Software Is Media

I've made this point in several talks I've given recently so for those of you who attended or watched the talks on video aren't new to this meme. But I thought I'd share it with the AVC community.

As software has moved from running on local machines to running in the browser a number of important things have happened. One of the most important changes is software has become media.

Here's a definition of media I pulled from TechTerms

"media" refers to various means of communication. For example,
television, radio, and the newspaper are different types of media. The
term can also be used as a collective noun for the press or news
reporting agencies.

Media are the tools that are used to communicate. And software that runs on the web is part of the media landscape. That has certainly been true for things like online publications and online video and they are accepted as part of the media landscape. But I think all software should be characterized and thought of as media.

Like other forms of media, software produces an emotional reaction when we use it. Software needs to have a "voice." It needs to be more than a simple utility. We need to feel something when we use software. The best software does this incredibly well.

Like media, the interfaces that present software to us need to be stylized, designed, and elegant. Software can be beautiful and the best software is beautiful.

And like media, the most important measurement for software today is the number of engaged users. The more engaged users a piece of software has, the more impactful it can be.

Many will read this and say "well that might be true for consumer software but not for enterprise software." I don't think so. This week we started using a web-based applicant tracking system for our hiring process. We have close to 400 applicants for the two jobs we posted and we need something to track all the applicants and help us run the process. We looked at a number of options and selected one of them. This is enterprise software, but I want the same experience with this software that I want with the best consumer software I use. I want it to be attractive, elegant, I want it to have a voice, I want it to be more than a simple utility.

Once we've begun to treat some of the software in our lives as media, we are going to treat all the software in our lives as media. And the software that is ugly, void of emotion and voice will not work as well for us. So I believe all software is media and will be seen as such by its users.

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