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App — the Most Abused Word In Tech? 353

Posted by timothy
from the I-remember-calling-them-programs dept.
Barence writes "PC Pro has a blog exploring the misuse of the word 'app'. Until the iPhone came along, the word 'application' largely meant a self-contained piece of software installed on a PC or Mac. Then Apple took ownership, trimmed it to three letters, and within months the word 'app' became synonymous with small widgets of code for smartphones. Now, Google's pushing the boundaries of the 'app' definition even further. Google Chrome users will have seen a new addition to their browser recently: the Chrome Web Store. Here, you'll find dozens of 'apps' to install and run directly from a handy icon on the browser's home screen. Except, these aren't 'apps' at all. They're websites. Google's idea of 'apps' are what we quaintly referred to in the good old days as 'bookmarks.' Does the word 'app' mean anything at all any more?"
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App — the Most Abused Word In Tech?

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  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:45PM (#35093330)

    There's an app for that.

    • by dintech (998802)

      I'm glad it's a more common word now. Before the iphone, people were only interested in something if it was a Web 2.0 page because it was cool. Now we can write proper applications again.

    • by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:59PM (#35094656)

      You're right, and IMOHO, it all started with Sun - not Apple. People got tired of saying, "Applet", and started calling them "apps". Then Apple came a long and said, "we should call them that." And seemingly, they did. And yet even before that, the word, "app", was being used as an abreviated form of "application" for just about anything, ranging from small, tiny apps (java applets) to desktop apps.

      I honestly fail to see what connection Apple has to this in any way other than attempting to, seemingly, inappropriately, fanboy Apple. And if my account isn't valid, then seemingly Apple stole dozens of friends, family, and co-worker's thunder years after the fact. Where's my money...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:46PM (#35093346)

    Then Apple took ownership, trimmed it to three letters, and within months the word 'app' became synonymous with small widgets of code ...

    Perhaps you would take care to avoid abusing words like 'widgets' and 'code' when tearing down the misuse of 'app'?

    What does "widgets of code" mean here? What does "Tech" mean in the title?

    • [In the Chrome Web Store] you'll find dozens of 'apps' to install and run directly from a handy icon on the browser's home screen. Except, these aren't 'apps' at all. They're websites.

      So Google has taken web clips [tech-recipes.com] and brought it to users the way Apple originally wanted to on the iPhone. Before the iPhone had native applications, "apps" were originally supposed to be nothing more than web clips anyway.

      My only problem with this is relying on connectivity to use a piece of software that doesn't require online functionality, for example a unit converter vs displaying up to date weather information. Both of these could be done as web clips, but only one should be. Therefore it may be impo

  • Why worry? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by schnikies79 (788746) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:46PM (#35093356)

    Words change, things change. Move on.

    • Because if people can't agree on what a word means, it leads to potential for misunderstandings and fraud. I don't think anyone can define "App" in the way that agrees with how Apple, Google and everyone else is using the word.
      • Re:Why worry? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by peragrin (659227) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:18PM (#35093918)

        Can you identify a widget or program in a way that agrees with everyone as well.

        how about a shortcut, link, or alias? Folder vs Directory?

        App is just a new word. Apple has always used Apps as Windows used Programs. No one wrote programs for the Mac they wrote Applications. however it was sometimes referred to as programs as windows users crossed over.

        Now Apple is popular. Their self contained applications have encompassed many traits. Since apple is popular, every one is copying them instead of paving a new path.

      • by Lennie (16154)

        Most people are already confused, what is your point ? ;-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Appropriate appellations apparently apply to applications.

    • by Stregano (1285764)
      They are incorrect, as the most abused word is f!ck Back in the day, it was to have sex. Now, it is abused to where it can replace any other type of word. You can also add ing or er to it and expand its possibilities even more

      Verb: let's f!ck

      Noun: That f!ck tried to rip me off.

      Pronoun: Jim is suck a jerk. F!cker thinks he is all that and a bad og potato chips.

      Adjective: That f!cking jerk thinks he is awesome.

      Adverb: That dude f!cking runs fast from the cops.

      Interjection: F!ck! He really
      • by anegg (1390659)
        One wonders just how long you have been waiting with that bit of humor, waiting for the right moment to introduce it into a thread where it was actually on-topic...
        • by tom17 (659054)

          I'm just wondering if he was trying to reproduce this [youtube.com] humour.

          Fuck the fucking fuckers.

