Rudy Huyn brings apps to the people
Cut it. Paste it.
I’m supposed to be writing about Rudy Huyn. Instead, I’m composing my own house music about the writing process with iDaft, an app he created for Windows Phone using beats from French band Daft Punk’s song “Technologic.”
My next song is more provocative.
Touch it. Watch it. Touch it. Watch it. Touch it. Watch it.
Fax. Fax. Fax.
Huyn’s approach to developing Windows Phone applications is simple: “I just create apps I like and want to use,” he told me. The 31-year-old French developer is responsible for bringing third-party versions of popular apps like Instagram, Vine and Tinder to Windows Phone, often adding his trademark “6” to the name: 6tag, 6sec, 6tin and so on.
The passion and productivity of this self-declared “Microsoft fan boy” landed him a spot at the company’s Most Valuable Professional Summit for the third year in a row last November. With his spiky black hair and boundless energy, Huyn is perpetually enthusiastic about his work.
That’s because it’s not work.
I just create apps I like and want to use.
“My grandfather painted a lot,” said Huyn. Making apps is “exactly the same thing. Except I have no brushes, no white paper. I just have my PC, my page, and I create something from that. Developers are just artists. We’re just numeric artists.”
Huyn (pronounced “Win” and short for Huyn-Van-Phuong, a Vietnamese name) practices his art form from the couch of his apartment in Rennes, France, a small city in the west coast of the country, in Brittany. After receiving an engineering degree from Institut National des Sciences Appliquées of Rennes, he began work on software for TV set-top boxes, and moonlighted as a mobile app developer for fun.
But his day job started to bore him, and he wasn’t in love with the available tools for iOS and Android app development. Plus, managing his day job and his night work was getting to be too much. “I wanted a change,” he shrugged. So he taught himself the C# programming language, and a few months later the Windows Phone software development kit (SDK) was released. “I said, ‘I want this to be my new life.’”
Huyn quickly built Fuse, his first Windows Phone application, but he didn’t release it right away. “I wanted just to test. I developed it just for myself,” he said. Eventually, he got up the nerve to publish it. “I was surprised because I received a lot of reviews from users saying, ‘I like this application. Please make more applications.’ It was the beginning of the end.”
So Huyn issued a challenge. He approached two French websites about taking suggestions for apps from the general public, promising to produce one of them over the course of a single weekend. Users jumped on it, and Huyn had his next project: Create an app that tells users when the next episode of their favorite TV show will air, with a summary of the episode and a place for discussion after the show. With live cameras on him all weekend, Huyn produced the app — TVShow — in just 30 hours. (It’s still available in the Windows Phone store.)
“A lot of users download it and like it,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
“Today, with all the rich tools available, like Blend for Visual Studio and Design Library, an individual developer can create an incredibly complete experience,” said Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group. “It’s valuable for us to see creativity on the platform.”
Belfiore first met Huyn at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where they worked on a Live Lock Screen app. Belfiore was impressed with the speed and elegance of Huyn’s designs, especially the third-party clients. Before Windows Phone acquired an Instagram client, Belfiore says of all Huyn’s apps he used that one the most.
“Rudy showed this ability to reverse-engineer while also being great at this elegant design,” said Joe Belfiore of Huyn’s third-party apps. “That combination is super rare.”
Reading through reviews of Huyn’s apps, you get the sense that his fans are part of an extended family, addressing him by his first name, politely suggesting updates, and sticking up for him when business isn’t going his way. With no corporate walls between him and his fans, he’s able to act transparently, like the benevolent leader of a Democratic Republic of Applications.
“I give the possibility to my users to give feedback,” he said. “I never develop an app in secret. We need to do an app not for ourselves, but for our users.”
But digital utopias are no more viable than physical ones. In a widely shared tweet on October 31, Huyn announced the death of one of his darlings, 6cret, the third-party app for Secret.ly that was killed off by a copyright complaint. Following it, he tweeted, “And because I've no secret about #6cret, I’ve only earned $180 with 6cret in 3 months. #notForMoney.” A week later, he tweeted to his followers to not mourn 6cret, because it will be producing two children, “a huge one and a small one, keep you in touch.”
Huyn’s transparency resonates as rare and innocent in today’s marketplace. He is making a good living as an independent developer since leaving his day job, and although he recently started his own company, 6studio, he claims it exists for legal reasons, and that he has no intention of managing employees.
“The thing that excites me is to help Microsoft make Windows Phone a great platform,” he explained.
The challenge of working independently and under pressure motivates him.
“It’s a creative thing,” he said. “Non-geek people have trouble understanding. You run and you say, ‘OK, yesterday I ran eight kilometers, but next week I need to run faster or longer.’ It’s the same when you create something. ‘Last time I created an app in two months. This time I will create it in six weeks.’ I’m sure we can always do better. If you challenge yourself every time, it motivates you. I don’t want to create the same app every time. I want to create a better app. This is why I want to learn new technology.”
Popular apps are often developed over several months with dozens of developers. Huyn gets a rush replicating them alone and on a self-imposed deadline.
“When I have one hour of free time, I have the choice: I can play, or I can create something. Because I enjoy it, I create something,” he said. Huyn owns two Xbox One consoles, and although he hasn’t spent much time with them yet, he’s eager to try developing on the platform.
“I am very passionate and I just do what I like,” he said. “Every time Microsoft launches a new thing, it’s a new game for me. It’s not about ego. It’s about a new way to play.”
“It’s great to have someone with Rudy’s raw talent working on the platform,” said Belfiore. “He has an infectious enthusiasm. We love having people like that involved.”
Huyn’s enthusiasm goes well beyond application development. He’s even happy about the weather — a cool Seattle winter drizzle. The climate is just like western France, he said. He’s right at home here. Plus, the MVP Summit has him energized.
“It’s like Disneyland,” he said. “Every time I meet a Windows Phone developer, I want to take a picture and thank him.”Photos by Brian Smale / © Microsoft