Cargo Cult Software

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Definition

Cargo Cult software describe software and software features that are designed to function like other software systems, but with none of the inherent functionality of those interfaces.

Cargo cults are based on the historical story that some indigenous tribes would worship objects that fell from the sky and attempt to recreate them. The recreation might aesthetically match the original, yet lack its functionality. For instance, a company may copy a user interface from Apple just because it is successful, but not actually implement any of the interactions or design consistency anywhere else in their application.

The number of people hiring web developers with the intent of "having them program the next Facebook" is an example of cargo cult software. It is the development of something without understanding the underlying intent or purpose of a current system.