The Most Important Feature of a Multi-Device Web: Syncing

If you sync seamlessly across devices, people will love you for it.

As the ecosystem of devices proliferates, with the iPhone and Android platforms coming into their own (along with the ever-impending iTablet), we’re seeing a single feature become the most important and critical piece of new technology: syncing.

If you sync seamlessly across devices, people will love you for it. It’s why I love the Apple ecosystem. I add a calendar event to my desktop, iPhone, or web app, and it automagically appears on the others. All of my mail is synced in all of these places so I never have to worry about missing email or knowing whether I replied or having to delete the same messages over again. The amount of time that this saves is invisible, yet invaluable.

Dropbox - Files - Secure backup, sync and sharing made easy.
Thanks to Flickr for hosting this pic

Yesterday during dinner with a few tech folks we hit on the topic of Dropbox, a file-syncing application that teams can use to collaborate. Dropbox is as simple as an app gets…simply install it, throw some files into your Dropbox folder, and it syncs to other computers or other people you want to share with. The reason people love it is that it just works, automagically. It simply syncs your files…that’s all it does. But it does it so well that people use the language of love to describe it.

Isn’t that a bit odd? Saying things like “I LOVE Dropbox!”? Well, in a world where we value any time savings like it were gold, seamless syncing becomes the gold standard. There is nothing worse than trying to figure out which copy of data is the latest, best, or primary copy. We know what we did last…if all of our devices knew then software would seem truly smart.

Today Robert Scoble tweeted about his love for the Kindle:

Scoble loves Kindle's Syncing

This is not ridiculously sophisticated functionality. It’s straight-forward…when Scoble reads something on his Kindle and then views the same thing on his laptop the software remembers where he was. It’s a bookmark, that’s it. And because it’s such a simple feature it might get overlooked…

So if you’re building an app used across devices consider focusing like gangbusters on the simple ability to seamlessly sync everything, so that people can immediately start in using one device where they left off using another. After seeing the rapturous language people use around this simple feature, I’m convinced it might be THE feature of a multi-device web.

Published: November 19th, 2009