|Although most of the posts on our blog deal very specifically with the goings-on at vFlyer, the industries we serve, or our customers, every once in a while I like to do a “big picture” piece on some aspect of technology. One of those areas that recently go my attention was the subject of “killer apps”. I recently got a call from blogger Steven Groves about Google’s OpenSocial announcement and got into a great conversation with him on that very subject.|
I also read Steve’s post on the Future of Real Estate on OpenSocial, as well as a post by Zillow’s Drew Meyers titled What Does OpenSocial Mean to Real Estate on the GeekEstate Blog. There has been similar chatter about the Facebook application platform and I myself did a post on how the iPhone can Revolutionize Real Estate.
It seems that that everytime anything that looks like the “next big thing” comes out we ask ourselves who will build the killer app for that next big thing and what does it mean to Real Estate, or finance, or fill in the blank?
The purpose of this post is shed some light and share my personal thinking on the subject of killer apps – what they are and what they are not. I think in general we put too much emphasis on killer apps and here is why:
- There is no “killer app” for the “next big thing”!
The next big thing is (or can become) the killer app – as long as the makers of the next big thing can get all of us entirely focused on building applications (killer or not) for the next big thing – the means become the end and thus we cause next big thing to become the closest thing to a killer app. LifeDev echoes the same sentiment!
- It’s about “killer technologies” not “killer apps”
In reality, killer apps tend to represent technologies or application classes, as opposed to specific applications made by specific companies. A couple of examples: Xerox – but how many of you use a Xerox brand copier? yeah, that’s what I thought. Fax – here and gone, again no brand comes to mind. Cell phones – whoa, too many brands to name. Tivo – okay, here is a brand that in a way has become yet another “Xerox”. For example, I use a DirectTV DVR but I call it a “Tivo”, so there! The moral of the story is that unfortunately (or fortunately) when killer apps do appear they tend to benefit the copy cats more then they do the originals.
- Do “killer apps” actually exist?
Honestly, when was the last time you actually saw the mythical beast known as the killer app. As I made mention in my previous point, most killer apps really represent killer technologies. That said, great apps abound and as developers improve them (as we do here at vFlyer), some have a chance of becoming killer apps.
- Is everything a “killer app” or just “killer features”?
Anil Dash of Six Apart has an interesting perspective when he says “In social networking, we won’t see a single killer app is because there will be thousands” – which supports the next point I make. Many applications today (especially mini apps and widgets that propagate social networks) are really features – and I encourage developers to seek out and incorporate some of these killer features to create better apps.
- One man’s “great app” is another man’s “killer app” (and vice versa)
I am a big fan of great apps, I think services like Facebook, Zillow, Trulia Voices and of course vFlyer are all great apps. I love them all! They are best-of-breed, well designed, aesthetically pleasing and even fun to use. Professionals and consumers alike need services and applications that help them save time or money, generate income or revenue, and become more productive or entertained – we should focus more on great apps we can build or improve that can become killer apps for certain groups of users.
- “Killer app” mentality can lead to bad business decisions and wasted effort
Consider the following: Bay Area VC fund Bay Partners recently launched a investment fund for startups building killer apps for Facebook called AppFactory! Unless you are ALSO an investor in Facebook (last time I checked they weren’t), this isn’t a great idea and only fuels killer applicationitis. I would encourage developers and entrepreneurs to spend time building those great apps than imagining killer apps. Consider this: its easier to turn a great app into a killer app, than it is to turn a great idea into a killer app. You still with me?
- So what does all of this have to do with me, you ask?
That’s a good question. If you find a killer app, it means someone else already built it! If you build the killer app, someone else will copy it. If you figure out what the next killer app is, you probably won’t tell anyone! Heck, just because you know what a killer app is, doesn’t mean you know how to build it! If you actually build a killer app, it is probably going to be my mistake. The closest most people will come to a killer app is talking or blogging it. All in all, you don’t have to worry about killer apps, because they’ll take care of themselves! Enough said.
There you have it! My arguments against the myth of killer apps. No, I am not trying to be a software development kill-joy, just a pragmatist and my advice to all is:
- Instead of looking for the next killer app go build the next great app.
- Copy killer features to make even better great apps.
- If you do find the next killer app, create a copy
- If you come up with an idea for the next killer app, immediately call me.