      • Now why are you going to write a missive on the word "fuck", complete with 10 uses of it, but then refuse to spell it?

      • by OzPeter (195038)

        They are incorrect, as the most abused word is f!ck Back in the day, it was to have sex. Now, it is abused to where it can replace any other type of word.

        Fuck you have weird ideas on avoiding to actually say fuck while implying that you are saying fuck. Fuck is a perfectly good word and in no fucking way should you shy away from using it when it is fucking required. For fucks sake grow a pair and stop being childish. And as you have fucking well pointed out, words change - and its fucking great that you can read about its etymology [wikipedia.org] on the World fucking Wide Web. So stop trying to fuck with people by saying fuck is more abused than app and be fucking happy

    • Re:Why worry? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kensai7 (1005287) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:19PM (#35093938)

      Indeed! Apple is not a fruit anymore, it's a RELIGION! :p

    • by Graff (532189)

      Words change, things change. Move on.

      PC Pro is wrong anyways. For years most people used the word "program" or "executable" to describe software. On the Macintosh side they were using the word "application" to describe software. With Mac OS X applications started to have the extension ".app" on them. From there it quickly became common to use the shortened term "app" instead of "application". There have also been other segments of the computer industry that used similar terms.

      It's hardly a new term, it's been used for years. However, recently

  • Thins could always be worse. At least I've not heard anyone use the term "proggy" since like, 2000.

  • I preferred when it was "prog" instead of "app". App is what you call an applet
    • Meh. To me, a "Prog" will always be an issue of 2000AD.

    • by mini me (132455)

      I have always known applications or programs as apps. Applets are small utility apps.

      • by bhcompy (1877290)
        Back in the day they were progs/proggies. Search the archives of Geocities, Angelfire, Tripod, Fortunecity, etc for "progs", "proggies", "AOL progs", etc. Bunch of kids writing random crap in VB3/VB4
        • by mini me (132455)

          NextStep was using App in the 80s. Maybe if you go way, way back App was not common, but NextStep easily predates Geocities - given that the first web browser was built on NextStep. iOS is derived form NextStep, so App seems like a pretty reasonable name to choose for the programs that run on it.

  • An application is a self-contained piece of software which is used for a particular task.

    An app is a 'tiny' (by some metric) application.

    Firefox addons can be seen as "Apps" if they did something large. Remember this is an 'end user' term. End users don't weigh how 'good ' a program is by LOC, by how many states it has or whatever, they weigh it by how much it does for them.

    • by fermion (181285)
      App, as it is used know, pretty much refers to the way the software is delivered. Applications are often delivered on physical media and explicitly installed by the user. Apps, as the word is used now, are delivered exclusively through a network and installed and updated seamlessly. Applet are like this but usually do not reside on the users machines.

      All this is silly and pedantic. What is going on is simple. Google is playing a numbers game like it did with versions number on Chrome. If every bookma

      • by Haedrian (1676506)

        Hrm, but wouldn't that definition make Steam, and the Ubuntu software centre "App centres" instead of application centres?

        I'm actually rather confused by all of this.I will simply jot it down as "Oh look society is changing the meaning of words again"

    • An app is a 'tiny' (by some metric) application.

      I still see 'app' as an abbreviation of 'application' - wouldn't 'applet' be a more appropriate word for a tiny application? Or does that already have too specific a meaning?

  • Uh, no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:51PM (#35093446)

    Then Apple took ownership, trimmed it to three letters, and within months the word 'app' became synonymous with small widgets of code for smartphones.

    That claim is simply made up of whole cloth. The author has apparently never heard the phrase "killer app," which goes back to way before iPhones or smartphones.

    "App" is a common and logical shortening of "application," and has been in widespread use for a long time.

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      I believe John Dvorak coined "killer app" when writing of Visicalc in PC Magazine, circa mid-80's.

      rj

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      Indeed.. I used "app" in conversation long before the whole app store thing. In fact I still use it for refering to traditional software.

      I'll admit the line is blurry on what constitutes a web page and what constitutes a web application these days. Just about every web page has _some_ application like qualities. I would say google search and gmail are definitely applications, but what of sites like slashdot and youtube.

    • by Tx (96709)

      He didn't say "app" means "small widgets of code for smartphones", he said it became synonymous with that. Try asking someone outside of IT "what's an app?" and you'll find the author is entirely right, irritating as it is for those of us who have always used the term in the traditional sense as an abbreviation of "application".

