Software is Eating Software Development

A commonly held belief, especially within tech circles, is that “technology is eating the world,” as Marc Andreessen put it. Developers are in incredibly high and seemingly increasing demand, while supply is not keeping pace, resulting in developers earning incredibly high salaries. Recent college graduates with little or no experience can be making well over $100k. Strong developers with years of experience can earn…well, a lot. As a result many people are taking coding courses and changing careers.

I have a contrarian view that we may not need many more developers, and that we may even have too many already. I think software is eating software development, too!

Productization

Many technologies automate human behaviors. For example, email automates sending mail, robots automate factory work, Quickbooks automates accounting, and the list goes on.

New software is being developed that automates software development itself. Here are just a few examples:

  • Gumroad and Stripe for payments

  • Fedora and Skilljar for online courses

  • WordPress and Squarespace for websites

  • MongoDB

  • Bootstrap

  • Bubble has the wildly ambitious vision of democratizing code all-together

  • Amazon Web Services

There are many product components that developers and entrepreneurs have been rebuilding for each new product. Many of those components are now being “product-ized.” You can either buy code or a user-interface to be able to customize the end product.

Excess Capacity

Collaborative consumption marketplaces that take advantage of excess capacity and globalization increase supply and therefore lower price. Just like Airbnb increases supply of places to sleep, companies like Codementor increases supply of developers. They give the demand side access to developers around the globe.

Unbundling

I can now buy just 30 minutes of a developer’s time on Codementor. Instead of paying Etsy or ebay for the marketplace, the payments, the website, and more, I can just use Gumroad. Instead of WordPress and their crappy commenting system I can use WordPress and Disqus. The result is that customers can get exactly what they want without having to pay for stuff they don’t want.

Opportunities

What are people commonly building themselves now that could be automated or product-tized? Saving people time is a great value proposition.

Will we have user interfaces and operating systems for everything?

Startups whose customers are developers are interesting, but I think startups whose customers are non-technical entrepreneurs are even more interesting. The amount of money spent on product development is huge.

Implications

Here are a few potential implications:

a. Entrepreneurship. Non-technical entrepreneurs are becoming more equipped. I’ve “built” my blog and Startup College with very minimal understanding of HTML and CSS, the help of a few Codementors, and some products that have automated the software development.

b. Competition. Will the decreasing costs of building a product and taking it to market increase competition amongst startups? This could lead to lower prices and/or more specialization…

c. Specialization. If costs are decreasing, solving less valuable/lower priced problems becomes more profitable. If there’s more competition, there’s more need to differentiate and specialize.

d. Currency. If technology can replace huge teams of developers, factory workers, lawyers, etc., it becomes cheaper to do business, and competition decreases prices, do we have less need for currency? Think about how many costs 3-d printing could eliminate. Is free the new currency? Facebook is free, Robinhood makes trading stocks free, and the list goes on.

e. Jobs. Are entrepreneurs working themselves and others out of jobs? What skills become more valuable if these ideas come to fruition? What can’t be automated? Will we have less need to work because prices of all the stuff we want are lower?

Conclusion

I don’t think developers will ever not be needed at all. There will probably always be needs customizations and more innovative products. However developers may be working themselves out of jobs just like robots are replacing factory workers, and apps are replacing secretaries, lawyers, etc. There are a lot of potential implications to this…most of them good in my mind.

 

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  • momo

    What are you babbling about… Did you really write MongoDB «automates software development», that is really funny, good luck with the automation har har. I can’t even find good developpers and you are telling me that we won’t need them? Sure, you don’t need a developper to write a blog anymore, but a blog is not a complicated peice of software…

    • MFishbein

      As I said in the post “I don’t think developers will ever not be needed”

      MongoDB is an example of something that improves the process of developing software.

      You have a need for developers because you have a need to build software. A product that can build software cheaper and easier than finding developers sounds pretty appealing to me…

      • momo

        What you are talking about is equivalent to singularity, my analogy is that i can’t even recruit good developers to build quality software; so imagine a software that would generate others… And btw, mongodb is quite complex and it is aguable that it improves the process of developing software…