In life one, he works at an office. In the other, he is a prolific and popular Windows Phone developer. (Contrary to comic book belief, he does not change in a phone booth or shed his glasses when moving between lives.)
In his spare time, Huyn has developed more than a dozen apps for Windows Phone, apps that together command more than 1.1 million users. He created the uber-popular Wikipedia app, a Vine app called 6Sec, TVShow, and he has just launched the highly anticipated 6Tag, an Instagram-like (and apparently Instagram-blessed) app. Oh, and it’s free.
This (non-caped) crusader of Windows Phone, who lives in Rennes, France, won Nokia’s competition The Next App Star competition in January. Despite his accolades and ever-growing group of users, the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) is humble.
“When I go to conferences, it’s a very strange feeling to meet people that know and follow me,” Huyn said. “But I’m not Jessica Alba, I’m only a developer that loves Windows Phone.”
Huyn finds motivation from his users, with whom he interacts daily. He also finds energy from fellow developers – he founded a community of French Windows Phone developers that has grown to more than 700.
“I think it’s the real difference between our platform and others, Windows Phone developers like to share tips and libraries, create together, etc… I really enjoy participate to hackathon or organize windows phone events for that.
We caught up with Huyn while he was rushing to finish 6Tag and asked him about his apps, his future, and how coding is better with episodes of Dr. Who in the background.
Fire Hose: Where did you learn to code?
Huyn: Like a lot of people of my generation, my first coding program was at 10 years old with QBasic. I created little games like tic-tac-toe and puzzles. After that, I read many books about programming. After a master’s degree, I started to work – since 2010 it’s been on Microsoft technology and especially on Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox 360. Working on the Microsoft platform is my day job but also my hobby.
Fire Hose: Do you remember the first time you laid eyes on a Windows Phone? Was it love at first sight?
Huyn: In 2010, I was working on mobile apps for other devices, and out of curiosity I watched Steve Ballmer’s live keynote address at Mobile World Congress (MWC). This was the first time that Windows Phone 7 was presented, and I was very enthusiastic about it.
Fire Hose: What made you want to develop for Windows Phone?
Huyn: Some months after the MWC, the beta software development kit was launched and I started to create an app. My first app was Fuse, a newsreader for users to blend and browse all of their favorite feeds. After that, I fell in love with Windows Phone and it’s still the case today.
Fire Hose: What is your coding process? Do French developers drink Mountain Dew and eat Doritos and stay up half the night?
Huyn: Because of my day job, I’m only able to work on my apps at night between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. The app 6Tag, for example, represents 18 nights in a period of three and a half weeks (I want to thank my girlfriend who support me a lot). I work on my Fatboy bean bag or on my couch with music or a TV show on (I don’t like silence). For example, during the 6tagram development, I think I watched all episodes of Doctor Who.
Fire Hose: It’s tough to play favorites, but what is the favorite app you’ve created?
Huyn: It’s hard to decide! My previous favorite app was TVShow because I created it during a weekend while being followed by two French websites. But now, it’s clearly 6Tag, my Instagram client app. It’s been a very good challenge in reverse engineering and user experience trying to make it the most beautiful Instagram app of all platforms.
Huyn: Vine and Instagram are two very similar apps, even more so since Instagram started managing video. It wasn’t on my initial to do list, but after 6Sec (my Vine application), I received a lot of tweets and emails asking me to do a full client for Instagram with videos, tilt shift, and more. With 6Sec, I already had the back-end to encode and join videos, so I took a weekend to analyze the Instagram private API and security, and two days later, the first 6Tag prototype was ready. Moreover, Nokia has released Imaging SDK, a very cool code library for manipulating images, so with this library plus my 6Sec app, I had all the necessary components to make a good Instagram app.
The beta of 6Tag proved to me that Windows Phone users are the best mobile community. Just four days before the release, I posted a tweet asking for help to localizing the app. More than 100 users helped me to localize it, and I’m very proud to be releasing the app in 30 languages, more than a majority of official apps.
Fire Hose: Where do you hope this whole ride will take you?
Huyn: With my private life and my current applications to maintain, it’s becoming increasingly hard for me to find times to create new application. The main problem is that I have a thousand new app ideas, thus I may be creating my own company in the near future. I like Microsoft, so of course I would also like to work for Microsoft.