Snapchat invented its best products by being the anti-Facebook. Its disappearing chats made visual communication quick and casual compared to Facebook’s email-esque text messages. Stories ditched the likes and permanacy so you could share your raw moments in the now, instead of just the life highlights that define you forever on your Facebook Timeline. Read More
Singapore-based Bubble Motion, the company behind sound-based social network Bubbly, unveiled a new version of its app today. The version 2.0 of Bubbly introduces filters users can apply to their voice, much like those Instagram offers for photos. Bubbly has a lot of traction already, including 19 million members mostly from Asian countries like Japan and India where it’s found favor with a lot of different celebrities (premium access to some of those celebs via a $2.99 in-app purchase is one of the startup’s revenue plays), and the new features seem designed to help the service keep its existing users engaged while it seeks out new audiences in other markets.
The new filters are tied to that expansion strategy, since they’re only available to iOS users, who represent a relatively new market for Bubble Motion. Bubbly managed to gain ground quickly by being not tied to any mobile smartphone platform, and instead existing as a voice service that could work with ordinary feature phones. The new app offers more flexibility, of course, and these voice filters are a good indication of where Bubbly can start to get creative and build on its earlier model, which most closely resembled a Twitter for voice complete with profiles and the ability to follow other users.
“As we put audio into your Twitter feed and your Facebook wall, we thought there needs to be some hooks that make you really want to keep coming back to Bubbly to record your audio,” Bubbly CEO Tom Clayton explained in an interview, describing how Bubbly took cues from Twitter and Instagram about what drove major growth around photo sharing on those services.” One of those [hooks], besides the user experience and the quality and everything else, is the filters.”
Bubbly 2.0 also brings Twitter or Facebook single-sign on to the app, which should lower the barrier for entry as well as speed up social sharing; introduces Facebook Timeline integration, which includes recording and liking in addition to listening; post deletion from within the app; and localization in Korean, Thai and Russian to help the smartphone app reach a wider audience in some of the markets closer to Bubbly’s original success. The company recently raised $5 million from Japan’s largest VC, in part to focus on U.S. growth, however, so it makes sense that in general the updates are ones that cater to popular social networks among that audience.
Still, Clayton says that the app’s biggest growth, both in terms of engagement and user base (both of which he says continue to trend upwards) comes from different Asian countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. The difference is that where before celebrities where driving a lot of new user sign-ups, now Bubbly is seeing much more peer-to-peer usage, with prominent bloggers especially driving use and new registration.
Other apps have found an audience with a voice changing gimmick, including Voices 2 by tap tap tap, the sequel to an app that had 600,000 users when the sequel hit the App Store. but Bubbly’s main play is still its social network elements which set it apart from those kinds of apps. We’ll see if users are encouraged to share more thanks to the addition of filters, or if this is a model that applies well to social photo sharing but falls flat with the spoken word.
The fundamental misunderstanding of Facebook’s mobile prospects is that it’s trying to compete with iOS and Android for in-app payment revenue via HTML5. It’s not. What Facebook really wants is the content produced by apps on every platform, which it can monetize with ads. Payments revenue is a very nice bonus, but not critical. That’s why Facebook announced today that it’s making money on mobile for everyone else by pouring traffic into their apps.
Facebook says it drove 160 million visitors and 1.1 billion visits to third-party apps last month, up from 60 million visitors and 320 million visits in February. And now seven of the top 10 grossing iOS apps and six of the top Android apps integrate it to power discovery and virality. By showing that it can drive traffic to mobile apps, devs will keep integrating Facebook and sending it news feed stories that the social network show ads next to.
Facebook has powered many of the big recent mobile success stories. The Flixster movie review and info mobile web app saw Facebook referral traffic soar to 480,000 hits a day, up 10x in the last four weeks. BranchOut released its Facebook-integrated professional networking mobile app 12 weeks ago, and has since seen its traffic boost from one million monthly active users to 12.5 million MAU. Apps like Viddy (now at 16 million registered users) and SocialCam have jetted to the top of the free charts thanks to traffic from their Facebook Timeline integrations.
Viddy’s a perfect example for understanding Facebook’s mobile strategy. Facebook is promoting the app here even though it’s a native mobile app where the social network can’t make any money taxing in-app purchases. But that’s fine because instead, Viddy is sending tons of highly engaging video content to the Facebook news feeds and Timelines. When users spend time on Facebook to watch Viddy videos, Facebook makes money on ads.
