App Inventor Discontinued: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Google quietly announced the discontinuation of App Inventor, effective end of the year. They plan to transition the product to a non-profit organization, the goal being that, for App Inventor users, only the URL will change come December 31st of this year. They will also open source the project.

There’s some good in this announcement, but it’s mostly bad and ugly.

Will I still be able to access the apps I’ve built and create new ones?

This question is especially important given that your work lives on the corporate servers. If Google shut App Inventor down today (they won’t), you would have no way of accessing the existing apps you’ve created.

Google has promised to keep the current version of App Inventor running until Dec. 31, 2011. The plan is to turn the system over, at that time, to a non-profit organization. If things go smoothly, you’ll be able to access your apps and App Inventor on Jan. 1, 2012 just as you do now, just at a different URL. Update 8/12/11: Karen Parker, the App Inventor Program Manager, notes that legally, Google can’t transfer user data– your apps– to another site. So there may be some download/upload on the part of developers to get their apps to the new system. The key, of course, is that the new system can upload apps created by the old system.

The “if things go smoothly” is the kicker, of course. There will be uncertainty unless Google pledges that a smooth transition will occur, which I believe they should do.

Until then, it’s a matter of trust. I’m optimistic, based primarily on my experiences with Hal Abelson, Mark Friedman, Karen Parker and the rest of App Inventor team. They put their heart and soul into the project, they want to see it succeed in the new form, and they feel responsible to the community they’ve created. I trust them to get the job done.

App Inventor is being open sourced. Isn’t this good news?

There are two separate things going on here. Google is discontinuing App Inventor, which is bad. They are also open sourcing it, which is good, even if it does come packaged as damage control.

First the bad. As of January 1st , App Inventor will no longer be administered by Google. The 5+ wonderful engineers on the team will no longer be fixing bugs and adding great new features. Perhaps a non-profit with equally great engineers will take over and provide a seamless transition, but this is uncertain. All we know at this point is that the greatest tech company in the world won’t be running it.

It is a good thing that App Inventor is being open sourced. An open source App Inventor means that developers and researchers can make use of the App Inventor code base to build new tools. We could see an App Inventor for building iPhone and iPad apps, for building cross-platform apps. In the long run, it could spur innovation in visual programming.

But make no mistake: these are potential benefits for the future, and really are not helpful to App Inventor developers and educators in the near term. The truth is that a closed source App Inventor, supported fully by Google, is far and away better for App Inventor enthusiasts. This announcement is a blow to the many kids, students, educators, and newly empowered software developers who love App Inventor, and will at the least  slow the momentum of the project.

I’m a teacher planning to teach App Inventor in fall 2011 and in the future. Should  I abandon this idea?

Teachers hate uncertainty and don’t have unlimited hours to prepare a course and learn new tools. But my advice is to stick with App Inventor. I believe its a revolutionary tool for teaching beginners and non-computer-geeks programming. It combines a visual blocks language proven successful with Scratch with the motivating force of mobile computing. Young people are fascinated by the little computers they now carry around with them and they are blown away when they realize they can actually create software for them, actually control them.

There is risk here and there will no doubt be issues. But as I mentioned above, I trust that the App Inventor team will come through. For me, the rewards—a bunch of highly motivated students in my class—are worth the risk.

Did Google behave poorly by cutting App Inventor?

Yes.

Can you expand on that?

I’m a mild mannered professor. I don’t know beans about corporate politics and even less about the best way to make money. But I’d say the following is probably good policy:

Don’t start initiatives to inspire, empower, and educate, then indiscriminately pull the plug.

I understand the Google Labs closure: focus more on fewer projects. And Google has every right to cut Google labs projects– users of such tools should be aware of the risk.

But in the case of App Inventor, the decision effects more than just your typical early adopter techie. It hurts kids and schools, and outfits like Iridescent, who use App Inventor in their Technovation after-school programs for high school girls, and Youth Radio’s Mobile Action Lab, which teaches app building to kids in Oakland California. You’ve hurt professors and K-12  educators who have developed new courses and curricula with App Inventor at the core. You’ve hurt universities who have redesigned their programs.

