App rot

Link rot is a problem on the Internet. When you find something great on the Internet, you bookmark the URL for later, and then you find out later that the URL no longer exists. It’s not so much of a problem if you have a copy of the web page you bookmarked, or you use something like Pinboard or Pocket’s premium plan or even the Wayback Machine. For many people though, I’ll bet that they have a few seconds of disappoint and then find alternatives to that same article.

This is what is called link rot. When a web page becomes permanently unavailable. The problem can stem from the web page’s URL being changed, whole websites being moved or closed down.

The same can be said for applications whether they are native or web-based.

The development of whole web applications that we use daily can stop. The application might still run and function correctly, but the ongoing development of the service has ground to a stop that it seems that the web application is no longer being worked on.

I’m guilty of this app rot as much as any web application owner.

While DailyMuse is still running, development on it has ground to a halt. I will resume work on it at some point, but to the careful observer, it might look like the application has stagnated and it isn’t clear if the web application is being worked on.

iOS apps have the advantage of including a version history in the App Store. I’m sure there’s a corresponding version history for Android apps as well.

What about web applications though? How do we see the version history for those?

Well, a version history page seems the obvious choice, however, not all web applications have such a page and there’s no standard for this either.

As a web app developer though, I am going to put more effort into making my web applications more transparent in when they are being updated and making it easy for others to see these changes. How I’ll do this I don’t know yet, but it will consist of a web page of some sort.

Matthew Lang @matthewlang