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Web Apps Aren’t the Future

Hey Siri, what’s next?

Mika Yeap
Mika Yeap
Mar 19 · 3 min read
More popular touchpoints, such as wearables, might be a more attractive touchpoint. Source: Apple.

Medium is dominated by white people from North America. As an Asian guy from Malaysia, it’s super obvious. Because North America and Malaysia are worlds apart. The politics. The culture. The way we say things, even in the same language. And last but not least, the tech.

I was born in the year 2000. So it’s not like I grew up in the Dark Ages, before the internet was a thing. And yet I didn’t start going online actively until 2012. That’s strange. Because plenty of things happened on the internet after the dot com bubble. Web 2.0. Facebook. Google. Instagram. Twitter. YouTube. I missed out on a lot. Because Malaysia wasn’t super tight with the internet, back then.

For one, going online simply didn’t work. The internet infrastructure in this country? It’s sketchy even today. Most cities still don’t have even cell coverage. So imagine what it was like back then. Given that, I actually started out thinking websites were really dumb. Seven out of ten times, they wouldn’t load before I got bored of waiting. Not exactly something I’d want to use every day.

So even today, when my internet chugs along at a respectable 300 megabits per second, I’m still skeptical of websites. Objectively, I know better. But there’s still a tiny part of me that snickers every time I type something in Chrome’s address bar. Which led me to an interesting hypothesis as I was thinking about the future of app development: Web apps ain’t it.

Think about it: We hardly use websites, anymore. Most of our time is spent on platforms. A very small array of platforms. Even if you’re a frontend web developer and your job is literally to build websites, you probably spend more time on Twitter, Instagram, and Netflix. Why is this relevant? Because I’m constantly thinking about where to build next. Where is there a surplus of demand and a scarcity of development?

My best answer: Existing platforms with massive amounts of attention. Products a lot of people already use. It’s not just social media. I’m talking about Shopify. Alexa. WatchOS. I believe the future of development is in these platforms. The players might change, but the touchpoints probably won’t. For example, voice is far more convenient than touch. If you could use your phone literally without lifting a finger, why wouldn’t you? Plus, the Apple Watch is one of the most popular wearable devices on the planet. Lots of people are already interacting with it every single day. Why wouldn’t you build for it?

At the end of the day, it’s tempting to latch onto specific mediums as developers. We’ve spent so much time learning these skills. To jump ship every five years to keep up with the attention is preposterous. And you probably don’t need to, either. There are still plenty of jobs for PHP developers out there, even in 2021. But if you want to be on the bleeding edge, that’s a different story. In that case, the code must follow the attention.

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