An online application is a piece of software that enables a website visitor to perform a task or activity on the internet.
It can be something very simple like inputting the value of your house and length of mortgage term to calculate your monthly repayments. Or it can be something much more sophisticated, like Skype online telephony (www.skye.com) or Yahoo Messenger.
When I talk to interested parties about subscription websites, particularly traditional publishers, they often dismiss applications as gimmicks or unnecessary expenses.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
If you can find a unique application that an internet audience is willing to pay for, it is a license to print money. You don’t need to continually update your site. It’s just the same tool being used over and over again.
I’ll give you an example.
Four years ago Scott Janus found himself travelling a lot on business. He became hugely frustrated at not being able to receive faxes at the same time that he picked up his email.
So he wrote a simple application that enabled faxes to be sent from a normal fax machine to his desktop computer. There they were automatically turned into an email attachment and forwarded to his email account.
Scott could then pick up his faxes on his laptop wherever he was in the world.
He was so pleased with his creation that he started to expand its capabilities.
He developed a new module that enable him to send a fax from his laptop to any fax machine in the world.
He also added archiving, tracking and online fax templates.
Many people commented how useful his invention was and asked if they could use it. So Scott decided to sell access to the service over the internet ... and in 2002 his company JConnect was born (www.jconnect.com).
At the beginning of 2005, just three years after launch, the service had 400,000 subscribers paying $15 a month to be able to send and receive faxes from their computer.
So that you don’t need to bother getting your calculator out. Here’s the sums done for you.
Scott’s company was making $6 million A MONTH, or $72 million a year ... just for forwarding faxes as emails.
The lesson is: don’t dismiss the creation of online applications for your users as a gimmicks or unnecessary expenses.
They may turn out to be more valuable than the rest of your content put together.
If you need an application developer, try using eLance (www.elance.com) to find a developer to write it for you.
If you find a great application that internet users will pay a subscription to use, it is better than winning the lottery!