I don’t want to over-dramatize this: these groups will be fine, especially if Google makes good on transitioning App Inventor. My melancholy is more about what could have been had Google truly supported and actually promoted the tool, and about the loss of momentum for this wonderful project. We really need more programmers and inventors, and App Inventor can have a profound effect. If President Obama knew about App Inventor’s potential to inspire a whole new generation of engineers, he’d be really pissed at Google for this move.

Even looking at it from Google’s perspective, I find the decision puzzling. App Inventor was a public relations dream. Democratizing app building, empowering kids, women, and underrepresented groups– this is good press for a company continually in the news for anti-trust and other far less appealing issues. And the cost-benefit of the cut was negligible—believe it or not, App Inventor was a small team of just 5+ employees! The Math doesn’t make sense.

Let’s end with Clint Eastwood

As a teacher, I like to end things on a positive note, on the Good. The App Inventor project has shown that ordinary people, not just computer geeks, can program the mobile computers we all now walk around with us. It provided a glimpse of a world in which people don’t just use phones and tablets but take control of them, customize them for their personal use.

It fired up a bunch of kids, college students, and tinkering adults, empowering them technologically beyond their dreams (click on the pics below for  just a few of the success stories). It drew the interest of young women and demonstrated a way to lure more of them into computing. Larry Page may not get it, but his tiny group of 5+ engineers created something revolutionary. In the long run, the ideas and design behind the App Inventor project will live on and fulfill their great promise, Google or not.

In closing, I encourage Google to do the right thing, to support those 5+ engineers in the transition, vigorously fund the non-profit entity that takes over, and most importantly, make a firm pledge to the App Inventor community that the transition will occur seamlessly. If they do, the ugly will turn to beautiful, the bad to good, and App Inventor will outlive the Spaghetti Western.

Just a couple of the many App Inventor success stories….

HS Girls in NYC build apps for the Technovation challenge

USF Student-Teachers at the Technovation Challenge

USF students learned App Inventor, then taught high school girls

A new app developer at BAYCAT SF.

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70 Responses

  1. I think it was a great idea that google came up with sad to see such a wouderful program go down in flames. Now what is bad one week before the news came out I bought Wolber book and Tyler book on building apps with app inventor. Both books help me build 3 apps. I do hope someone will pick up the app inventor or in hope that Google will release it as a download for us app inventors.

  2. My heart is broken about this. I have severe ADHD and AppInventor allowed me to tap the visual side of my brain and I have created some awesome Apps.

    My “Love You Texting” App has almost 110,000 downloads and is currently spreading with viral popularity. The App is simply 7 libraries of cute love text messaged you can send without typing.

    Read the almost 400 comments and 2,000 ratings. I was able to help many people add spice in their communication and for some it broke the ice on expressing themselves. The comments are full of stories of people who’s relationships have been positively affected by something I made.

    I have tears as I write this as I don’t think my mind can work in text code environments. Its too hard for me and I really had hopes of a new direction in life. At least I was able to touch some peoples lives in a good way. I will always be thankful for that. :)

  3. Well, I was pretty sad before I read this. Then I read it and was very sad. And then I read David Johnston’s comment and now I am mad too.

    I swapped my iPhone for a Nexus S because of App Inventor (read about this here). I had built my first app within two days of getting the phone. I have published six (rather technical sciencey) apps to the Market, mostly for fun and with nothing like the success of David. I am grateful for the learning experience App Inventor gave me. I’ve never had to maintain something for a user base before, I’ve charged money for an app (well, I tried), I’ve built documentation for my apps, tutorial videos, icons,… it’s been an adventure. And I feel almost, kind of, a little… like a software developer.

    After Wave, which I also loved, I guess I’m not that surprised at this move. It’s disappointing, of course, but I can sort of see Google’s perspective too: this is marginal for them. I agree with your remark that it’s lame to spin up all this activity, all these fans, all this fun, and then just throw it all into the fire and walk away. I can’t even imagine how the developers involved must feel.

