3 min read

Abstraction As A Service

A few days ago, I happened to be looking at some of the top products and startups in recent times like Stripe, Substack, Robinhood and others. I believed that looking at the services they provide and what they've been working on recently would give me an idea on potential future trends for products and inspire me to work on something new. However, looking into some of these products made me see a common trend. It wasn't a particular field or technology rising like I thought I'd notice, but in fact it was a certain attribute of all these companies or products that I believe made them successful; they hid all the gruesome details of whatever field they were in, from their customers.

Let's start with the best example of this - Stripe. Working with Payments is an absolute pain. Keeping track of the user's details and PII info like card details, invoice management, security are tough enough to manage for a developer without having to worry about the legal documents and financial regulation of their country and everywhere else your product is available. Instead, Stripe handles that for you. The best compliment you could provide for a product like this is that it makes the service they provide work exactly like you think it should. What I mean by this is that if I was asked to describe what a payment system should work like, I'd probably mention a frontend for the input, a server for some validation and requesting the bank to release the funds, and sending the users a receipt. When you start building it from scratch, you realise how many more components work together to make this seem so effortless. Often, things don't work the way they should. On the surface, Substack's idea seems pretty simple. Yet another blogging platform that lets you send your posts as a newsletter. While most developers might be able to build a half-decent draft of such a platform, it isn't till you deploy one that you realise how much must go right. For starters, considering you need to be able to send the post as an email newsletter, you'd need to figure out how to keep all the mails from the new blogs popping up every minute from ending up in the spam folder. Substack's value proposition isn't the fact that you can create a newsletter, it's that anyone can create a newsletter and not have to handle any of the heavy lifting.

Looking into the future, one of the biggest trends I see coming up, and most likely staying and growing, are the rise of No-Code tools. Tools like Bubble let you create dynamic apps and websites with the functionality you need and the designs you have, without having to know a programming language or deal with the databases and hosting. At its core, No Code tools are just an abstraction to coding environments that make it more accessible to everyone despite their technical skills.  However, by no means is this a new trend or something we'll see only in the future. Arguable one of the biggest service in the history of the internet is AWS and that was an abstraction over cloud hosting which let you provision the computation power you need without worrying about security or the network unless you wanted to.

The Facebook motto of Move Fast and Break Things is true now more than ever. Most Indie Hackers and startups want to focus on the product rather than the cogs of every component they require. The best value you can create for them is to take away the boilerplate work and focus on the main ingredients. I do believe that the next big things will satisfy this same criteria of simplifying a niche for a specific subset of people. This means the people to solve a problem are the ones who are already in that field. The Collison brothers were developers who started Stripe after they realised how tough it is to integrate payments into their projects. So the easiest way to think of a new idea would be to figure out what you do in your daily life that could be abstracted. Another way to think of this is as removing a barrier to entry into your domain. Generally these would be tasks that require a specific set of skills a beginner might struggle with, tasks that are time consuming and could be automated, or something that takes away the pain of managing another component of a bigger project. The internet is a huge place, and now more than ever it's easier to target the people you're selling to. You don't have to be solving a huge problem for a majority of people, all you need to do is solve a pain point that affects even a small number of people who are willing to pay up.