Technologies that provide new experiences are truly amazing. People watching movies for the first time, for example, were said to be terrified by things like trains appearing to be coming straight at them on the screen. That's incredible. The best example I can think of in my life was the first time I used the Internet. I literally could not believe it. It was love at first sight.
However, many of the successful applications and services that have become huge companies in the last few years have NOT been things that create new experiences. In fact, a great many have simply been this: improvements on applications that came with standard hardware. I find this neither good nor bad, but I do find it astounding the consistency with which this is the case. I've heard these paths called Superverticals before so that's the term I'll use for them, and we can see this just by examining companies that have no become huge by improving the apps that come standard on the iPhone. Apps that have done this for me include:
Camera - Instagram. Filters + easily integrated swipe to share made it replace the iOS Camera for me instantly.
Evernote - Notes. Evernote is just a more flexible version of Notes to me (and to many others) that syncs. I use it BECAUSE it replaces Notes in a way I like, not because it adds a new experience.
Spotify - Controversial, but I don't use iTunes anymore - I use Spotify. It's just iTunes where you rent all the music in the world for me ultimately instead of having to own it.
To me, those are the obvious ones based on apps I use on my phone to replace core apps that came on iOS. However, I'd like to add a last, more controversial, group:
Text and Email - Twitter, Facebook, and Path. These are different because they do not REPLACE email and texting (in a way this is kind of amazing to me), but rather replace many use cases where I would have used texting/email and now use Twitter, Facebook, and Path. Path's CEO Dave Morin actually said at TechCrunch Disrupt recently, "Our competition isn’t what anyone else is doing in the social networking world, it’s actually SMS and email".
In my opinion he's right, but I think the same was true for Twitter and Facebook: Facebook started (again, for me) a more personal, less formal way to email and become a different kind of interaction over time. Twitter started out as a more frictionless way for me to text my thoughts when I just felt like I needed to get that thought out there to someone. Before Twitter, I would (seriously) just text a random friend who I thought may find the thought interesting. Now I "text" Twitter using my Twitter app.
I think text and email, having not been totally replaced by anything, are still wide open Superverticals. How do I think it can be done? That's for another post, but let's just say this: I'm workin on it.