So long SaaS, welcome webware

I've always hated the SaaS acronym and I'm not alone. Coghead's Paul McNamara points out that radio isn't called Phaas - Phonograph as a Service. We should choose a name that looks ahead to the future rather than harking back to what it replaces.

My dislike for the SaaS acronym is long-held. For a while I tried to avoid using it on this blog, but in the end it became too established to resist. I still hate it though, and I'm not alone. Paul McNamara has just posted a great analogy on the Coghead blog to illustrate what's so wrong with it (I liked it so much I borrowed his picture, below):
"We don't call radio 'Phonograph as a Service' (PhaaS) – although if today's 'visionaries' were alive in the '20s maybe we would have. It's true that radio lets you listen to phonograph records over the air. But that’s where the similarity ends. Radio is a whole lot more."
Say no to SaaS logo
He's so right. Describing this amazing new capability in terms of what it replaces is as visionary as calling the automobile a 'horseless carriage' — or as McNamara says, "the Horse and Buggy as a Self Propelled Vehicle (HaBaaSPV)". It's backward-looking and it encourages vendors with no understanding or imagination to come out with useless SoSaaS offerings. McNamara continues (my emphasis added):

"When technology changes the patterns of consumption in a fundamental way, then something very important is happening. A new era is dawning and new terminology is needed. Words matter.

"People are able to do things with web-based applications and information services that they simply can't do with software that's installed on a local machines or running in a client-server environment. And because of this, web-based applications will reach market segments that have been beyond the reach of software apps."

McNamara ends by making a pitch for the term 'webware', which is currently being popularized by a CNET site run by Rafe Needleman (disclosure: CNET is ZDNet's parent company). McNamara says:
"Webware emphasizes that web-based applications and information services are fundamentally different from software applications. And it signals a significant demarcation in the evolution of technology. Whereas the term 'SaaS' wrongly places its emphasis on the very technology component (software) that users of web-based applications no longer need to think about. Webware is a revolutionary new approach to satisfying information needs."
A few years ago, webware wouldn't have been acceptable as a term because the Web wasn't taken seriously as a business platform. Webware had too many connotations of lightweight eyecandy. But now I think people are starting to have a different perception and maybe webware will stick as the term. One thing is sure: SaaS is a throwback to the past and will only survive for as long as software vendors can convince themselves that their future doesn't lie on the Web. I give it a couple years at most.

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