The Unix philosophy, and the less frequently articulated Windows philosophy of programming greatly affect the way that users interact with these systems.

Despite their differences, both the Unix- and Windows-based approaches seem more similar than the rapidly growing App-based approach to computer use (e.g. iOS, as based on my previous question).

What is the design, and thus user experience philosophy associated with App-based computing environments?

  • While an interesting question, it really isn't a great fit for the Stack Exchange format. Maybe hop on the chat rooms and get a conversation going? – Alex Feinman Mar 27 '12 at 19:21
  • @AlexFeinman I think this has potential with our "good subjective" rules – Ben Brocka Mar 27 '12 at 19:28

First of all I would like to emphasize the differences between the original philosophies of the different operating systems:


  • Let users control how the OS is composed and works (and of course everything else)
    - Can cause versioning nightmare.


  • OS structure is a given uniform constraint.
    - OS version is stable.
  • Let users decide what they install on the OS (which apps for each purpose).
    - Users decide which application(s) handles each protocol/file format.


  • Users can do what we allow them to - everything is a given uniform constraint.
    - Most stable and uniform user experience, however, most limited possibilities.

Now for the differences between desktop, mobile/app, web based user experiences:

Console: (e.g. DOS/terminal)

  • Users must know how to do everything.
    - Terrible user experience.

Modern desktop:

  • Simple interface - doesn't require expert users.
  • Users can have multiple applications open at once - applications shouldn't hog resources (screen real estate, CPU, RAM).
  • Many applications can work without connection to Internet.
  • Information is mainly stored locally.


  • App runs in full screen.
  • Limited resources for apps (small screen, less CPU and memory).
  • Web account(s) associated with device.
  • Most apps work online.
  • A lot of information is stored in web account (e.g. mail, contacts).
  • Basic app settings stored locally.

Web based apps / web-sites:

  • Apps run in browser.
  • Apps have full browser window size.
  • Browser may or may not be full screen (see desktop apps above).
  • Information is mainly stored online (except cookies).
  • Settings for non registered users stored locally (and for use prior to login).
  • Storing information online requires web account(s).
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  • 1
    I think you completely missed what people mean by “Unix philosophy”. Importantly, it is not restricted to Linux or open source versions of Unix. – Gala Mar 30 '12 at 8:31
  • @GaëlLaurans Wikipedia defines it as "Write programs that do one thing and do it well. Write programs to work together.", however, I tried to emphasize the difference between developing and using applications for different environments e.g. mobile and desktop and not the basic philosophy of UNIX which didn't seem to donate to the question. – Danny Varod Apr 1 '12 at 12:44

Short answer:

  1. Services
  2. Universal Access Interface

Long answer:

In this Google Tech Talk from May 2007 Away with Applications: The Death of the Desktop Aza Raskin explains what is wrong with desktop applications (starts at cca 20:00) and why the emerging web applications are often more usable. (Note the first iPhone was still couple months away.)

The whole talk is too long and too good to extract short answer (except the one above). Watch it, it's worth it.

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