Remember Dots? App Promiscuity and “New” as Network Effect

A few months ago I was really grooving on QuizUp. Now I rarely open it. There was a cool app that turned my photos into comic-style art. Was all over my Instagram feed for a few weeks. Now don’t even remember the name. Wired’s Mat Honan suggested SXSW might not have a breakout app this year because, well, nothing really breaks out for very long any more.

I’m finding this occurring again and again with games, photo and chat apps, which seem to be the most ephemeral of mobile experiences. Games have always peaked, then valleyed. Photos and chat apps tend to swap because they each have at least one consistent fallback – your phone’s camera and SMS/iMessage.

With the iPhone 5s TouchID and automatic app updates I find myself going to the app store far less frequently but when I follow a link to a free app’s download page, convert nearly 100% of the time. Why? Because I no longer need to type in a password. Just keep my thumb on the pad and – boom – new app to try out. Now if Apple could just make it easier to open new apps once installed (since I’ve already left the download page to multitask). Maybe double-click’s app tray could include a downloaded-but-not-yet-opened app in the its stream of recently accessed apps.

But maybe it’s just because we’re being rewired to want “new” over any known quantity. Does the excitement over seeing something for the first time beat any known pleasure? Are we becoming app sluts?

As a consumer it’s really compelling – so many new things to try. As a seed investor it makes picking winners at the earliest stages a real challenge unless there’s at least some evidence of meteoric growth. Why I think we’ll see more of the larger funds track interesting apps and then work hard to win the deal later as opposed to throwing millions pre-traction.


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