The next billion users

Very few ideas grid my gears as much as the way this one is presented (or misrepresented, take your pick). It’s a shitty excuse to get out of work you don’t like doing.

Google has an entire blog category dedicated to the next billion users. They’ve sent teams to non-western countries (including India, the country with the second highest smartphone ownership in the world) to investigate device and internet usage, like modern day versions of 18th century explorers prodding indigenous folk. And indeed what’s the point of going to these places without seeing what you can get away with to make money.

Facebook, who are gross, have had even more blatant behaviour described as digital colonialism. That’s because it is digital colonialism and Facebook are gross. But that’s beside the point.

This isn’t a billion people patiently waiting while we JavaScript our way out of the problems JavaScript frameworks have created for them. It’s not a billion people patiently waiting for high end smartphones to land in their laps so they can use our special apps. And sans-internet is, to a large extent, one thing they certainly are not.

What they are though is sans- a-browser-western-devs-give-a-toss-about, and sans-fast-internet-which-western-devs-also-don’t-give-a-toss-about.

Fully 10% of web browsing is done on proxy browsers. Tough luck for them I guess, they’re the next billion users. Right now we’ve got stateful apps with complex UIs to build using Real Programming Languages.

Payal Arosa’s book The Next Billion Users is all about internet and web users in non-western countries. She explains how people there are already online, just not in a way that suits your toolchain. While you’re agonising over which CSS-in-JS “solution” to use they’re wondering why your website isn’t working on an old Windows computer or UC Browser over 2G. The answer must not be, “Don’t worry, it’ll work for you when you’re elevated from being one of the next billion users!

“You see there are people like me who use the apps I build, then people like you who are part of the next billion users. You don’t get to use my apps yet. They have complex UIs, you know. Did I mention that? Now wait in line for your circumstances to change enough for you to buy broadband and a device I deign worthy.”

It’s all crap, pure crap. When our devices are something unimaginably great the same people will have 2018 MacBooks and iPhone X’s and we’ll still be calling them the Next Billion Users.

Use progressive enhancement ✌️