    As for what happens in 2012… I think my Plan A is to download the open source App Inventor myself and host it locally. Then I guess I can at least maintain my apps… until Android upgrades leave me behind. Plan B is to hope that it gets picked up by some benevolent body with enough know-how to keep building. But really, without Google’s clout and the inside-track on Android development, I’m afraid I see this as a slim chance. Unlike many open source communities, the people who can develop it don’t actually need it!

    Thanks for the great write-up, David! It was good to get your perspective.

    • As a ardent user and supporter of AppInventor (I have 6 AI apps on the Android market), and someone who has lived and worked as a IT technical professional in the Silicon Valley for 20+ years, for such companies as LSI Logic Corp, Tandem Computers, Compaq Computers and Hewlett Packard til I was laid off in 08, I can truly explain as to why Google pulled the plug on AI. And I can explain it in one word…money! Yup. Money. The silicon valley corporations, Google being no exception, are first and foremost all about money.

      Secondly, they are ‘all about money’. To hire engineers, developers, technicians, build servers, program servers, maintain servers, manage servers, manage appinventor bugs, update AI, create documentation for AI, power used by those servers, support and management of a network infrastructure for those servers, which means network ‘staff’ for that particular role, takes a tremendous amount of financial and technical resources that they have to invest in for a project that does not reap that much return of profits. But we know that Google’s return on their investment in AI has wielded them some earnings. Its a question of how much. That’s the data that I would like to see. And I agree with one of the previous email comments; to generate so much interest at the public and educational sectors, then pull the plug on all those users, institutions, educators, kills the future of the US for preparing potential and future software developers in order to compete in the global market. Its no wonder that we have to continue to recruit technical expertise from China, India, etc, to fill the thousands of open tech jobs in the US. Its all about the money.

      What I think we should have done (if it was done and I did not see it and apologize for that) was to amass a petition of all users and institutions that use Appinventor and submit to Google’s CEO’s – with a little ‘media’ icing on the top. ‘This’ is what we should have done. And its a wonder it wasn’t done. With all the social media available to us these days, there is very little pragmatic use of it for social causes and change here in the USA. Its amazing. So its partly our fault too. Maybe if Google would have heard the baby crying really loud, Mommy Google would have come to her rescue. But we did not cry loud enough.

      So let this be a lesson to us all. In a predatory capitalist system such as the one that runs and rules the US economy, where nothing matters but the bottom dollar. This kind of behavior by Google and others will continue to go on as it has done for decades. Its just a harsh reality that we as American citizens are in denial about.

      Richard F.
      Founder; http://www.inky-apps.com

      • You say “With all the social media available to us these days, there is very little pragmatic use of it for social causes and change here in the USA. ”

        How about an App Inventor app for that, for “organized feedback”, to suggest a description of the general goal. Not sure what the design of the app would be,

    • You say “I can sort of see Google’s perspective too: this is marginal for them.”

      I don’t see it as marginal, unless Android is marginal, and the pocket computer is marginal.

      And buzz is marginal.

  4. There’s no link to a google announcement about this… The only one I’ve found was on the App Inventor groups http://www.googlelabs.com/show_details?app_key=agtnbGFiczIwLXd3d3IUCxIMTGFic0FwcE1vZGVsGPOaIgw

    I would seriously wait and see who takes ove App Inventor and / or what happens to it before going off the deep end. In the worst case, existing Apps will still run, and Android will be backward compatible to existing Apps for several years worth of release yet.

  5. HI David,
    I have built a small company based on ideas for apps ,appinventor was the tool for getting example/demo apps done very very quickly,

    I’ve made ideas up that are truly original and groundbreaking, you wont find these on the market, or in my account, and many are highly protected in my head. Appinventor helped me to think like an android phone, using all its sensors to provide great relevant data and communities based around that data’s use and crowd sourced collection. You might recall the emails I sent you about idea and the initial assistance you gave, this was then followed by assistance from the forum and the best part of a years concentrated learning and thinking, mainly thinking.

    At least one of those ideas has attracted funding and there looks to be more interest ahead for some of the other concepts.

    Nothing out there even came close to appinventor, the java sdk as we all know is hard work for a 40 year old who has had a history void of computers.

