Mass Market vs. Geek Market

Last week, David Winograd from The Unofficial Apple Weblog wrote an article about my app, Holograms. He wasn’t altogether happy with the app but it did generate a fair amount of publicity, putting Holograms briefly in the top 100 among Entertainment apps. His chief complaint was that he couldn’t figure out how to use it. I think that’s fair. I wrote the app because I thought the idea was cool, it’s not the sort of thing that everyone’s going to get.

On a related note, some guy recently went on a rant about Apple fanboys and fangirls basically chiding them for supporting a non-“open source” platform. I suspect that he exaggerated his real opinion in order to make a point, but he makes an interesting argument which is that open source is good and everything should be more like that.

So what do these two things have in common? I think there’s a fundamental difference between what appeals to those of us that are geeks and what is successful in the mass market. Google Android is essentially an open source version of iPhone, which one’s more popular? And Holograms is definitely a geek app, which will probably only ever appeal to a niche market.

I recently saw Wordplay, a fantastic documentary about crossword puzzles. (Yeah, you heard me: crossword puzzles; you should check it out!) In it, Will Shortz, the editor of the NY Times crosswords, was talking about his experience of innovating the puzzles early in his career and of the many angry letters he received because of it. He had a great quote, “You can’t do something interesting without turning off some people.”

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