      • by msauve (701917)
        Define "small widgets of code for smartphones." The word widget has been used to refer to a small application (hey, you could also call it an "app!"), but when you say "widget of code," I think of something which can't stand alone. A "widget of code," it seems to me, would be akin to a reusable module (subroutine/object/whatever) which one might use as part of an app. No one calls those "apps."

        An iPhone app is like any other application - it's a standalone (other than the OS) program. "hello world" is an a
    • by ElephanTS (624421)

      I was writing apps for the Macintosh in the late 80s. They always were called applications on the Mac, even then.

      I think app is pretty cool actually and seems about right for what it is.

      Lawn, etc.

    • I always assumed an "app" was a small application. A full application, like Photoshop, runs on my computer and gives me access to vast, vast, vast array of capabilities for manipulating images. The Photoshop app that runs on my iPhone, however, gives me a half-dozen controls for brightness, contrast, color, some filter effects, cropping, etc. So the iPhone Photoshop app is a greatly scaled down version of the full Photoshop application.
  • From TFS:

    Then Apple took ownership, trimmed it to three letters, and within months the word 'app' became synonymous with small widgets of code for smartphones.

    Apple has been talking about 'applications' in preference to 'programs' for decades. 'App' has been a common abbreviation in the Macintosh world for years.

  • ...what we quaintly referred to in the good old days as 'bookmarks'.

    I'm reading with Firefox 3.6.13 and they're still referred to as Bookmarks.

  • by Mysteray (713473) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:56PM (#35093560) Homepage
    This comment is not an app
  • by cortesoft (1150075) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:57PM (#35093572)

    As the article points out, an 'app' is very different from an 'application'. I have never heard someone refer to an iPhone program as an 'application' and I have never heard someone use the term 'app' to refer to a stand-alone desktop software. This would seem to imply that they are distinct terms, and one is not merely shorthand for the other.

    This is not the misappropriation of one term, but the creation of a new one. Sure, the word app has its root in the word application, but there are lots of words that come from old words (in fact, most words have their roots in other words that mean different, but related, things).

    I think the only time that anyone should complain about the misuse of terms is when it is unclear which version of the word someone is using. An example from the article is the misuse of 'download' for 'upload'. If someone says download when they mean upload, it can be confusing. If someone calls something an 'app', no one will think they are talking about a desktop application.

    Also another complaint with the article: applications have always referred to more than just 'a self-contained piece of software installed on a PC or Mac'. All other operating systems have applications as well.

    • As the article points out, an 'app' is very different from an 'application'. I have never heard someone refer to an iPhone program as an 'application' and I have never heard someone use the term 'app' to refer to a stand-alone desktop software.

      You should know that since 2001 all standard software on OS X has had a .app extension and EVERYONE has been calling them "apps" for two decades now, similar to how windows some users refer to exe's, except that the .app is actually visible by default for all users, so it is not limited to power users. Further, the .app moniker has been used to differentiate between general services "mail" or "iTunes" and the application in question "mail dot app" or the "iTunes app".

      If someone calls something an 'app', no one will think they are talking about a desktop application.

      I disagree.

      So while you may have never h

    • by Bogtha (906264)

      As the article points out, an 'app' is very different from an 'application'.

      The article is wrong. The two words mean the same thing. One is an abbreviation of the other. At a stretch, they may have different connotations, but even that's borderline.

      I have never heard someone refer to an iPhone program as an 'application'

      I hear it all the time. Apple's own documentation uses the terms "app" and "application" synonymously. Their main iOS development guide is called "iOS Application Programming G

  • Just because the application is running on a web server somewhere, and not on your hardware, doesn't mean it's not an application. Applications that users access over the web are called, gasp, "web apps".

    Also, a bookmark is not the same as a web app. "bookmark" is a term for a URL that probably begins with "http" and is stored by a browser (unless it's IE, in which case I believe it's "favourite" instead). Slashdot is not a bookmark, but you can have a bookmark for Slashdot. The things being called "apps" i

  • by Joehonkie (665142) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:59PM (#35093610) Homepage
    "Except, these aren't 'apps' at all. They're websites." Except many of them are "apps" as much as any application has ever been. Fully running programs written in a programming language, which just happens to be HTML5. Also the abbreviation "app" predates the iPhone by approximately as long as I have used computers.
  • The common "folk" do this with everything, so I think it is odd that it is getting discussed with 'app'. As the subject said, there are still people that call all game systems a Nintendo (I seriously know a person who I have to correct because they will call their PS3 a Nintendo). They will still call all controllers paddles. They will call any system on Atari an Atari. They will call the Genesis a Sega.

