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If you're used to earlier versions of SharePoint, you might have noticed that in those versions the UI made a distinction between things like lists, document libraries, picture libraries, discussion lists, and surveys. This distinction was based on technical differences rather than anything that was likely to matter to users, and generated a lot of confusion. For example, why did surveys and picture libraries get their own category when each contained only one kind of thing, but the lists category might have a couple dozen options? And who thinks of a calendar as a list, anyway?
While we were thinking about how to address the issue of oddly categorized functionality on the site, another interesting thing happened: the concept of "apps" became mainstream. People became comfortable with apps on their phones and on sites like Facebook. New places to install apps seemed to pop up on a daily basis. We wanted to make it easier for people to get new functionality into their SharePoint sites without requiring that they understand anything about how or where the code was deployed.