Novelty is not Innovation

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Doing the same that has been done up to now, but with a new product is a novelty , not innovation 1 . However, in the tech world, many times one is mistaken by the other. For example, building a software as a service website is hardly innovative. Convincing people to pay a subscription in exchange of access to an extremely vast catalog of music, however, is innovative.

I do believe that there is almost no innovation in the software development world. Most 'devs' start their days knowing that whatever they want to do, can be done. Perhaps they don't know why yet, but there is no real challenge. This means that anybody else can also do it. Innovation in most software platforms comes from business strategy.

Let's see the example of Uber 2 . Having an App to request a taxi is hardly something innovative. In many countries you could request a taxi with a simple phone call. However, the true innovation of Uber came in the form of labor contracts. Uber is obviously a service provider that sees its employees as freelancers. This is the true disruption (see: The uberization of the workforce ).

Another, opposite, example is that of Skype . When the idea started, it was not known that an algorithm could compress audio and send it over the internet at rates that would allow for a two-way communication. It was originally based a peer-to-peer protocol that was emerging at the time as a way of sharing music between users.

Innovation is not the only driver for success . A clear example is Microsof's Messenger , an inferior product compared to ICQ , but pushed to millions of people through their operating system. However, there are many examples that show novelty is not enough for success . An example is a minor technical achievement, such as a smaller (or bigger) phone.


  1. Book Start with Why , Simon Sinek

  2. I could have equally well have chosen Lyft as an example, I am not picking it for being the first, but for its notoriety

Aquiles Carattino
Aquiles Carattino
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