Developer at large, expert typist, fungineer

The rise of the micro-app

A few weeks ago, Dan Cederholm, of Simple Bits fame, launched Foamee. Foamee lets you track who you owe beers to. The twist? You manage your beer debt via Twitter. Its a small little app. It only does one thing. Its got a fantastic entry-point. In other words, its really cool.

Erik Kastner reminded me of his app Band Named this week. It finally clicked why its cool this time. Games like Guitar Hero III and Rock Band want you to name your ethereal band. Band Named is a great place to post ideas for said names. The neat thing about Erik’s app is that you can sign in via OpenID (+1) and then fetch your avatar from Flickr or Twitter (FTW). The entry of new band names is easy. And its fun!

I hope this turns into a trend-buzz-meme thing. The world needs more apps that aim to just help you out now and then, not ones that want to become your task management, knowledge capture workflow mega-gizmo-jobby. Better yet, apps that are loosely coupled via infrastructure you’re already using (Flickr, Twitter, OpenID, etc.) taste great.

Plus, these little efforts needn’t result in all-pain, no gain. Dan probably can’t support himself on it, but I bet any money made from Foamee merch will come in handy. Likewise, there are lots of things you could do with something like Band Named, though I don’t know if Erik’s going to take it that direction.

A call to action

So, call to action: hatch up some idea. Make sure its a little crazy. If pitching it to a VC would get you laughed out of the room, you’re on the right track. If you think the commenters on TechCrunch would skewer you, you’re getting even warmer. Think Uncov would just laugh and point? You’ve probably hit the jackpot. Now: go out, build the sucker and figure out how to have fun with it.

I’ll leave you with this: its all about getting to the point where you’re making dough and having fun.

7 Responses to “The rise of the micro-app”

  1. John Hattan

    Well I have something a little like that. I have a little game portal (see URL), and you have the option of posting your daily rankings to twitter (see twitter.com/johnhattan for an example).

    Only thing I don’t like is that I must store your twitter password in order to post to your account, which means that people must trust that I’m encrypting and am not going to be hacked anytime soon.

    I much prefer the scheme chosen by ebay where anyone wanting access to your account (like auctiva) must get a token from ebay and granted by the user. The token’s apparently married to your domain name, so it’s not useful if stolen. That way nobody’s storing your ebay ID/password but ebay, and if the tokens are stolen they’re only useful if posted from the domain that requested it.

    My only other problem with getting avatars from twitter/flickr is that I try to keep my site G-rated, and I just know that as soon as I start pulling info from other sites, somebody’s gonna use their wang as an avatar :)

  2. Kyle Hughes

    My favorite web apps are always the mashups that really bring out the best of each service. Great post, and I’m already plotting out a service.

  3. wade

    I did this sort of thing just a few weeks ago.

    I built http://poptakeout.com so I could check the state of the hive mind on the go. It’s built for an iPhone, but works otherwise.

    It compiles the top ten headlines from Digg, Reddit, Newsvine, Del.ico.us, and Tailrank; displays them in an iPhone/iPod Touch package.

    Its helpful and was a good personal exercise for Mobile Safari development. It’s not going to change anyone’s life, but I think it’s nifty. At the moment, my dad, and about 300 other people, use it daily.

    -Wade

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