Not Everything is an OS!

Published on Jun 6, 2022

There’s an annoying trend right now to refer to any arbitrary thing being built in tech as an “OS for X”; a quick search on Product Hunt shows a plethora of results for of “An OS for X”…none of which are actually Operating Systems.

For whatever reason, the tech industry has migrated from thinking that everything is a platform of some kind to thinking that everything and anything can be considered an Operating System.

The reasoning behind this can kind of make sense - builders want their customers to be the end all and be all of some problem they are trying to solve for, just like an operating system encompasses the entirety of a person’s experience when using various computing devices. MacOS, iOS, Windows, Android, Linux, etc etc all define the experience of using whatever hardware they are running on, as well as how applications get developed and released. They are the portals between how people use useful software and the layers of computation that make a computer, a computer.

People describing every arbitrary product or service as an Operating System desire to have these perceived at the same level of quality and ubiquity as the Operating Systems that people use constantly throughout their day. It is understandable why they want this.

However, even in our post-modern society, words do still mean something, and language impacts how people perceive the products and services that they use and interact with.

An operating system, for anyone who may not know or may be feeling confused about what it is, is the software interface for allowing people to interact with computing hardware. Wikipedia defines a Operating System as:

“An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common services for computer programs.”

The problem with defining any arbitrary product and service as an “OS for X”, is that it confuses the definition. Computers and software are confusing enough without adding to the murkiness and obscurity of them by applying incorrect language to them. Stop calling something an Operating System that is not an Operating System!