Every year, the otherwise-unheard-from American Dialect Society picks a single word to represent an entire year. Yes, there’s an award for that. This time, that award went to the word “app,” indicating that mobile apps summed up 2010 more than any other word.
The thing is, apps are really just software. “App” is short for “computer application,” and those have been around for decades. Likewise, handheld devices such as PalmPilots and earlier cellphones were capable of running applications, so “apps” can’t even be considered new to the world of portable electronics.
Nonetheless, apps as we now know them — relatively lightweight software designed with handheld hardware and touchscreens in mind that tend to pull data from “the cloud” (a.k.a. servers on the internet) — are, in fact, a relatively new phenomenon. 2010 was the year they truly hit the mainstream, as noted by the American Dialect Society, which chose the word over inferior alternatives such as “junk” (what?), “WikiLeaks” (not bad), “trend” (huh?) and “nom,” or web-speak for “eat,” which somehow came in second.
Apple’s iPhone created the “app” by decoupling, finally, cellphone providers from the software on their phones. In the early, dark days, cellphone application developers had to meet extensively with cellphone carriers before waiting sometimes over a year before their app was possibly, just maybe allowed to come pre-installed on phones’ “decks,” or home screens.
Now, software developers can make nearly whatever mobile apps they want available to smartphone users without kowtowing to cellphone providers or putting up with those lengthy delays; people can choose from hundreds of thousands of apps; some app developers are striking it seriously rich; and the world is a better place for it all.
Well chosen, American Dialect Society!
Speaking of apps, it’s not to late to help invent the future of music apps. Votes continue to roll in to our Untapped Apps poll, where you can choose the best of several forward-looking music app ideas and submit your own ideas for the next round of voting.