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What if you build it and no one comes?

Application development isn’t easy. That’s why the profession of software engineering is so valued and why talented cloud and mobile app developers — like you — are continually sought after. That said, how do you feel after pouring your soul into a project, only to see it flop and get yanked mere months after its rollout?

The latest case is the shutdown this week of Amazon Destinations, the retail behemoth’s six month-old venture into hotel booking. A terse statement on the site says simply, “Effective October 13, Amazon Destinations stopped selling reservations on travel.amazon.com and the Amazon Local app. If you have a reservation, your reservation is valid and will be honored by the hotel. No action is required on your part.” That’s the entire statement.

Think about this for a moment. Technically, Amazon Destinations got the best of everything. It’s a darn good bet this product was running on Amazon Web Services and was developed, tested, and deployed using the very best of AWS’s own tools, perhaps even ones not available to typical AWS subscribers. You know the product was given oodles of compute resources and data-storage space. QA was, no doubt, top notch. Still, work needed to be done. Databases had to be built. Integration with external resources, such as databases of hotels and room availability had to be accessed and integrated. Queries, credit card transaction processing, logging, exception handlers, and user interfaces all had to be designed and built.

So, what went wrong? Perhaps Amazon’s effort was simply far too late to have any impact. There’s already tons of competition from dozens of dot coms, including Expedia, Hotels, Airbnb, Booking, Trivago, Kayak, Priceline, Hotwire, BookingBuddy, HotelBooking, and many more. I had heard almost nothing of Amazon Destinations, and I’m in the business of writing about such matters. According to Bloomberg Business, Amazon Destinations was launched in April 2015 in an effort to broaden the reach of its Amazon Local platform, which finds discounted, close-to-home shopping deals. Did you know that? I didn’t.

There’s also the growing problem of rogue booking websites and mobile apps that are out-and-out scams, according to a story published this week by NBC News. Amazon Destinations, of course, was most definitely not a scam, but it’s likely that once people find a travel site or app they trust, they’re going to stick with it. In other words, if you’re happy using Expedia, why switch?

As I’ve noted before, migrate a bad application from the on-premises data center into the cloud and you still have a bad application. That’s purely a technical design and coding failure. But, here, the problem is very different: starting out with a bad business concept. Even the best of developers would have no way of knowing. You get the specs and you code your heart out.

Building a great app doesn’t ensure that anyone will download it, or that it can be found at all.The challenge that extends well beyond the development process is making your app visible so that people want to download it. According to Nick

Nick Landry, a senior technical evangelist at Microsoft for all things mobile, if an app is not in the top 50 to top 100 across a category in an app store, the likelihood that it will ever be downloaded are very small, he says. Just 17% of independent developers generate no revenue from their apps, while another 18% make less than $100 a month, he added. Not very promising.

Has this happened to you, seeing an app withdrawn or service shut down soon after its launch? How did this impact you, after putting in a huge amount much work and many late nights? Share your experiences; we’d like to hear from you.

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