Please, please just leave our apps alone!
20th Dec 2013 | 16:04
'Must change everything all the time' is a bad motto
Do you know what extra feature would make Twitter better? What additional function is Instagram lacking? How about Facebook - any ideas?
No, you don't and - clearly - neither do the people in charge of new ideas at the social networking portals.
That inability to innovate has led them to add unwanted and unnecessary extras to their mobile apps; it makes them seem like a shoplifter trying to cram more frozen turkeys in his already-bulbous tracksuit bottoms.
At some point his legs will freeze and he will roll sobbing onto his back like a giant, criminal Weeble and await the arrival of the police. Yes, that was a sort-of metaphor.
Don't believe me? Fine, let's look at Instagram. A few months ago someone at Facebook HQ saw what Vine was doing, decided it wanted a slice of the pie and added short video clips to Instagram.
You can take a quick cliplet and then slather it with the same old film/bad film/art film glaze as the JPEG version of the app and throw it onto your friends' timelines so they can be startled by the sudden noise as it autoplays.
Last week it even added a SnapChat-like DM service (because nothing improves a drunken cock shot like a Nashville filter).
No. Stop this. Instagram was fine as it was - a perfect little micro social network that made pictures look like you had spent time composing them even when you hadn't.
It doesn't need anything else. Why not add a word processor and a version of Minecraft if you're so determined to make the app fill up all the space on my phone?
Creeping featurism is ruining apps. Facebook - you don't need to be a games platform, an SMS-style messaging service AND a way of accidentally telling your employer you hate them.
Just strip away the crust and concentrate on your core competencies of sharing baby pictures, arranging nights out and reminding us how racist our family and friends are.
I have one of those Swiss Army Knives that Victorinox make for IT people. It has the standard set of blades, bottle opener, corkscrew and tweezers and one special, mission-specific load out - a mini socket set and screwdriver with interchangeable heads for opening PC cases and fixing... stuff.
Thing is, I only ever use the screwdriver bit, and maybe the main blade to open packaging. I think I once used the pliers to pull a DVD out of the innards of a player when it got stuck. I don't even use the bottle opener as I have a sturdy metal opener on my keyring.
Everything else just makes that perfect screwdriver weigh more, so it feels like I have a lead brick in my pocket that I can't carry on to a plane. Yes, this was a metaphor too. Well spotted.
Unix people have made some great contributions to computing - security, web servers, beards - but perhaps their greatest is the Unix Way, the idea that monolithic, do-everything applications are a bad thing and that it is better to have a kit of single-purpose tools that do one thing really well.
App developers should learn from the bearded masters of the server room and pare things down so that they just do their thing and let you, the user, decide if and when you want to combine them.
Trying to make every app do everything just forces us to choose between them and while it might mean that you get to hoard more of our precious data in your silos so you can sell it to advertisers it ultimately means that it will lose its distinctive edge and that useful tool just becomes another unlovely lump.