Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


Do we actually want one super app?

Tris is talking about Microsoft's Istanbul, a "super app" that combines IM, Outlook email, contacts, etc. etc. But is it good to have everything in one application?

Now, on the other side of the coin we actually want one super app? I'm really of two minds on this. One one side I've always thought it would be great to have one app to open in the morning and everything is there. All my documents, IM, news, everything. On the other hand, what if that app cacks out? What if you get a corrupted profile or setting? What's the backup plan? As much as I've tried I haven't been able to condense my apps to a great extent, not that I haven't tried. But by having several ways to skin a cat, as it were, I do have a certain amount of redundancy that would allow me to communicate (online) as long as I could get the Internet connection and a browser to work. View from the Isle: Michael Sampson: Underwhelmed on the Road to Istanbul

My alternate title for this post was "loosely coupled applications". More and more we are integrating web services (Flickr, into our "desktop" applications (or at least work flow). I bailed out of Outlook (or at least Entourage on the Mac) a long time ago. Corrupted data in proprietary formats didn't work for me.

Apple has gone in the opposite direction. They've put all the components in place, system level APIs and storage for contacts (Address Book) and calendars (iCal). Applications like iChat or Adium (and many other third-party applications) tie into the base, system level formats.

A great example of one application that is (in some ways) a "super app" but still ties back into all these separate pieces is OD4Contact. I tried it a while ago, and I need to try the newest version again.

But back to loosely-coupled. Along with loosely-coupled comes lowest common denominator, or perhaps easiest-way-to-collaborate is a better phrase. We're still using Basecamp. It doesn't tie emails to contacts and calendars, but (at least) it allows me to share these items individually with a team. And that's what's important. Being locked into the Mac ghetto or the Windows mothership are both not good places to be. So: open formats, APIs, and standards. Cross-platform. Web-friendly. Group centric but also customizable. Anything that breaks those rules -- forget it, I'm out of there.