    No one out there put all the pieces together in a simple format. I am a visual person and my talent is ideas, not programming, but to prove that it took appinventor. Now people come to me to assess their ideas.

    So yes I’m upset that Google appears to have financially abandoned the project. It’s a huge pity and even opensourced we won’t have the genius brains that made it all possible and pushed out almost monthly updates that I would get up at 4am in the morning to look at.

    This is brain training for the new generation, It’s kinda important.

  6. No need to mull over the stuff like what app is better and what one is worse. With online web services you can make apps you like which appropriate for the tasks they are meant for. snappii(dot)com

  7. I’m the moderator in the App Inventor forums that has been running around telling everyone to not worry, be happy. I have been pretty much the only one that has not been doom and gloom.

    The truth is I was thinking of walking away.

    BUT all the potential benefits David’s well thought out and well written article cover may still happen.

    One of my sources of frustration is because David and Google is (as far as I can see) focused more on the educators than the community of folks that App Inventor empowered to create.

    The team at Google is great.
    The tutorials we started with are fantastic (thanks)

    The folks making the forums an active community are as critical to the team at Google making things grow. I think Google has done a poor job growing the community or at least the part of the community I worked day and night for months to nurture and support. I woke this morning, ready to walk away.

    Perhaps I will hang on a bit longer.

    • Thanks for the note Gary. I think you’re right on about the active user group community. Part of the issue is that the App Inventor team’s initial impetus was education. Then hundreds of thousands of people showed up to the party.. Not students, but this hard-to-characterize group of creative developers. Some are experienced programmers who love how easy it is to develop apps and prototype, others are designers/creators/entrepreneurs whose app creation skills were suddenly empowered by App Inventor’s low barrier to entry. This is a huge, novel, and incredibly hard working group, and one that should be nurtured and grown. Our society needs more creative people with the skill to create not just blog posts and web pages, but interactive media, i.e., apps.

      And I think Google could have done a better job of nurturing the community. I don’t blame the team for this, I blame the higher ups for not supporting the project and allocating more resources to it. 5.3142 individuals did something incredible. Even Hal was on the user group regularly answering questions. It just surprised the hell out of me that they didn’t add resources when they saw what they had. I guess this is, in a nutshell, why they are closing Google labs and focusing on fewer projects.

      Would love to chat with you more about plans, wolber@usfca.edu, Dave

  8. David, Do you see any connection between Googles patent brew-ha-ha with the other “Big Guys” as a reason to distance themselves from App Inventor?

  9. [...] Interesting, but kinda sad (via appinventorblog): Google quietly announced the discontinuation of App Inventor, effective end of the year. They plan to transition the product to a non-profit organization, the goal being that, for App Inventor users, only the URL will change come December 31st of this year. They will also open source the project. [...]

  10. Prof. Wolberd,

    You know me at least by reputation as the author of one of the “other” App Inventor books. I completely agree with your assessment both the positive and the negative. I too am puzzled by the apparent lack of commitment to an obviously brilliant teaching tool. I do NOT intend to abandon AI with Google. I will attempt to place whatever skill and influence I have with you and other interested parties.
    Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any initiatives or ways that I can assist.
    Kindest regards,
    Jason Tyler
    Author “App Inventor for Android”

    • Hi Jason. Thanks for the note and I’d love to work with you on next steps. You never know, this could end up being something fabulous.

      Dave

      p.s., I thought mine was the “other” book (-:

  11. So sad to hear about this. I love app inventor.

  12. About half a year ago I was inspired by AppInventor and your (concept version of the) book. We were busy updating our curriculum and has just adding AppInventor to it to learn first year’s students to learn the basics of programming. I just finished creating 8 weeks course materials and am about to start teaching it (in about 3 weeks we start).. :-S

    Besided that I was busy setting up a site (leerappinventor.nl, dutch for learn appinventor) to place course materials as opencourseware and blog about my first experiences (hurray for Open Source and sharing)
    And now they decided to discontinue AppInventor. Hurray again! :-S

    Bottom-line: I am quite puzzled about it…

    • Hi Ruud. Thanks for the note. I think its puzzling, too. I’m feeling optimistic though, even more so as the reactions come in, and as I talk with the Google team. My plan is to continue with my teaching plans.

