In praise of the sharing apps of the future
Sometimes, change happens without you really noticing it.
It can be so incremental as to be almost imperceptible, but change, as Sam Cooke used to sing, is going to come.
That’s especially true with technology, a sector where innovation is so prized, and indeed necessary, that at times it can seem like each new thought is being killed by anticipation of the next.
See, I’m of an age where I can just about be classed as a “millennial”, though as this term seems synonymous with “digital native” now, I’m not too sure I want to be tarred with the same brush.
This Day, That Year
I didn’t grow up using laptops and smartphones, or even the humble old PDA.
But I can remember the first time I saw a PC. It was at primary school — one machine to share between 200 of us. At that time, all I knew about PCs was that they could connect to this magical new thing called the internet.
Neither I nor my classmates had any idea how this worked, of course, but that never stopped us trying to “dial up” little knowing we needed a modem, or even that the computer had to be connected to a telephone line.
It seems ridiculous now, two decades on. Especially in this era of 4G mobile internet and permanently connected home broadband modems. But for a lot of my formative years, the only internet I knew was dial-up and it was, quite frankly, rubbish.
Not that I minded, of course. The very concept was mind-blowing. I used it to make new friends in far flung places and, for the first time, I could easily communicate with those outside my limited sphere of existence.
I felt the same way about the early mobile internet — in practice it was demonstrably terrible, but the idea of it was not.
Smash cut to today, and not only can handheld devices stream high definition movies and play augmented reality games, but they can also order you a cab, pay for your shopping or even find you a public bike that is almost free to use.
The last item in that list is the latest technological advance here in China to truly enthrall me. Now, with a simple app, I can find a bike, scan the attached QR code and ride it to the nearest subway station, all for less than the price of a bottle of water.
As someone who doesn’t own a bicycle, I’ve found this to be a revelation. So long as I have my smartphone on me, my mobility is assured.
It still requires that I cycle of course, something that the slightly better established ride-hailing apps do not. And who knows if these bike-sharing companies will actually be able to turn a profit?
But as a cheap and cheerful way of getting me from my house to the subway, my only wonder is why someone didn’t think of it before.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scan the code to hear an audio version.