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SharePoint 2013: App Nomenclature Consistency

By | November 13th, 2012

To borrow an old, bad joke; “When is an app not an app? When it’s a document library!”

It’s obvious that Microsoft has invested a tremendous amount of time and mindshare into making the Wave 15 (SharePoint 2013) products “app friendly.” This is an exciting shift in focus for the SharePoint platform, as well as for the Office products, and especially Office 365. The investment they’ve made in enabling developers to build solutions that can function in hybrid cloud deployments with online and offline capabilities is critical, and is likely to yield a fantastic App ecosystem in the future.

With that said, the SharePoint team appears to have cast a wide net with the “Application” nomenclature, and has caught most of the product. Superficially we may think we know what is meant when we use the word “Application”, but our standard definitely looks squirrely when viewed under the lens of Wave 15:

  • Is a customization that delivers Bing integration inside of Excel an application?
  • How about an Access database that’s been deployed to SharePoint (i.e.  Access services)?
  • What about a document library?

The answer to all of these questions  is “Yes”.

Microsoft’s answer to the naming question appears in Lists, Libraries, and other Apps? on the SharePoint Team blog..  The strategy appears to be “everything inside a site is an App.” I respect their line of reasoning that adding yet another category of object in SharePoint risked further confusion. However, this feels to me like a major potential stumbling block for experienced SharePoint 2010 users as they transition to 2013. “Need to manage documents? Just install a Document Library App!” is going to be a pretty foreign concept at first.

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