      • My plan is also to continue with the teaching plans. But for the future it depends on who will take AppInventor or how AppInventor will be continued. Besides that I think students will began asking questions about the relevance of the tool. Now, only because it has the name Google on it, student thinks it will be a nice tool ;-)

      • Hi Ruud. I agree that we need a strong organization to take this on. And I think students will like a tool no matter what as long as it does what App Inventor does (e.g., Scratch is not supported by some big company, nor is Python, etc.) Thanks.

  13. Feeling hopeful again after reading this article, which finishes with these points:

    – Coding is fast becoming a new language driven by internet ubiquity
    – Learning to code will be essential for career progress
    – Demonstrating and showing an idea—rather than talking about it—is going to fuel the importance of coding
    – Anyone who can “teach” the masses to code, will have a huge market opportunity
    – Those who develop “middleman” software that can help people who can’t really code, create, will also have a significant market opportunity

  14. Frankly, I don’t see how App Inventor could be beneficial in any way when it comes to teaching anyone how to program. In order to teach development at any age it is important to instill the pupil the principles of Software Engineering. You can’t do that when it has all been abstracted away behind visual ques.

    True OO principles must be taught from day one as foundation for which ALL programming knowledge is taught. If instructors try to teach using app development technologies such as this the individuals in the class will get a skewed perception of what development is like giving them a grandiose outlook on a potential career path. One that once they get into college and the real world may be shattered.

    Instead, show them real programming. Teach them real programming,even at a young age. Look at some of the major players in the industry today and when and how they learned to develop. Mark Zuckerberg was taught real programming languages at a young age and see where he is now? Why should that be the exception.

    What happens when people learn to develop in languages such as this or Visual Studio Lightswitch. I bloated in efficient app is created that, if maintained needs to eventually transitioned to a real development team so that it can be cleaned up and made to run in an efficient and performing manner much to the dismay of the team who inherits it.

    • Try a block programming language some day, say App Inventor (if you hurry). There is a low threshold to doing cool stuff, the blocks get rid of some of the frustration when you are first starting

      and you start thinking in blocks of logic rather than a statement
      AND events… ooo

      It is a good way to get folks started.
      Some will move on to bigger and better? things.

      • I can kind of see the angle you’re coming from. However, I like to know what the code is really doing. I like to be able to control how long objects remain in memory and fine tune execution of statements to make the code perform better.

        I enjoy the frustrations you run into when developing apps. I look at everything as a learning opportunity. If something isn’t working and I need to figure it out then I have a chance to learn how to do that something a different or better way and maybe come out of it with some new knowledge gained.

        These block programming languages extract all that out from the experience. It is too, plug-and-play. If you are writing an application you should be doing it to solve a problem. Whether it be an issue of efficiency in getting work done or something a friend said in a conversation he/she started with “Wouldn’t it be great if you could do… on a computer”. Software development should be all about the problem solving. If you don’t enjoy solving problems then it is time to consider a career path change and find something more mundane.

        Block programming languages seem like too much of a black box. Where the company releasing these development tools are essentially saying, “Hey forget all that memory management and performance stuff we can handle it better.”

    • The history of computing has always been to code at higher levels.
      From coding in machine code to assembler. From assembler to Fortran or Cobol. From TSO to SPUFI. From C to Java with garbage collection.

      Global variables may not represent the best strategy for the production of commercial software. That will be addressed in time.

      One still needs to be able to decompose a task. The editor is (just) a tool, AI being a nice one; one that is here to stay no matter what Google decides.

  15. What a pity! That was my first impression. I developed c applications for 20 years. When i bought the iphone 3, i started to think of new apps but appinventor attracted me. Now i think big companies could create a Visual Basic compiler style based on appinventor code. Big money. Pity in the short term. Lets see in the long run.

  16. [...] right to cut Google labs projects — users of such tools should be aware of the risk,” Wolber wrote in his blog. “But in the case of App Inventor, the decision affects more than just your typical early [...]

