what happens when you apply software to a specific set of sentences. We’ve learned that it works. Now, it’s time to apply software to an entire language. We don’t need more apps. We need a better language.

How many apps will you need to install before you realize it’s too much?

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