Soemarko Ridwan

iOS & Web Developer ⟡ Coffee Addict ⟡ Scuba Diver

An Audience of One

Tom is totally on point in the video. Web 2.0 days is totally the Internet’s utopia. “It was going to be the Age of Mashups: take data and do interesting things with it.” If we’re still in the Web 2.0 days, we won’t have these many messaging services, and even if we do, there will be an app that does them all like Trillian (member Trillian? I member…).

A few weeks ago, I built and released WhatsDP. A simple tool that’ll update my contacts with the display pictures in WhatsApp, I want to see pictures instead of initials when people calls or in iMessage. This would be something trivial in the Web 2.0 days.

It started as something I wanted to do, so I look for ways / existing apps that’ll do it, closest one is Vignette. Not only that it doesn’t support WhatsApp, I have to go through every single one of my contacts and add their Instagram or Facebook account. Nope, that’s a non-starter.

And then, as a developer myself, it turns into an app idea. However, after further research, I’ve found that there’s no kosher way of pulling that info, even with WhatsApp Business API. WhatsApp Business API is only good for sending OTP and phone tree. And turns out, there are very little services that have both phone number and display pictures, think Gravatar but with phone number instead of email. We no longer live in the utopia, it'll never be widely accepted in todays world.

So here we are, I cobbled together some JavaScript to scrape some images off WhatsApp web. It works, for now, and at the very least, for me. Even if I’ll be the only user that it ever has, my contacts look so nice now. I got what I wanted at the beginning of this process.

Just because something is going to break in the end, doesn’t mean that it can’t have an effect that lasts into the future. Joy. Wonder. Laughter. Hope. The world can be better because of what you built in the past. And while I do think that the long term goal of humanity should be to find a way to defeat entropy, I’m pretty sure no-one knows where to start on that problem just yet.

So until then: try and make sure the things you’re working on push us in the right direction. They don’t have to be big projects, they might just have an audience of one. And even if they don’t last, try to make sure they leave something positive behind.