🤳Media vs Messaging Apps
there are only two apps...
There are only two kinds of social apps—media apps and messaging apps.
For each form of expression, there is exactly one social media app that defines that medium. They monopolize and get really big.
Messaging apps are used for all kinds of purposes and heavily overlap. They don’t monopolize but can get just as big.
The key difference is this...social media apps are about broadcast—share with the world your thought, image, or video.
Messaging apps are about conversations—typically with friends or friends of friends. You don’t need friends for social media.
All dating apps are messaging apps.
Tinder, Bumble, Hinge...the point is to get in the DMs.
Snapchat is photo messaging.
Zenly is conversation that starts on the map.
Discord, FB messenger, YOLO, Houseparty, Squad, Bunch, Roadtrip, Yubo—these are all messaging apps.
Some are photo-based, audio, or text. All have one purpose in mind: get people in dialogue.
Clubhouse is a media app.
Triller, Byte, Dubsmash (all getting killed by TikTok) are media apps.
Media is winner takes all. One app defines the medium and assembles the critical mass network. At that point, it’s impossible to catch up.
These are the big boys. TikTok, Twitter, Instagram. Facebook is now a media app, though it started as a “network.”
Linkedin is a media app, though it too started as a network.
Networks are static. They don’t bring value as they age, so the networks always turn into media apps.
Messaging apps can be called networks, but I think that misses point. The point is to talk with friends, not “make connections.”
Media apps are about user creation. If it doesn’t have user creation, it’s probably a messaging app, or just a bad app.
Roadtrip is an app to stream live music and listen with friends. There’s no user creation whatsoever, just some light curation.
It’s a messaging app. The point is to hangout with friends and listen to music. There’s no way for it to be social media.
Most founders don’t see their apps this way. They want both. They want to be big like instagram, but fun and intimate like a chat group.
It’s a sure way to lose. Either you define an entirely new medium, provide a toolset for that, establish a network, and make creators famous OR you create space for conversations.
Some apps start with a feed AND private messaging. So what should I use the app for? Probably nothing.
Some try to combine mediums together, all in one app. But no one cares. If it’s not a new medium, then creators won’t be excited about it.
If creators can’t get excited about it, the content will suck and no one will use it.
I don’t need an app that’s snapchat, iMessage, IG, and TikTok in one. I have separate apps for that with unique consumption patterns.
Muze is a messaging app that wants to be a media app. It’s a like a group chat, but you can draw, past GIFs, images—create a collage in any shape and form.
The clear use case for this is a broadcast app where I create media, post it to a feed, and others can follow along.
But it’s stuck in a chat app, masquerading as a messaging app. I don’t think it’ll get out.
Snapchat is a photo messaging app. Instagram is a photo broadcast app.
Snapchat has 380M monthly actives.
What does this prove? Photos are best suited for broadcast, not conversation.
Same for video. These things take too long to be efficient communication tools.
Media apps can be live or asynchronous. Post and see it later. So can messaging apps. Some are real-time audio where you need to be there to hear.
Others are chat rooms where messages stay forever.
News and entertainment dominate media apps.
Twitter is news. A focus on public discourse.
TikTok is entertainment. A focus on fun and creativity.
For media apps, this is all that matters. If it’s not noteworthy or entertaining, no one will care.
And it’s a sliding scale. Twitter is mainly text. It has 360M monthly actives.
TikTok is sound and moving visuals. It has 800M monthly actives.
Each new media app ups the ante on immersive content.
First was text, then square photos, square video, then full screen video.
To beat TikTok, the content has to be even more engaging and immersive.
Text is better suited for direct communication than broadcast.
Media apps win on form. Messaging apps win on UX. You cannot win media with better design and polish. Messaging apps always win on UX. They create a new starting point for conversation.
All messaging apps are basically the same (we all want to talk to people). Each new app lets you talk in a new way, talk about something new, or introduces you to new people.
Monet lets you talk by drawing.
Roadtrip gives you music to talk about.
Bumble lets you talk to nearby singles.
For this reason, there can be new messaging apps for just about anything. Local or global. Sports, art, gaming. Text, photo, video. Music, movies.
Media apps are one-per medium. It’s a race to scale. Musically worked because Vine died. If Vine had music, Musically wouldn’t exist.
The biggest mistake a social app founder can make is not knowing which they are, or trying to do both. There are only two value props in social, “make me famous” or “make me friends.”
Pick one and optimize for it ✌️
—Preston, lets make apps
Courtesy to @hyam for Rodeo screenshot