  17. [...] product. Most of what I would say has been nicely summed up by Prof. Wolberd over on his blog athttp://appinventorblog.com/2011/08/09/app-inventor-discontinued-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/. Check it out. What I want to do is inject the tiniest element of information and caution into the [...]

  18. [...] right to cut Google labs projects — users of such tools should be aware of the risk,” Wolber wrote in his blog. “But in the case of App Inventor, the decision affects more than just your typical early [...]

  19. The comments here against visual block programming only demonstrate the giant cannon between two types of minds. Some minds have an advantage in environments like thousands of lines of code. Others are more on the idea creative side. Having an intuition for what people will like and make popular is typically not one of the strong suites of hard core coders.

    I think in 3d pictures but my wife sees words in her mind when thinking about a concept. I can spin around a 3d object in my mind and not forget what all sides look like. Its the difference between right and left brain, visual or abstract. Text language is abstract to me in the same way as art seems abstract to coders. Ever find yourself baffled as to why the masses made a certain thing popular?

    One wsy is not better than the other. Society has favored one over the other though. In school the teachers thought I had a learning disability. As an adult I figured out how to teach myself and realized our education system was the one with the disability.

    All you who see life through black and white text should not assume that your way of innovating is the only good or effective way. What can be said of the man who can’t read but can build every part of a house from the ground up with his bare hands out of memory?

    Everyone learns differently and AI has changed my life and I now realize that I can make awesome stuff and I won’t always be trapped doing super diificult work in high competition search engine optimization forever. One day creating programs will be a whole new ecosystem built on top of platforms you gifted black and white programmers build for people like me who simply have a different skill set. :)

    • While it is true that people have a different way of seeing things and learning, I believe it varies from one individual to the next, I have a fear.

      My fear is that if tools such as this become too commonplace a person whom is really more of an “idea man/woman” decides they have a great idea and wants to get it to market asap using a development tool they find so easy that they themselves can create it! Sounds great in theory. Here is what would more than likely happen (at least when taking web apps into consideration, possibly mobile or desktop apps too). The person will use a block language to create their “masterpiece”. Then, if it really is a good idea and they market it appropriately, it takes off and users love it.

      However, as it gains traction among the marketplace this new company will start to receive complaints from users that it has been gradually getting slower and more difficult to use. What happens next? They higher a developer with a background in whatever language was used behind the scenes for this block language application to go in and clean up the mess and make it more efficient so it scales better. Creates a load balanced server environment, etc. However, the poor schmuck who took the job is stuck cleaning up after someone else’s “mess”.

      This scenario may not come to light, but remember this you budding developers, no one likes cleaning up another’s mess. Whether in application code or in the kitchen. Most “coders” are very interested in seeing the application they are creating come to life and it is very important to them on a personal level that the users like said application. The developers I know are extremely creative! It is far better to consider things like scalability, etc from the get go before developing said application so this scenario can be avoided. In the case where scalability is of concern it is better to use C#, PHP, Python, Ruby, etc from the start.

      Again, there is no guarantee that the market will react to the availability of tools like this one in this regard. However, I think the market should tread carefully and determine if these tools will be right for the job when user adoption ramps up and if not don’t use it.

      • Howdy Tim

        Someone asked on the forums how to walk around in an array of arrays and had some very simple Pascal :-) pseudocode.

        The App Inventor example was clean and easy to follow.
        Building it taught some lessons about what was being returned.

        and was easier for some to follow than the Pascal example (but not smaller)

        and

        I understand what you are saying
        and if someone wants to ‘learn’ HTML with Dreamweaver, I wish them luck and offer to get back with them when they are ready.

        If some big corporation deploys a complex app built with App, Inventor, I wish them luck and will be interested in what they learn when they are ready to talk.

        I use App Inventor to help others learn, if they want to build production quality apps, well that can be done, but I do not think it is a PRIMARY goal for App Inventor.

      • Tim, you say: “However, the poor schmuck who took the job is stuck cleaning up after someone else’s “mess”.”

        There have always been badly coded programs, and the people who clean them up are not schmucks, as you put it.