    There are lots of examples, but I like the paddles one the best. It does not matter what the cont
    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      The common "folk" do this with everything, so I think it is odd that it is getting discussed with 'app'. As the subject said, there are still people that call all game systems a Nintendo (I seriously know a person who I have to correct because they will call their PS3 a Nintendo). They will still call all controllers paddles. They will call any system on Atari an Atari. They will call the Genesis a Sega.

      Are these the same people who will call any soda (or pop) a Coke?

      Because I hate those people.

  • Part of the confusion and consternation comes from the fact that many "apps" are nothing more than proprietary encapsulated forms of what would be just a simple website on any more robust platform. Also "apps" can take the form of pure data such as an ebook. The term "app" is fairly well abused in the Apple framework.

    Big corporations love to hijack common terms and treat them as personal trademarks. It seems Apple is no different than Microsoft in this respect.

  • In my world, "app" is a couple of additional configuration files for our already installed software.

    It confuses everyone.

  • Just "lication" - it's cleaner.

    .
  • And a shell script is just a text file. So are SVGs. And really a web page is just text, too, so we're all massacring English every time we use the word 'website.'

    Get over yourself. These "bookmarks" have functionality. Functionality is what makes them apps. Who cares, really, if your app is a VBA script hosted in Excel, or a website, or an Java ME applet on a mobile phone, or an ELF executable? They all have functionality.

    Running, driving and walking are transportation. Abbreviating it transp doesn't mag

  • It should go without saying that any technical word used by the average layman likely has no sophisticated technical meaning.

  • Oh, how I long for the days of "news for nerds, stuff that matters."

    This is a crap submission for a crap article. Nobody I know is confused about what an "app" is.

  • I've been telling all of my non-geek friends that when Apple says application they really mean applet, and the rest is just marketing BS.
    • I've been telling all of my non-geek friends that when Apple says application they really mean applet...

      Because you want to misinform people and trick them? That's mean.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      And I tell my non-geek friends that their PS3 is "a nintendo". Confusing people with false factoids is great fun isn't it?

  • but not enough to keep you going.
  • A Chrome app is not just a website. From http://code.google.com/chrome/webstore/docs/index.html#concepts [google.com]:

    "An installable web app can be a normal website with a bit of extra metadata; this type of app is called a hosted app. Alternatively, an installable web app can bundle all its content into an archive that users download when they install the app; this is a packaged app."

    Also Chrome apps have an authentication and billing API that lets developers charge per access, by time or per install. This means
  • There are hundreds of business applications where there is an "exe" or other "application" front end and a database backend. The front end could be called an application, or the entire package together could be called an application. There are hundreds of "web-based applications" and we call them applications. I would challenge the idea that Chromes "apps" are not apps. They are apps, just "web based apps."

    The definition of application has always been changing. This is nothing new. This is merely taki

    • This is an example of a bunch of old grumpy programmers hating people who are not programmers telling them what's an "app" and what's not. That and they hate that Apple in a very "cutesy" way popularized apps by shortening the name and making it a little less geeky.

      It is referring to programs by their extension, how is that less geeky? OS X applications are .app bundles. It is no less geeky than referring to an exe.

      • by hellfire (86129)

        The mainstream considers "app" an abbreviation of "application," that's what matters. .app is hidden by default in Mac OS X so even the average mac user doesn't know about that extension. And Steve being a marketer didn't start calling them apps in press conferences because it was more geeky and obscure, I assure you.

        • The mainstream considers "app" an abbreviation of "application," that's what matters.

          And exe is an abbreviation of executable, most extensions are.

          .app is hidden by default in Mac OS X so even the average mac user doesn't know about that extension.

          I just checked a freshly installed box I happen to have handy and no, the .app extension is visible by default.

          And Steve being a marketer didn't start calling them apps in press conferences because it was more geeky and obscure, I assure you.

          He started calling them apps in press conferences in the early 2000's, a few years after everyone else using OS X started referring to applications as apps.

  • Today's websites are apps. They are complicated, bug-infested programs, with ugly UI and high latency. Just like Windows.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:22PM (#35093984) Journal

    Until the iPhone came along, the word 'application' largely meant a self-contained piece of software installed on a PC or Mac.

    Really? So something installed on, say, Amiga was not an "application"?

