The Emperor's New App

The controversy of the week before WWDC is about Vesper, a brand-new app released by a new player in the market: Q Branch, founded by John Gruber, Brent Simmons, and Dave Wiskus.

I can’t say much about Vesper itself1. Everyone agrees that it is purposefully minimalistic, the main point of the debate is whether or not this is a good thing.

Dr. Drang kills it:

The good doctor also wrote a piece about Vesper. For me, the key part of this article is the last paragraph:

Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine a new note-taking app written by an unknown developer. It’s has a nice, clean look and is easy to use, but it has no syncing, no TextExpander support, and no URL scheme. Assuming the app got any attention at all, how much effort would Apple bloggers put into defending that design choice? How often would the phrase “data silo” be used?

The answer to this question doesn’t take a genius. There are tons of apps out there that are, to some extent, “nice, clean look and is easy to use”. And yet, nobody cares to the point that the host of Apple bloggers cares about Vesper.

Despite the well-meaning words of said bloggers, I can’t shake the feeling that at least some of them2 had some trouble to find the sweet spot of Vesper. Federico Viticci:

I have been using Vesper as the scratchpad that comes before Drafts.

Wow, that’s tough. I agree with Federico on many things but, please, someone kick me if I ever need another app “before Drafts”.

Sadly, all the hype about Vesper more or less directly affects other businesses that unexpectedly find themselves on a collision course with the new shooting star:

Paul Mayne is the man behind Day One, a fabulous piece of software that has often and rightfully been praised as “extremely deliberate and thought-out: every mechanic, every restriction, every interaction, every animation. Every detail”.

And yes, I would not have realized this in the first place but the way Vesper is positioned may indeed let potential customers of Day One (just by becoming exposed to the hype around Vesper) have second thoughts about their purchase.

Oddly, beside being very well executed, Day One ships with all the features that are missing in Vesper.

Admittedly, from time to time I tend to follow the recommendations welling up in the respective blogs whenever a new “darling” appears in the spot light. It is not that I ever needed a wakeup-call to take these “reviews” with a grain of salt but the experience of this particular week will certainly stick.

  1. And, frankly, I have no plans to change this at the time being.

  2. Maybe in the absence of features that they usually would be taken for granted before even considering to give a particular product a spin.