Sunday, November 01, 2009


In my world (computers), the term app has been short for application since approximately forever. That's what the industry has always done -- created apps like Lotus 1-2-3, or Quicken, or that thing they use at the dentist to to schedule your next appointment.

But in my corner of my world -- editing -- any mention in draft documentation of an app has always been expanded into the more formal term application. The idea is that app is programmer slang.

But is it any more, I wonder? I'm thinking here of the Apple iPhone, which has done a lot in latter days for, um, mainstreaming the term app. It's not an entirely given thing just yet; here's a bit from their Web site (web site, website):
Applications for iPhone are like nothing you’ve ever seen on a mobile phone. Explore some of our favorite apps here and see how they allow iPhone to do even more.

I interpret "Applications for iPhone ... some of our favorite apps" as a vestigial acknowledgment that there might be 4 people left who use an iPhone and who have not yet made the connection between application and app. But that's about the only place I can find that still does this -- it's otherwise the App Store, Apps for iPhone1, etc.

So my question is whether app is now firmly entrenched as a general term for applications or whether non-programmer types now think of it as something specifically for the iPhone. Has Apple succeeded in co-opting some programmer slang into not just general use, but in something that reinforces their own brand name? Pretend you're not a programmer. If you hear the word app, do you think application, or do you think iPhone application?

1 Note that Apple's own branding is Apple iPhone, no the. Common usage is the iPhone, but those of us who have to think about trademarks have to be careful when referencing this device in, for example, our official documentation.