      • I only say “schmuck” because they may not have know ahead of time what they were getting themselves into. If you’re into cleaning up someone else’s code then that is fine too. Me, I prefer to be somewhere where I can write new applications and not have to fix or rewrite old ones. It isn’t that I can’t by any means. Just not where my passions lie. If someone else actually enjoys that kind of work then good for them.

  20. Whilst emotions are high on the forums and here on your blog is there something current users can do to help the decision makers at google see the impact of their decision? or is it too late and or pointless to do that.?

    I think I would be speaking for everyone in the AI community when I say we would walk to the end of the earth to see appinventor continue as is. If that means writing 100 blogs a day then so be it. For AI to just disappear is truly nuts.

  21. You say: Some minds have an advantage in environments like thousands of lines of code. Others are more on the idea creative side.

    May I say, everyone likes to minimize lines of code.

    What you mean, if I can be so bold, is that lowering the “barrier to entry” for application development will allow better apps to be made. It is hard to disagree with that statement, which is essentially “the more the merrier”.

  22. When I first signed up for AI, I read that it would be useful in teaching young people about making software apps and then they could become interested and go from there. Also, I read that AI could be used by a person to make their own apps to use for themselves. The latter is why I started the process of learning AI. Over time I saw how it helped me actually think about the process not just move the blocks around according to a recipe. After a while I decided that I really needed to learn Java from the ground up and started that process. I go back and forth from Java code, android code, to AI. AI is such a pleasure to work with and then I see coding in a visual way. It is all very fascinating and I am learn from it all!

    I must say I am learning not to depend on Google as much seeing how they will pull the rug out from under people in a blink of an eye. I am glad my life and living is not dependent on them.

  23. Like the rest of you, I am saddened that AppInventor is being closed. If there really are only 5 engineers behind AppInventor, perhaps Google would let us support their work directly by charging a service/membership fee. At least that way the tool would still be available and we could continue to use the tool to for teaching purposes.

  24. Hi David,

    I would like to throw in my 2 cents.

    I am reading the book The Origins of New Businesses by Amar Bhide. From the standpoint of business history the shutdown makes sense. “Significant outlays on speculative research projects that have no prior path to commercial exploitation reflect a failure of a corporation’s checks and balances” App inventor contributed to the public good in the same way that AT&T research labs and Xerox (with LAN’s and GUI’s) did. Unfortunately for AT&T and Xerox those research innovations didn’t pay off for the bottom line. Intel for example does very little of it’s own research. It relies on universities. “Corporations will avoid businesses whose profits depend on the superior abilities or skills of one or two people.” Yes this is the uncertainty that entrepreneurs exploit. Google isn’t in an entrepreneurial stage. They are in profit maximization stage. That is good for them and good for investors.

    My issue is more of a patriotic one. How will kids find high paying jobs. America has government policies that encourage importing. So America can hardly compete on products. We have to compete on ingenuity. Things that we are first-movers on like the electric car and app inventor without continued support of entrepreneurs will be picked up by other counties. This will give us no way to bring down inflation. We are not seeing processes through the creative pipeline. Eventually, either government has to step in and raise the 28% high income tax rate back to around 70% that it was at before Reagan took office or we need to figure out how to get big corporations to sell off these pet projects to entrepreneurs rather than open sourcing it. Open sourcing sounds utopian but it gives away our inventiveness and therefore our economic opportunity to reduce the deficit disappears.

    Thanks. God Bless.

    Aaron.

  25. you quote “Significant outlays on speculative research projects that have no prior path to commercial exploitation reflect a failure of a corporation’s checks and balances”

    And you believe this? That R&D is bad business…

  26. is the glass half empty or half full

    “Google’s decision to leave the fate of App Inventor in the hands of the open source world has expectedly met resistance from the project’s more fervent supporters. Among them is David Wolber…”

    http://www.infoworld.com/t/development-tools/google-leaves-android-app-inventor-the-open-source-community-169557?source=IFWNLE_nlt_stradev_2011-08-11

    I think they read a different article, it’s sad that the Google gravy train is ending, but IF the community really cares, it will pick the source up and love it and grow the community.

    IF…

    • Two things.
      1) I have the impression that the size of the App Inventor development team is 5, more or less. This puts the payroll component of AI at the one million dollar/year category. This amount could hardly matter to Google.