And even as its user base shifts towards mobile, Facebook will still make money on ads. Sponsored Stories on mobile work. I know because I don’t mind seeing them, opposed to the obtrusive banner ads and instantly-scrolled-past sponsored Google search results you typically see on mobile. When old media like Forbes write that “[Facebook] has no idea how it will make money in mobile”, they reveal its them that are clueless.
In fact, I think Facebook has one of the most enduring ad-based mobile monetization strategies out there because its managed to create ads we hardly notice but that still do their jobs — promoting the brands and apps your friends interact with. Imagine how much an app developers like Viddy are willing pay to show this Sponsored Story like that surely drive installs?
The only thing Facebook needs to make that strategy work is a news feed that stays addictive. That’s why it wants to be social layer and data hub, not a traditional mobile platform. If it’s aggregating all the best content created by today’s top mobile apps, and filtering by relevancy to show stuff made by your friends, you can bet that years from now you’ll still have a reason to visit Facebook. Everyday. Like 500 million other people already do.
With the skyrocketing popularity and billion-dollar sale of Instagram, there’s an ongoing race to apply Instagram’s wildly successful photo sharing model to mobile video. There are a number of startups vying to claim the “Instagram for Video” title, with Socialcam, Viddy, Klip, Mobli, and even the infamous Color all in the running. Yet, today brings evidence that Viddy may now be the one to beat, as the social video sharing app became the top free iPhone app on the App Store — with much of that growth emanating from its new Facebook Timeline app.
Viddy, which celebrated its first birthday on April 11th, enables users to shoot, customize, and share 15-second video clips directly from their mobile devices. Its video creation platform allows users to choose from custom video overlays and audio effects from their favorite musicians, movies, and celebrities, and share their short video clips across across social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTubes.
The startup closed a $6 million Series A round back in February from investors like Battery Ventures, Greycroft Ventures, Qualcomm, and Bessemer Ventures, bringing its total funding to $8.2 million. Viddy saw over 40 million app views in January, thanks to the effort the startup has put into recruiting celebrities and influencers custom premium Video FX layers, giving artists, movie studios, etc. a way to promote their brand through mobile video.
Today, Viddy’s community is 8 million-strong, according to Viddy Co-Founder and CEO Brett OBrien, but the app has seen an even more significant bump in growth since launching its Facebook Timeline app in February. For some quick background, back in January, Facebook announced a new product called Actions, which saw it partnering with over 60 startups to give them the ability to add their “stories” through apps created specifically for Facebook Timeline. Actions basically create a new way for your favorite apps to present their structured data, with Facebook turning their content streams into visually engaging experiences.
The new Timeline features have been a boon for video apps, as Colleen reported earlier this month, and Viddy is no exception. Since launching its Timeline app in February, Viddy has seen over 15 million interactions with its content on Facebook, with over 1.7 million users signing on. Viddy also says that it’s averaging 300K new registered users per day, an average that has seen a significant bump since February.
The race for the “Instagram for Video” crown is on, and Viddy is looking to take the lead.
Facebook rolled out an update this morning that adds support for the new iPad’s Retina display to its iPad application. According to the release notes in iTunes, users with the new iPad will now see “a crisp, high resolution interface.” The update (version 4.1.1) brings other bug fixes, too, as well as support for additional languages.
The Retina-ready version of the app was hinted at last week, when someone spotted a teaser for the upcoming app in the iTunes App Store’s “New and Noteworthy” section. The message displayed at the time read “Enhanced for the New iPad,” presumably meaning it would soon add support for Retina graphics.
As sure enough, that’s just what it did.
The update brings a number of other bug fixes, too, including the following:
- You can go offline in chat
- The right profile picture appears for everyone
- Your list of friends always includes all your friends
- In sets of photos, your name is displayed correctly
- Photos of people who like Facebook Pages load correctly
- Your friend-request notification only lights up if you have a request
In addition, Facebook users can now change their language to Czech, Danish, Greek, Indonesian, Malaysian, Norwegian (Bokmal), Portuguese (Portugal) or Thai in the updated app.
However, as much as new iPad owners may be excited to see one of their most heavily used apps updated with Retina support, perhaps a more highly anticipated feature (or rather feature request) is support for the Facebook Timeline. As the boldest revision to the Facebook user interface to arrive since the News Feed, the Timeline offers a new way to both display and consume Facebook content. And given the iPad’s screen size, it doesn’t seem like it would be a problem to migrate that interface to the iPad.
The updated Facebook app is available in iTunes now.