The Adobes, Microsofts, and Hewlett-Packards of the world may launch huge advertising campaigns and have marketing budgets makes a small developer drool. But year-round, Macworld editors scrounge to discover the “little guy” (or girl, rarely) developers. I'm talking about the kind we stumble upon during a Web search on a totally unrelated topic—the software maker who has no idea how to write a press release to get our attention or who tries to make a living on tiny donations for amazing applications. (Of course, that’s rather dramatic—lots of very small companies work very hard to make their names known and to make money.)
Take it from a Macworld editor, small developers are a lot harder to find when their names aren’t plastered all over gigantic billboards.
Of course, not all the software that comes out of small developers’ garages or bedrooms is great—or even average. Anyone who’s downloaded a random program from VersionTracker knows that it can be quite an awful experience. Which is why it’s important to recognize the developers who actually succeed.
For this year’s Editors’ Choice Awards, we rewarded some of these lone wolves (or very small packs of wolves), for their awesome feats of programming. I’m thinking about Rogue Amoeba, creators of Nicecast, which lets you broadcast your Mac’s audio over a local network or the Internet; Shirt Pocket with netTunes, which gives you much better control over AirPort Express’ AirTunes; and Bram Cohen’s BitTorrent, the utility that’s taking the file-sharing community by storm.
(Speaking of file sharing, does anyone remember the early days of Napster? Back in 2000, Macworld gave Napster a special Eddy award recognizing its huge impact on the Mac market. BitTorrent continues the legal (and illegal) file-sharing tradition—proudly still in the hands of small developers.)
Some of these tiny developers have consistently given us some of the Mac’s best software. Bare Bones Software, a long-time Mac developer, just won another Eddy for its HTML Editor BBEdit 8.0; last year, it won for Mailsmith 2.0, which we deemed the year’s best e-mail client. And in 2003, Elgato Systems gave us the EyeTV, basically at TiVo for your Mac. In 2004, we fell in love all over again with its EyeTV 200.
The small, one-person developer is much like the Mac. Both make up a very small percentage of the overall market, but they are often the most innovative percentage.
So we won’t ignore the little guys—they may not make our Mac worlds go round, but they sure provide an extra push.