      2) A decision to “open-source” AI could have been framed as a “do no evil” initiative, if handled correctly. The uncertainty and turmoil that has taken place reflect badly on Google management, IMO. I hope they are not the next Xerox, as I own stock.

      OK, three.

      3) The cat is out of the bag. There will continue to be the graphical construction of procedure code, just as we now routinely have the graphical construction of the UI. The down side: it is still possible to create unmaintainable procedure code using this tool.

  27. If the Google team (GWT) behind the visual editor for Eclipse and supporters look into the insanely brilliant visual coding the AppInventor team made, it could make the visual Eclipse editor the first tool to bring coding into a whole new ecosystem.

    There is no real barrier in bringing software creation to a new level. Millions of talented creative people are not part of code creation these days except as the manager or marketing arm of firms hiring coders. The visual editor Google is making for Eclipse is on its way to being the next Gen link between the two sides of the brain.

    If you are a hard core coder great, work in code view. If you are code dyslexic, like me, but still are capable of making software with visual tools that solve user problems, this is great.

    The difference between this and all previous visual coding tools is in two things. The puzzle piece code block editor and the multi-back end code generation. Visual editing for HTML5, Java, etc. Who knows, Google may look at Sencha, PhoneGap, Titanium App Accelerator, etc. and say “we can do better!”

    Hopefully someone at Google reading this takes a hard look at the visual code block editor in AppInventor and sees the brilliance behind that new visual intellisense. It would empower a whole new bread of developers like myself. I made an App with AI that has over 110,000 downloads, 2,200 ratings averaging 4.13 stars and over 210 comments. Also its at over 400 purchases of the pro version. Demanding scalability and great code efficiency kills innovation by making testing many concepts to costly.

    I may be bad at spelling and punctuation but I am really good with complex social issues, problem solving and thinking outside the box. Most of all I’m good at making money and with the ability to stand on the shoulders of text based coders and build software, Apps, web Apps etc. I will be even more successful. The best part will be, being the one who actually built the “thing” though, even if it was with a tool!

  28. The Wikipedia entry on Google App Inventor shows that the code block editor is a development of prior thought and work. Not surprising. It may have captured sufficient mind-share this time. I wish I knew more about that history.

    I think you need not worry, if I may put it that way, that lack of scalability or lack of efficiency are show-stoppers at this point. The phone apps are tiny. The visual canvas is only so big.

    If you mean that it would be nice to use this tool for large projects, I don’t think it is ready for that as it is now, but there is nothing to prevent procedural code from being expressed in block format. And multiple-choice / fill-in-the-blanks is easier than essay question.

  29. reaching back to one of Mark Friedman’s pointers
    https://groups.google.com/d/msg/app-inventor-instructors/y9EwoanDJfQ/mwxjH7W9KhIJ

    I was first introduced to block programming with Lego robots
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lego_Mindstorms

    The community has lots to look forward to.

  30. GREAT NEWS EVERYONE!!!!!

    http://goo.gl/Ak5pu

    and more at

    http://goo.gl/uNIya

    Thank you Google and thank you MIT!

  31. When Yahoo closed down LaunchCast radio, I closed my Yahoo chapter and moved across to Google, I was so offended by not being able to view the list of 4000+ songs and artists that I spent hours rating and sorting.

    Google needs to be very clear with their intentions; Yes- android is taking off like a rocket, but it could lose altitude just as fast if they offend the wrong people.

  32. I was wondering if it would lead to app inventor being a cross platform development tool. That would be sweet!

  33. [...] As I was finishing this final article in my App Inventor X.commerce series, Google announced they would be discontinuing support for App Inventor. [...]

  34. I managed to find a fix for this and I simplified uploading google app inventor into the marketplace, below is a link to a text file, which is a tutorial simplified for anyone to use, and since it’s a text file, save it to your computer and use it as many times as you need.
    http://bit.ly/qIUsHG

  35. I read that MIT will be taking over App Inventor after the Dec 31 plug pulling. Anyone have any updates on that?

  36. How will we make apps now?

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