Well, not that easy. But I think there are a few (non-mutually exclusive) ways launching an app like this might play out.
The first is probably the most obvious: it’s a niche download for a few individuals who appreciate just about everything said in this series of blog posts. They see it, try it, think it’s clever, tell a friend, probably move on pretty quickly.
Second: it gains some traction in the tech community and is downloaded more than a few times. Users add their information, a real database is built, and soon it’s something being spread within tech and academic circles.
The third is that a company like Amazon or Netflix catches wind of what we claim the app does. More specifically, a company with private algorithms and private databases and private servers and private everything wants the public to know that what we are doing is impossible.
Why is this outcome preferred? Because it effectively outs the company as having all of the algorithms and data and privacy that we are critiquing. It’s as if we said “we have all of this data you’ve been collecting and crunching and exploiting us with” and they reply with “no you don’t” instead of “we never had that to begin with.”
Maybe this is a pipe dream. Maybe Apple or Google wouldn’t even let us distribute this app on their platforms for exactly that reason: we’d be faking a lot of the functionality. But we think it’s worth a try.