Apps are suburbia, the Web is downtown (or Chinatown)

Chinatown by Atomische – Tom Giebel 2006 Creative Commons

The analogy is by Virginia Heffernan, television critic and columnist for “The Medium” at the New York Times — it is included in “The Medium” dated online 17 May, but it appeared the day before in the Sunday supplement. I think the article title is somewhat misleading: The death of the Open Web; well, to me she does not argue very much about the actual or desirable death of the “open Web”, but rather she contrasts the differences between the more closed enviroment of the App store, the iPhone, the iPad etc. on one side and the more open, or totally open Web. But I had better report here the synthesis of Leo Laporte and Jim Louderback, from which I learned of this article; it’s clear and funny (as always with Leo Laporte’s TWiT):

Jim Louderback It’s almost like we are seeing 1990 played out again with the Mac and the Windows, or 1984, or whatever.

Leo Laporte Well it come down to – do you read Virginia Heffernan’s article in last Sunday’s New York Times where she said apps are the suburbia of the Internet. She said the free and open worldwide web is essentially like downtown where anything goes, there’s ads, there’s scummy people…

Jim Louderback Chinatown…

Leo Laporte It’s dangerous, it’s Chinatown Jake.

Jim Louderback Forget it.

Leo Laporte Forget it. And she said, but apps have become the suburbia, the place that you go…

Jim Louderback It’s a strip mall.

Leo Laporte It’s a little nicer, it’s a little cleaner, there’s – and so – but it has the same problem where if you have everybody leaving the city, the city goes to hell, you stuck with these apps and I think this is the problem. I think we are seeing a fight now between open and closed. Open is always messy, it’s dirty, it’s not – it’s got little issues with the UI. But closed is dangerous in the long run, that’s what I would submit.

Jim Louderback Yeah, I can see that. I can see a good parallel there of Apple’s app store and Android’s app store for that matter being like the strip mall, where you get individualized…

Leo Laporte You get porn.

Jim Louderback …sanitized choices…

Leo Laporte Right.

Jim Louderback …that are very easy to get to, get on a [indiscernible] (43:50).

Leo Laporte Yes, yes, yes. But Apple’s especially, not so much Android’s.

Jim Louderback But you are not going to be able to find the chalk that gets rid of the ants or the weird ethnic food or…

Leo Laporte Right.

Jim Louderback …any of the cool stuff.

The (wonderful) TWiT 250 transcript is from Podsinprint

I recommend the reading of the NYT piece, not just for the point under discussion but really for the analogy as such. I think we need more of this to make sense of what’s happening. Concrete images, communicative and inspiring.

Then, the idea of apps as suburbia might be more or less appropriate, but it certainly conveys some values or desires and expectations of people living in suburbia. This is the most interesting part, as it leads to a discussion about culture and technology. Then one might consider that “suburbia” are not the same all over the world…

PS the hint on “porn” in the transcript might be not very clear– shortly after this part Laporte and friends went on with an amusing exchange on porn on iPhone etc. — but it was too long to be included here… play TWiT if you are curious about it (I also recommend TWiT in general; I wonder sometimes how many listeners they have here in Europe).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *