There’s this idea that anything can be represented by an equation that produces a number. The newsworthiness of random information. The love between two people. The strength of a familial bond. A specific person’s curiosity, the very boundaries of their imagination. Nothing is off limits, nothing out of reach. It’s dedication to the precision and accuracy of those numbers that has had a critical role in recent mega-IPOs like Facebook and Google. Acting in concert, those numbers drive the companies that in turn have defined the very interface of the consumer internet itself: An algorithmically ordered list. That list may be of stories or search results or friend suggestions or ads, it doesn’t matter.
These companies have recursive virtuous scaling because the bigger they grow, the more data they have to refine and improve the equations generating those numbers. The better sort of the list of options develops increasingly well understood and valuable behaviors. It’s not easy to copy, either. If you're a number company all the work to generate those numbers is so distributed throughout the organization, no single employee has too much power. This is why there’s no real risk when the head of feed or search goes to a competitor, it’s simply not possible for one human to contain the entire ruleset within their head. They understand important chunks and strategy, sure, but not everything that goes into creating the best order in all contexts. Even if someone managed to surmount that impossible mountain of information, the product they apply that information to would be different. Different network, different humans, different motivations.
Not all companies care about numbers in the same way. Apple, for example, cares about experience. The unboxing experience. The experience of holding an object in your hands. The unique experience of software crafted specifically for a particular hardware. Snap, Airbnb, Stripe, Uber, each try to set themselves apart based on end to end experience which helps build brand. These companies are ostensibly easier to copy because their complexity is hidden under outrageously unreasonable amounts of hard work, focus, and determination. The way they fight off competition is by moving quickly to capture marketshare, by successfully predicting the future, by obsessively going ten times beyond what's reasonable and then going another hundred more just for kicks. They aren’t explicitly trying to reduce abstract concepts or human behaviors to a number that can be sorted and compared to another number objectively. The subjective experiences they create can be measured and those measurements compared, but the aim is always the experience, not the measurement itself.
Artypapers began as an experiment by Rebekah Cox but became an escape and turned into a series of useful & fun applications. While most of the original applications have been deprecated, Scribble and the Blog still remain active.