Why Single Use Apps From Big Companies?

Tom Reding on the trend of single feature apps:

I’m sure the answer comes down to monetization and bloatedness, but I still don’t see the point in all of these social apps breaking out key features into individual apps. Maybe I’m in the minority here, maybe people like having a folder on their phone solely dedicated to “Facebook” and all it’s different apps (don’t forget Paper). I’ll admit, I do have a social media folder for those networks that I may not use that often, but I don’t want it totally filled up with Facebook apps…

It’s a good question. But Tom answered his own question in the first sentence. It’s it probably not so much about monetization, but marketing is definitely a part of it. Tom’s piece was triggered by the release of Instagram’s Hyperlapse app. By creating a separate app, rather than just adding a new feature, Instagram created buzz. People had to go seek out the app, which meant if they were curious they had to go find it. If it was just a feature in the Instagram app, it would be easy for people to miss, or forget about. Plus social media buzz is always higher with a new app vs. a feature.

The technical side of it also has to come into play. Keeping the code completely separate probably makes it easier to manage for Instagram, but in this day in age it is probably easier to just have more, smaller apps. This way a new feature like this won’t risk breaking the official Instagram app.

But this trend also seems to indicate a “pivot”, or at least an attempt at one. Tom referenced Foursquare’s Swarm app, which at this point has essentially replaced the original Foursquare app. The original Foursquare app is really more like a Yelp clone at this point. That would have just been an example of Foursquare realizing how most people were using their app, and decided to spin off the original idea for those that still cared. Facebook spinning off a standalone Messenger client seemed like a move to try and take away marketshare from iMessages and WhatApp?1.

The single Instagram app seems a little different. But it’s not crazy to think that this could be part of a plan to made a separate video-focused arm in the future. Videos can be posted via the existing Instagram app, but perhaps their longterm plan is to separate that out and make some sort of separate video piece.

It’s fair to call it annoying though. Separating features is annoying to users, but often that doesn’t stop companies from doing things.

  1. Of course until they bought it []