Do you know Carl Hancock?
Not everyone follows Carl Hancock on Twitter. And I can understand that. He's a hard-core St. Luis Cardinals fan and some people don't dig that. He's also straightforward, in a way that helps you know exactly what he thinks, when he thinks it. And lastly, he's not afraid to disagree with folks.
So if you don't follow Carl, I get it. But I do. I'm not much into baseball, I like straightforward, and most of the time when he's debating someone, I find myself on the side he's arguing.
He loves Gravity Forms…
There's another thing about Carl that you know, if you do indeed follow him. He loves Gravity Forms – the product he and team of smart folks have developed. And there's great reason to like it – as it has become one of the de facto plugins that almost everyone has a) heard of, b) used before, and c) consider a key part of most sites.
…and now has competition.
I'm not saying there aren't other challengers who think the ecosystem will be better off without additional competition. They exist and they're doing a great job providing alternatives. In case you don't know, I'm talking about Ninja Forms and Formidable Pro.
They've taken alternative routes in pricing, bundling, and even features. They're creating real, viable, legitimate alternatives.
But here's the thing. Just as everyone is focused on the form space – and catching up to what Gravity Forms has been doing for years, Carl and the folks at Rocket Genius have been working on…rocket science (sorry, I had to).
Maybe you noticed that they recently introduced an add-on that integrated them to the larger platform ecosystem, Zapier. That was a good first step. But then, even more recently, they announced another initiative (even more important) – the creation of an API under Gravity Forms.
And then today, if you hadn't seen it already, Carl posted this tweet.
CRM, booking engine, event management and ticketing, appointment management… Hmmm. Endless possibilities.
— Carl Hancock 🚀 (@carlhancock) November 27, 2013
Earlier in the month I suggested that for the enterprise, an API (like what they're building) is exactly how enterprise engineers will interact with this new thing they're hearing about (called WordPress).
But they're not just thinking about the enterprise. They're also looking squarely at small and medium businesses that will run (or could potentially run) almost completely on WordPress.
Applications, not jut plugins
In that post, I argued that all the enterprise engineers looking to work with WordPress would be looking for a platform. I still stand by that. Platforms, not plugins, will be the future.
But that's my take for others stepping into the WordPress community for the first time. What about the rest of us – those of us who've been here a few years and are watching plugin development continue at a rapid pace?
I think we're the answer in Carl's tweet – that the future will include not just plugins but applications.
We all know that the appointment booking space will heat up as both Gravity Forms and WooThemes chase it down. Others have already tried, and more are looking at the space.
But that's just one application. CRM is another. And you can expect that to grow competitively soon as well.
What do they all have in common? They're all form-based applications.
Competition drives innovation
Here's what I know – having WooThemes, iThemes, Pippins Plugins, Modern Tribe and Rocket Genius all compete in this space will benefit all of us. I expect that they'll all push the envelope on what we think – and soon the question of using WordPress as a framework for app development will disappear.
But what does it mean for you? Well, if you're a customer, just keep your eyes out for some new and interesting products.
But if you're a developer, I'm suggesting that the next evolution of Gravity Forms is going to create a big wide open space for you to add value in new ways because of the apps they're going to create.
So study up on that API. Learn Zapier. And dig into your clients' business so you understand the problem space well enough to have insight when those apps arrive.