Meta App - A new type of software

Evolve from one Meta App to multiple Meta Apps, and then to a contextualized Meta Internet.

Meta App - A new type of software
Photo by Fotis Fotopoulos / Unsplash

In my opinion, there are two types of apps in today's world:

The first type is specialist apps. They have simple functions, are easy to use, have a clear value proposition, and deal with a specific use case. Spotify, for example, is for listening to music, while Zoom is for video conferencing.

The second type is general-purpose apps. They usually have complex features and like to advertise themselves as "all-in-one," which can integrate many use cases into one service. These apps have a steep learning curve and aren't particularly good in a specific feature, but they save you from spreading your data across many apps. Notion, for example, can be used for teamwork, managing projects, taking notes, creating web pages, and so on all at once. Without an all-in-one app like Notion, you'll need to scatter your data across Google Docs, Trello, Evernote, Medium, etc.

I am evangelizing a new type of Apps in the next decade, which I call Meta Apps. A Meta App works like a specialist App in terms of user experience, and you can use different Meta apps for different use cases. However, unlike specialist apps, all Meta apps share the same database and follow a protocol on how to handle the data. Different Meta apps allow you to use your data in different ways and add specific metadata to your original data if necessary.

For example, if you have a document, the Meta App for whiteboard thinking can interpret it as a sticky note on the whiteboard and add metadata such as color, length, and width. The Meta App for project management can interpret it as a task and add meta-data such as "done" and "in progress." The Meta App for blogging can interpret it as a post and add metadata such as the date of publication, number of views, and number of likes.

In other words, the user data is centralized, but through different Meta apps, you can enjoy both the power of specialist apps and the integration of general-purpose apps. I think this direction hasn't been seriously explored before in the software world but has a huge potential. It is also the key to build a contextualized Internet.

This is what Project Meta is trying to do: evolve from one Meta App to multiple Meta Apps, and then to a contextualized Meta Internet. It is a long road, but we've taken the first step.

在我的觀察中,當今世界常見的 App 有兩類:

第一類我稱作專注型 App,特點是功能簡單,一看就知道怎麼使用,有明確的價值主張,專門處理特定的使用場景。舉例來說,Spotify 就是拿來聽音樂、Zoom 就是拿來開視訊會議。

第二類我稱作通用型 App,特點是功能複雜,喜歡標榜自己是「All-in-One」,能將大量的使用場景整合在一個服務裡。這類 App 學習曲線較高,單點並不突出,但是可以讓你免去把資料分散在很多 App 的困擾。舉例來說,Notion 可以同時用來團隊協作、管理專案、記筆記、做網頁等等。沒了 Notion,你可能要將資料分散在 Google Doc、Trello、Evernote、Medium 上。

在未來十年,我希望能普及一類新型態的 App,我稱它作 Meta App。Meta App 在產品體驗上更像是專注型 App,不同的 Meta App 可以用來處理不同的使用場景。與專注型 App 不同之處在於,所有的 Meta App 都能共享相同的資料庫、並且遵守一套如何處理這些資料的協議。不同的 Meta App 能讓你用不同的方式使用你的資料,並在必要時為這些資料加上特定的 meta data。

舉例來說,你有一份文件,負責白板思考的 Meta App 可以把它解讀成一個白板上的便利貼,並加上顏色、長寬等 meta data;負責專案管理的 Meta App 可以把這份文件解讀成一個 Task,並加上像是「已完成」、「進行中」等 meta data;負責部落格後台管理的 Meta App 可以把它解讀成一則貼文,並加上發布日期、瀏覽數、讚數等 meta data。

換言之,使用者的資料是集中的,但是透過不同的 Meta App,你既可以享受到專注型 App 在單點上的強大,又能享受到通用型 App 的整合性。我認為在軟體世界中,這是一個之前從未被認真探索過,但是非常具有潛力的方向。它也是要打造一個脈絡化的網際網路(contextualized internet)必須經歷的一個關鍵途徑。

這就是 Project Meta 正在努力的方向:從一個 Meta App,演化成多個 Meta Apps,再演化成 a contextualized Meta internet。雖然路很長,但總算踏出了第一步。