Over my last couple of Medium blog posts, I have been doing a little bit of futurecasting… it’s essentially forecasting, but a bit further out. For the financial amongst you — it’s kind of like the terminal value in many valuation models … usually some sort of aggregated assumption of a base-case. The kicker is that it drives the vast majority of present value, despite having a much higher level of uncertainty. In the future, and forevermore into perpetuity, interest rates will be x%, the risk premium will be y%, and our net profit will be z%. Sounds idyllic.
One of the things that have to date been a snippet in my posts is something that I think is really critical. So, it’s time to turn that snippet into something a little more substantive.
Applications are becoming more and more user-centric, and should integrate into a unified technology solution for the consumer.
Exit the app, enter the API (and hence the title … there is no ‘I’ (consumer) in APP). Long live the platform, or your personalised interface which may be something completely different.
The Command Line for your Life
Right now, if we want an Uber, we go the Uber app and book one. If we want to send a message to friends, it’s WhatsApp. Delivery? Postmates. To look at properties? Rightmove.
It feels very first generation … like when you couldn’t have two apps open on your iPhone. So, what’s next? The command line for your life.
As technology adapts to the human, rather than the other way around (my point in this article, albeit trivialised) we want a single point of entry into running programs … programs such as ‘book taxi’, ‘message Mike’, ‘check out houses for sale in Shoreditch that are just a little bit more expensive than I can afford’.
The best thing is that you can tailor this engagement to suit you … post from Facebook? A flashing blue cursor on an otherwise blank screen? A text box? Any of these ways work for us…
It’s what gives platforms power.
This next step highlights that Google’s mission to ‘organise the world’s information’ is only a fraction of its ambitions. It’s more like ‘Getting the world to work for you’. The first step is to organise what is already out there (pre-existing product), then to enable procurement (to obtain present product about which you know) and then to make you aware of things that you didn’t even know existed and wouldn’t have known to search for, or how to obtain (and everything else that AI may allow).
However subtle and personalised it may be (and I am sure it will be), it is still likely to entail intermediation because this is how someone makes money. And that someone is whomever makes the best product/service.
In the end it’s just the way in which you get things done …. and that shining beacon of blankness that is the Google search box could be your gateway into getting shit done. Whatever that may be.
The end of the APP, and the rise of the API
So, does that mean that Google’s (or Facebook’s or Amazon’s, much much less-so, Apple’s) aim is to effect every transaction. Far from it … they will still earn their money from advertising. There will likely not be Google Ideastaxis (even though it seems imminent, particularly after what happened this week) or Google plumbers — or at least not for long — it’s not as scaleable and is undoubtedly a headache they would rather avoid. Even in purely legal terms … it’s the difference between needing indemnification or not. Let someone else take that risk. Just clip a coupon on the way.
The best bit is … for Google it requires no change in business model — just continue to sell the ability for a business to get in front of customers at the point of transaction. For Facebook it is more reliant on them leveraging what they know about you (the power of a social referral does not extend across all transactions) but they are the only real competitor at the moment. It will take Amazon adding another dimension to their offering if they want to be in the race … doesn’t the ‘Customers who bought this also bought …’ idea seem a little quaint today (even at its most AI-ed)?
Inevitably there will be some startups that make this command line prettier or more flexible, or just get their timing spot on. And they will likely be bought because these behemoths have a head start. But there is definitely space for another titan or two.
So, the silo-ed world of apps is not far from extinction … and competition for placement at the end of these command lines’ code (i.e. to be the transaction rather than the enabler) will ensue.
Just make sure you know where you stand in the value chain.