2014 was a year of social apps we loved but quickly forgot. They burst onto the scene, garnered a lot of attention when they launched, and then, just as quickly, lost their allure.
Here’s a handful of this year’s has-beens. Perhaps they’ll make a comeback next year, or perhaps they’ll serve as object lessons to developers working on the next generation of apps.
We’ve included stats on how each app stood in the Apple App Store ranking on its release day, as well as its standing in mid-December. Unless otherwise noted, all rankings are for U.S. users only.
Rooms, Facebook’s attempt at competing with anonymous-sharing apps like Secret, Whisper, and Yik Yak, debuted in late October but has already faded away.
The app lets you anonymously create virtual chatrooms around topics, customize the color and design, invite others to join them via shareable QR codes, and hold anonymous discussions within the room. The app was Facebook’s first official foray into anonymity. Josh Miller, who joined Facebook when the company acquired his startup, Branch, led this project.
Unfortunately, after getting a lot of press at its launch (early rumors of the project made it a hotly anticipated release), Rooms has slipped down the charts.
It’s not clear what Facebook will do with the app. Rooms’ quick fade is no surprise, given that other Facebook experiments, like Snapchat clone Poke, also quickly died off.
Last week, Rooms released an update to its app, adding new ways to discover content, though we’ll have to see how this affects engagement, if at all.
- Release day rank (Oct. 23): #20 in social networking apps, number 152 overall, according to App Annie
- Dec. 21 rank: #507 in social networking apps, not on the chart overall
Secret has been one of the most controversial apps of 2014, both because of its overnight popularity and because of how it seemed to facilitate cyber-bullying.
On March 14, only 45 days after launching, the anonymous sharing app announced it had raised an additional $8.6 million in funding, and merely four months later, it bagged another $25 million on July 14. Throughout the spring and summer, Secret tirelessly added new features — some as experiments, others as attempts to quash the cyberbullying — while also battling the constant comparisons to fellow anonymous-sharing app Whisper.
Secret seemed to find particular traction in Silicon Valley. It became the subject of news coverage as well as, on a few rare occasions, the source of news scoops, only heightening our fascination with it.
But as with most everything, we tired of it, especially after the startup banned the use of real names in an effort to crack down on cyberbullying. Gossip’s not much fun if it can’t be specific. Today, the app is largely deserted, only offering half-baked “confessions” and meaningless posts.
Competitor Yik Yak, by contrast, is doing surprisingly well.
So it’s no surprise that last week, Secret redesigned its app, which now looks and behaves a lot like Yik Yak, the anonymous sharing app focused on location.
- Rank 7 days after launch (Feb. 7): #16 in social networking apps, #130 overall, according to App Annie
- Dec. 21 rank: #228 in social networking apps, not on the chart overall
Twitter cofounder Biz Stone launched Jelly in January after months of rumors and anticipation.
The app, which launched on iOS and Android at the same time, lets people crowdsource answers to questions, mostly about things around them (it lets you post a photo along with your question).
Since its initial release, Jelly’s gotten several new features and improvements, such as including a map instead of a photo. It was even featured in the Apple App Store’s “Best New Apps” and as an “Editors Choice” in the store. But it quickly lost its shine.
Last month, the company released a new app, Super, prompting questions about Stone’s commitment to Jelly, the app he put so much time, effort, and resources into. Stone, of course, denied he has given up on the app, so we’ll just have to see what happens.
- Release day rank (Jan. 7): #23 in social networking apps, #207 overall, according to App Annie
- Dec. 21 rank: #956 in social networking apps, not on the chart overall
It’s currently not even on the Google Play Store’s rankings.
Slingshot was Facebook’s second — yes, second — attempt at taking on Snapchat, the ephemeral messaging app phenomenon.
After accidentally releasing the app too early and quickly pulling it from the app store, Facebook released Slingshot in June. Like Snapchat, it lets users send ephemeral photos and videos they can annotate with writing and drawings.
In the original version of Slingshot, people had to send back something in order to unlock what they’d received. In the new version, which Facebook released earlier this month, you no longer have to do this. You can now add filters, send looped videos and full-screen photos, look through an archive of recently sent and received content that expires after 24 hours, and more. Yes, it’s added a bunch of features other apps (like Snapchat and Frontback) have had for a long time, in case you were wondering why they sound familiar.
Much like Poke, Slingshot’s debut got a lot of attention, but it quickly faded away. Snapchat is still ruling the ephemeral messaging market for teens, unfortunately for Facebook.
- Release day rank (June 17): #5 in social networking apps, #70 overall, according to App Annie
- Dec. 21 rank: #621 in social networking apps, not on the charts overall
It’s had a similar downward trajectory on the Google Play Store.
Yo was perhaps the biggest surprise of the year. It launched out of nowhere with its incredibly simple (and possibly stupid) single feature, which is to send the word “Yo!” to your friends. It raised a seed round as quickly as it stole our hearts, then quickly went on to release a string of new features and an API.
Yo’s simplicity and bold, primary-colored user interface made the app easy to use and just as easy to love (or hate). The app’s API, released in May, lets developers create Yo-based notifications for anything they want, including World Cup goals from a particular team, a new blog post, and so on.
Although it launched three months earlier, Yo didn’t really catch fire (or get noticed) until it announced it had raised $1.5 million in seed funding in late June. Suddenly, everyone was downloading Yo and sending Yos to their friends. Parody and clone apps were popping up everywhere, and the world made a little less sense than it had before.
But we eventually moved on — I don’t even remember my Yo account password and haven’t used the app since I somehow got logged out a couple of months ago. Some of the other apps in this post have been getting significant updates or facelifts, but Yo has, thus far, remained the same, calling into question what its founders are actually doing.
- Rank on June 18 (when it announced seed funding): #12 in social networking apps, #76 overall, according to App Annie
- Dec. 21 rank: #182 in social networking apps, not on the chart overall
Yo had a similar fate in the Play Store, starting at #64 in social apps and falling to #289 by Dec. 21.
Ello is not a mobile app, so it doesn’t have app store rankings, but it was definitely a social phenomenon that exploded onto the scene in 2014 and faded in popularity just as quickly.
Ello rose to prominence as a non-commercial alternative to Facebook that was free of advertising and let people use stage names or pseudonyms. Along with drag queens, basically everyone who reads tech news rushed to get an account and see what Ello was all about.
And if things weren’t strange enough already, Ello soon announced a shocking $5.5. million in new funding from a couple of venture capital firms and a few angel investors.
But Ello’s users weren’t very active on the network from the get-go, despite signing up at dizzying speeds. We took a look as some metrics RJMetrics scraped off the site (Ello doesn’t collect user data, so this is all that’s available), and it was clear: Ello’s buzz got a lot of folks to sign up to see what it was all about, but they didn’t post much and likely lost interest very quickly.
And yet, Ello keeps on trucking, adding new features every few weeks and sending emails to users to keep them informed, and perhaps remind them of its existence.
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