    On the other hand, if you drop the "PC or Mac" part, the definition is still perfectly valid for iOS (and Android etc) apps. In fact, if anything, they're even more self-contained on average than your usual PC app, while all other marks are still there.

    ow, Google's pushing the boundaries of the 'app' definition even further. Google Chrome users will have seen a new addition to their browser recently: the Chrome Web Store. Here, you'll find dozens of 'apps' to install and run directly from a handy icon on the browser's home screen. Except, these aren't 'apps' at all. They're websites.

    Are they software? Yes (it doesn't magically become something else just because you lay out UI using HTML/CSS and code the backend using JS).

    Do they solve some specific problem? Yes.

    Are they self-contained? Yes.

    Can they run offline (which is effectively equivalent to being "installed")? Yes.

    They are applications.

  • I really love it when my, mom, doctor, boss, etc... calls a computer a CPU.
    • by ProppaT (557551)

      Or a hard drive. Or thinks they're really smart and refers to the computer as the hard drive and the monitor as the "computer" or "cpu" or even "the tv."

      Never do tech support. I did it for 3 months in the 90s and had all the fun I could take.

  • I dont call applications or programs on my desktop apps...and i dont call stuff on my portable devices applications or programs. I dont see this as anyone taking ownership of anything rather a term thats easily identifiable, to be fair what word would the author prefer? Widgets are used elsewhere, applets is basically the same just longer would you prefer "program like thingys", phone and tablet thingamajigs? Seriously aren't there better things to be concerned about rather than the supposed sullying an

  • Then Apple took ownership, trimmed it to three letters, and within months the word 'app' became synonymous with small widgets of code for smartphones.

    Until the Xerox Alto UI came along, the word 'widget' largely meant a self-contained device, item or unit of production. Then Xerox took ownership, made longer terms such as "widget toolkits" and "widget APIs", and within months the word 'widget' became synonymous with small icons in apps coded for desktop computers. Now, Microsoft is pushing the boundaries of the 'widget' definition even further. IE users will have seen a new addition to their desktop wallpaper recently: the embedded IE browser. Here, you

  • by Randyll (1914386) <<ane> <at> <sci.fi>> on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:34PM (#35094182)
    As much as Google Docs is a website it is also a web application. Whether the shortcut I see on my "Apps" view in Chrome takes me to a local or remote (cloud) program is irrelevant. If I am using vim remotely through a ssh client, am I using a terminal or vim, or both? In the same sense, the browser acts as a terminal for Google Docs, and denigrating the contemporary definition of 'app' is a waste of time.
  • App vs. Program (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RManning (544016) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:37PM (#35094246) Homepage
    I had a meeting with the owner of the printshop my company uses. He's a gadget guy, so we eventually started talking about all the cool stuff our phones can do now. He kept talking about how much more he liked "apps" than "programs". It took me a few minutes to realize that he understood "app" to mean the stuff he installs and runs on his phone, and "program" to mean the stuff the installs and runs on his computer. It was obvious from our conversation that these meanings were distinct in his mind and commonly used. It was new to me.
  • My definition of "app" is a program that merely functions as a frontend to a website, and provides no additional functionality whatsoever outside of perhaps a few fancy images. Look at the iPhone App Store and you'll find thousands of these "apps" for different websites, all of which are nothing more than Safari wrappers hard-coded for a specific website.
  • Then Apple took ownership, trimmed it to three letters, and within months the word 'app' became synonymous with small widgets of code for smartphones.

    Er, no, just because something runs on a smartphone, it doesn't stop it being an application. A video editor a dev team put together with a few hundred thousand lines of code doesn't become "a small widget" simply because the amount of memory it has to play with is less than the computer sitting on your desk. What a ridiculous, pointless article.

  • but 'tech' is certainly quite abused.

  • An 'app' is an application, Mac is a PC, Windows is a PC, Linux is a PC. Enough with this malarkey.
  • Does the word 'app' mean anything at all any more?

    Hardly any specialized terminology survives with its meaning intact if it falls into the vernacular. If it becomes the subject of marketing, it fares even worse. "App" is just the latest victim.

    "CPU" and "hard drive" are vernacular terms for the case of a computer. "PC" ended up tied to one particular hardware/software architecture. "Cybernetic" -- which had a very well-defined meaning in terms of a now largely forgotten interdisciplinary science -- was truncated to "cyber" and then applied to all kinds of

  • What about "CLOUD"?

    No one knows what the f%$k it really means.

There is no distinction between any AI program and some existent game.

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