A Revered App Designer Shares His Dream Project

Loren Brichter has made the hit apps Tweetie and Letterpress, but his sights are set much higher: Creating the perfect coding language.

Most iPhone apps are quickly manufactured garbage that use Apple’s robust APIs (or software pieces) at the cost of creating unique interfaces and experiences. Loren Brichter, the one-man-band behind Tweetie and Letterpress, has designed watershed actions like “pull to refresh” but also codes his apps largely from scratch. That work made him one of Facebook’s most celebrated recent hires.


When we spoke a few months, back, I asked him why. Why put forth the extra effort, when in reality, he could probably create 85% of his experience by using the technology for others. And in what I consider a pretty special moment in an interview, his candid answer surprised us both. He discovered he wants to create a perfect coding language that’s free from unpredictable bugs.

I want to be in control of my own destiny, so reducing my dependency on external technologies is really important on a fundamental level. I think that’s one of the reasons I work on myself. Because if I work for myself but built 90% of my app on a technology that I don’t control, how is that different than being an Apple employee?

Apple’s technology is astoundingly good! I’m not doing it for technological reasons. I’m doing it for quality of life. Fulfillment–that might be it.

I build something. The beauty of software is that you can conjure something out of nothing. I turn food into these things. Even software, it’s this real thing. Information is what’s in between matter, someone else’s electrons I’m putting into place.

The biggest problem in coding language today is known as ‘shared mutable state.’ It’s when you have multiple components in a system interacting with the same piece. Any programmer will know what it is. Everyone agrees it’s a bad thing. Everyone ideally wants to get rid of it. But how do you get rid of it?

There are some spoken languages that have many different words for ‘love’ or ‘snow.’ You have to almost invent a new language so you can describe and reason about these systems in a sane way.

There’s no grand unified plan yet. When a lot of programmers go down this path they get so caught up in their own minds that they forget to make anything. What I’d like to do is work on this 50/50. Part of my time, I work on the perfect coding language, and what comes out of it is a benefit to humanity. And on the other side, create things that are beneficial to humanity on a shorter time scale. Maybe a game.

Image: Cloud via Shutterstock


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach