If you spent your holidays around someone under 30 years old, you probably heard of at least one new app or website that made you feel...out of touch. New apps and websites that change how people interact with the world are popping up faster than you can keep up with, making you feel frustrated and a bit overwhelmed.
Below is a quick guide to some of the newest social apps and services that are making waves online.
Kickstarter is a crowdsourced fundraising platform. Filmmakers, musicians and artists use Kickstarter to showcase their latest endeavors in hopes of getting funded by the public.
Anyone can start or contribute to a Kickstarter project. While contributors don’t receive ownership or equity in the projects they fund, they can receive gifts based on their contribution level. Actor/director/producer Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs), funded an entire movie through Kickstarter, offering anything from DVDs to a cameo in his Kickstarter-funded movie. Currently, the most popular project on Kickstarter is by a small app development company aiming to build a better keyboard for the iPhone.
In 2013, three million people pledged $480 million to Kickstarter funded projects. That’s over $1.3 million/day. Nearly 20,000 projects were successfully funded, while thousands more got off the ground.
WhatsApp is a messaging app that lets people send and receive texts for free (for the first 12 months, after which it’s $.99 per year). They describe themselves as a “cross-platform mobile messaging app," meaning it works on all phones and carriers. Because it uses the same data plan you use for emailing and web browsing, there is no incremental cost for every message sent.
WhatsApp is particularly popular amongst the international community since it doesn’t run up the phone bill when speaking to friends in other countries.
It boasts over 450 million members worldwide (that paltry $.99/yr fee looks a lot more significant now, doesn’t it?).
WhatsApp was officially purchased by Facebook for $22 billion (yes, BILLION) in late 2014.
Uber is an app-based transportation networks that matches drivers with those in need of a ride. Using the app, a user can send out a ride request, which then gets sent to drivers.
In other words, Uber is a network of amateur taxi drivers.
Because Uber isn’t regulated like real taxi companies, it can offer lower fare rates. This bodes well for the customer as well as anyone with a car looking to make some extra cash on the side.
Uber has experienced controversy throughout its short life. Real taxi companies don’t like the lack of regulation and there have been many safety issues - some very serious. Uber is currently banned in some countries and cities but still enjoys a valuation in the billions.
Like Uber, Airbnb utilizes the community marketplace. Instead of offering rides, Airbnb offers housing, matching property owners with travelers.
Say you’re traveling to Puerto Rico for a wedding but want to avoid the expensive resort costs. Do a search on Airbnb for “San Juan” and you’ll find everything from single bedrooms to entire houses, often for a fraction of what you’re used to paying at a hotel.
Travelers and property owners get reviewed by one another. Property owners who are reviewed well can charge more and well-reviewed travelers can get priority over other travelers.
Airbnb generates revenue by charging a percentage of the booking fee. They are currently valued at over $13 billion.
Services like Airbnb and Uber showcase the potential of the new, modern marketplace.
Snapchat and Cyber Dust
These apps lets users send images and messages to each other that self destruct after being viewed. The services don’t store the messaging content on their server, leaving no digital trail.
It’s not what Snapchat and Cyber Dust do that makes them popular, it’s what they don’t do. They don’t store the information you send from within the app. Remove this small feature, and these apps are like many picture and messaging services.
On the surface, it may be difficult to see the appeal of these types of services, but recent security and privacy hacks have demonstrated why a lack of digital trail may be gaining importance to internet users. This is a trend we may see a lot more of in 2015. Stay tuned…