Andrew Pollack's Blog

Technology, Family, Entertainment, Politics, and Random Noise

When does an application stop belonging to its owner?

By Andrew Pollack on 02/06/2010 at 08:43 AM EST

When an application becomes truly successful and people start relying on it for things they consider important, is there a point at which the application starts to belong to the owners? Facebook's latest change brings the topic to mind, but it can happen to you with internal applications as well. There comes a time when users begin to have a personal stake in the design of a good application.

Facebook makes a great example for when your users really own your application. Its user base is both extremely large and extremely broad in terms of user skill levels and technology sophistication, and its value is intrinsically tied to its size. The same application, started over with a blank slate, couldn't compete. To be competitive it would have to entice as large a user base to join or switch. It fills a niche that is not easily filled by just switching to some other service if people don't like a change. The value of its niche comes from the size of its audience. If you don't like a change, you're torn between the desire to go somewhere else for that functionality and the consequential loss of all your connections -- the whole value of the application. The result is the strong push back any time a change is made. Facebook finds itself having to be very careful not to get between someone who finally found an application exciting enough to bother learning to use the web, and her grand children. It happens in almost any media form. Authors talk about not being able to have characters grown and change. Popular TV shows, musicians, and even consumer products manufacturers face the same problem. They're under pressure to keep their products fresh and appeal to new audiences, but beloved by their huge customer base that resists just that kind of change.

We'd like all the applications we build to be so well liked that users resist any changes --- but if it's your application, you know where the flaws are. You know about the things people want that you can't do because of an architectural limitation. You know about the things that would make the application friendlier for some, but work against the slim business model you've carved out to make the app actually pay for itself.

Do you have apps that you really want to change, but can't because users like them the way they are? I'm curious, and would love to hear about them.

There are  - loading -  comments....

re: When does an application stop belonging to its owner?By Patrick Kwinten on 02/07/2010 at 06:39 AM EST
I am also curious since who does not want to have such apps in their product
re: When does an application stop belonging to its owner?By Theo Heselmans on 02/07/2010 at 12:01 PM EST
I got plenty of apps that fall in this 'can be improved a lot' category. But
usually it's not the fact that the customer doesn't want it improved, but
there's no budget for it even though I can sometimes prove the ROI.
I also had the opposite: Apps I wrote for a customer with functionality that
was way beyond there 'old' app, but I had to reduce the functionality (and UI)
because they liked the way their old app worked better. aaarrgghhh.

Other Recent Stories...

  1. 09/04/2018With two big projects on hold, I suddenly find myself very available for new short and long term projects. In twenty five years, I don't think I've ever written an entry like this, but if you need the kind of work I do now would be a great time to get in touch. Both of the big projects I had lined up for late summer and early fall have been placed on hold and will be that way for a while. With the kids now all off at college and careers, I'm open to more travel than such than I have been in decades, but unless something else comes along, I'll be here working on updates to Second Signal and other things that ...... 
  2. 07/13/2018Who is HCL and why is it a good thing that they are now the ones behind Notes and Domino?We need to address some biases here. IBM has made a deal under which the Notes & Domino software and intellectual property is now being developed and maintained by HCL America. HCL America is part of the very large "HCL Technologies" company that has grown from its roots in India to become an 8 Billion Dollar company with a global presence in the IT Industry. You could be excused for initially believing, as many people do when they hear this, that "they've outsourced the code to India where they'll milk it ...... 
  3. 03/21/2018Domino Apps on IOS is a Game Changer. Quit holding back.BOOM. This will be as important for the platform as Traveler. If your company has ditched Notes and Domino, I feel sorry for you. For companies that do use Notes/Domino this is a game changer and Apple should be paying attention. Here's why: There are hundreds of little Notes client applications you'd never spend the time and money to build and deploy for your internal user base on IOS that we use Notes for all the time (those of us still using it). Now, those are suddenly ALL available on the iPad. ...... 
  4. 02/15/2018Andrew’s Proposed Gun Laws 
  5. 05/05/2016Is the growing social-sourced economy the modern back door into socialism? 
  6. 04/20/2016Want to be whitelisted? Here are some sensible rules for web site advertising 
  7. 12/30/2015Fantastic new series on Syfy called “The Expanse” – for people who love traditional science fiction 
  8. 10/20/2015My suggestion is to stay away from PayAnywhere(dot)com  
  9. 08/07/2015Here is one for you VMWARE gurus - particularly if you run ESXi without fancy drive arrays 
  10. 08/06/2015The Killer of Orphans (Orphan Documents) 
Click here for more articles.....

pen icon Comment Entry
Your Name
*Your Email
* Your email address is required, but not displayed.
Your thoughts....
Remember Me  

Please wait while your document is saved.