What's the new term for "killer app"?
August 5, 2022 11:22 AM   Subscribe

People don't use the term anymore, what do they use instead?
posted by storybored to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think people do still use the term. A google search for "Metaverse killer app" brings up lots of uses in mainstream publications.
posted by bowbeacon at 11:58 AM on August 5

The crypto folk are definitely using it.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:06 PM on August 5

I feel like I've used this term in the past year or so, so I think people still know what it means, but I agree it does sorta feel dated. I think product orgs these days are less concerned with making killer apps — it's probably easier than ever to copy competing products, just look at Facebook — and more concerned with building 'moats' around their products in order to make leaving difficult.
posted by TurnKey at 12:09 PM on August 5

It felt dated in like 2005. But also, I still use it.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:12 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]

Well, it is used a lot less than before.

But if your reason for wanting an alternative is a concern that you won't be understood, I think you're wrong. People know what it means. Usage is down simply because there are fewer killer apps. Killer apps are associated with operating systems or other walled gardens, and everything is on the web now (or it's on iOS and Android).

If you want an alternative for some other reason (discomfort with "killer"?), the best I can suggest is "unique selling point" (generic) or system seller (specific to video games).
posted by caek at 12:16 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]

Disruptor, for some purposes, but that's probably equally cliched at this point.

It's also less about finding applications for novel innovations or new affordances at this point, and more about being the "first mover" in "new space" with points of "competitive differentiation" as an "edge" or "moat."

Less emphasis on discovery, a whole lot more on profitability.

So maybe the killer app is the market.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:37 PM on August 5

"Like uber, but for ..."
posted by dum spiro spero at 12:49 PM on August 5 [6 favorites]

Unicorn? Category killer?
posted by humbug at 1:19 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]

Sine qua non

Just kidding.

"Game-changer" never seems goes out of style, at least in spoken English, and especially among doods.
posted by Caxton1476 at 1:45 PM on August 5

I agree that "Unicorn" seems to be very common right now, often for things that really just aren't unicorns.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:00 PM on August 5

posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:39 PM on August 5

A unicorn in software means a startup valued at a billion dollars, so that is a more specific description but might work.

“Killer app” made more sense when the market was less fragmented. Is this for a piece of writing? If you can give us the context we might be able to help better.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:47 PM on August 5

posted by rikschell at 7:51 PM on August 5

People don't care about "killer apps" anymore because there are no new platforms. When it wasn't clear which OS was going to win, or whether the web would stick around, or which mobile platform everyone was going to use, people needed to talk about killer apps. Now those are all extremely entrenched duopolies (except the web which had no serious competition and as a result ate essentially everything), and competing with them requires such a large amount resources that anyone able to attempt to compete has already tried and failed.

This is why the Metaverse and cryptocurrency people still use it — they are trying (failing) to create new platforms, so it still makes sense for them. But they aren't going to succeed at creating new platforms, not for lack of killer apps, but because of the economic system we exist in.

If you're talking about an emerging platform, you can still use the term "killer app" and people will understand what you mean. But to answer your question, people don't say it anymore and nothing has replaced its usage because "killer apps" do not matter anymore in the world we live in.
posted by wesleyac at 5:27 AM on August 6 [3 favorites]

No new platforms? Renting servers on AWS/Azure/GCP/DigitalOcean or streaming TV services or gym-from-home with Zwift/Peloton/SoulCycle ...

Enforced WFH was a killer application for video-conferencing, for BYOD + remote desktop, and for VPN tunnels.
posted by k3ninho at 12:02 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]

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