November 25, 2010

Why apps are called apps

Apps, you gotta have em. There are apps for everything. Apps that help you remember the milk, apps that prevent you from getting lost, apps that make you see things that aren't really there (such as ghost buildings that used to stand at the spot you are looking at or unreal fish ponds with unreal fish you can really try to catch), apps that allow you to text and walk (this one will bring about our extinction) and apps that help you relieve your stress by setting angry birds on pigs (to name a popular example).

So apps are all the rage, I understand that because apps are fun and useful. But why does it have such a crappy name? App is short for application, which is a very abstract concept. An application is a verb that has gone noun. Verbs sometimes have such silly ambitions, but don't realize that there is no way back. So an application - or app - basically is a verb that is stuck in noun state. Nouns just are. So apps just sit passively inside a mindbogglingly sophisticated piece of electronics until its user uses it. I just can't get my head around it. Why are apps called apps?

Who came up with the idea to call a computer program and application? Wikipedia only knows that an app is a piece of software that helps the user to perform a certain task, say, kill a stupid pig. The online entymology dictionary teaches me that the term application has roughly been in use for 500 years. It's inventor has died long ago so he or she can't be questioned anymore. Application means "the bringing of something to bear on something else" and that it is indeed a noun of action from the verb "apply", which apparently means "making a sincere, hard effort".

Well, there you go: An app makes a sincere, hard effort to bring something to bear on something else. Replace the first something with "Angry Bird" and something else with "Pig", and you immediately see that "App" is the perfect name. Glad that's sorted out.