Rando only launched in March but the anti-social photo-sharing app that deliberately eschews the standard social network clutter of likes and comments and connections – simply letting users share random photos with random strangers and get random snaps in return — has blasted past five million photo shares after a little over two months in the wild. It is now averaging around 200,000 shares per day, says its creator ustwo.
For half that time Rando was iOS only, with its Android app not launching til April. Platform spread aside, the huge point here is that Rando has ditched all the self-congratulatory, endorphin-boosting hooks that apparently keep people tethered to their social networks. Yet managed to grow regardless. As Rando’s tagline pithily put it: ‘You have no friends’. The photos you share here will never be liked, never be favourited, and if they are shared outside Rando to other social networks, a feature Rando most definitely does not enable within its app, you likely won’t ever know anything about it. It’s a very rare digital social blackhole — but one that’s proving surprisingly popular (and all without any embedded social shares to grow virally), even while it’s refreshingly ego-free.
Rando has been downloaded almost 230,000 times since its March 10 launch, with nearly 35,000 downloads in the past seven days, according to data shared with TechCrunch by ustwo‘s Matt Miller (aka Mills). The platform breakdown is pretty even right now — with only slightly more iOS app downloads than Android (roughly 120,000 vs 107,000), showing how Android users are adopting Rando even faster than their iPhone owning counterparts, having had a month less to send strangers strange shots. There are, of course, many more Android owners than iPhone owners out there so there’s a lot more scope for growth on Google’s platform.
Rando’s top five countries by downloads are as follows:
South Korea 82,224 downloads 37% of total downloads
United States 41,120 downloads 19% of total downloads
Russia 25,553 downloads 12% of total downloads
UK 12,173 downloads 6% of total downloads
Brazil 7,795 downloads 4%
Even though Rando does not enable social sharing within its app, users can take screengrabs and share shots manually — and that’s happening a little. ustwo notes there have been more than 25,000 #rando Instagram shares, for instance, despite the app not giving users any simple path to do that. Searching for #rando on Twitter also typically brings up a handful of organic daily shares.
The single piece of contextual information that Rando does allow its users to retain — the general location where a photo was taken — is also removed by close to a fifth of users (17%). While less than 1% of shared images have been marked as inappropriate so you can’t accuse Rando’s growth of being fuelled by sexting. You could perhaps argue it’s a bit of a curiosity that’s appealing to a small minority of people, even while most folk find it baffling. ustwo’s data shows that the app’s most active users (top 10% in terms of uploaded randos) have uploaded more than half (57%) of all the shared randos. But the app retention rate (50% in the past week) does sound strong. Specifically that means half of Rando’s users logged in within that week, which isn’t bad as an active user type stat.
A little bird tells me that ustwo, the London-based studio which decided to find out what would happen when it made an anti-social photo-sharing app, is preparing to push Rando onto a third mobile platform in the not too distant future too — so expect Rando’s growth trajectory to continue stepping upwards, as it has been since launch. ustwo says one million randos are being shared every four to five days now, at current usage rates. ”You are literally looking at the next $1billion Yahoo! Acquisition,” jokes Mills.
Joking aside, there is something seriously interesting about Rando’s takeoff. Not to read too much into a single app, of course, but as an experiment in social-less networking it’s fascinating to watch. Not to mention ironic, since on Rando no one is watching you — which is entirely the point. But factor in the rumblings about teens’ declining interest in traditional social networks and Rando could be something of a canary in the social networking coalmine, picking up subtle traces of Facebook fatigue, and identifying a growing appetite among mobile owners at least to take back some control and reintroduce a little private space by slamming shut those social doors.
The rise of mobile messaging apps is another key trend to factor in here, apps which put private communication first, and social comms as a secondary add on. Certain age groups’ attention is arguably increasingly shifting to these more contained communications mediums — channels which offer both private and public comms within the one app, as Facebook does, but which aren’t centrally focused on publicly broadcast personal content. Rather they put the intimacy of one-to-one messaging at their core. Some, like China’s WeChat, even include serendipitous discovery features that are similar to Rando — like its Drift Bottle stranger messaging feature.
Mobile usage is certainly fuelling this messaging-centric shift. There’s no doubt younger social network users have shifted focus away from relying on the workhorse PC in the corner, and on to apps on mobile devices — aka, the device that’s always with its owner. But the mobile is not only highly portable it’s inherently personal, containing an address book of your friends’ phone numbers. Which may be another reason why mobile social networking feels a little different, demands a little more privacy than the old web portal gateway to the social city.
There are certainly various trends at play here. Photo/image-sharing dominating text-based status updates being another, which explains Facebook’s recent focus on photos. But, if Rando’s rise proves anything it proves that humans communicate in more subtle ways than you might imagine, and need less social reinforcement than you might think. And when you think in those terms, it’s not such a huge leap to imagine the shifting sands of communication eroding the foundations of huge walled social strongholds after all. Lots of little apps, all taking away a portion of people’s attention, could eventually add up to a collective social exodus from the old networks. At least of key youth demographics.
Let’s face it, when the ex-owner of former teen-favourite social network MySpace feels capable of some very public Schadenfreude at Facebook’s expense — taking the trouble to dine out on the perception of members’ growing disinterest in Zuckerberg’s empire — something is definitely looking a little wonky in that gigantic electronic country.
MySpace hasn’t expired entirely but exists today, Ozymandias-esque, as a much diminished version of its past all-powerful self. And Murdoch’s Newscorp famously lost a bucket load of cash on the acquisition and sell off. You’d think he’d be too embarrassed to mention it — but instead he’s finding time to chuckle at Facebook’s imagined expense…
Look out Facebook!Hours spent participating per member dropping seriously.First really bad sign as seen by crappy MySpace years ago.
— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) May 17, 2013
Read that again, and it’s the same timeless warning as is contained in Shelley’s poem. Murdoch might as well have tweeted: ‘Look on my past works, Mark Zuckerberg, and despair!’
So while Rando’s relatively modest growth trajectory (vs Facebook or mobile messaging giants) is unlikely to make it onto Zuckerberg’s radar, it’s something any developer working in the social space would do well to take note of. Because even Facebook can’t overlook the wider forces at play in mobile – forces that appear to be reconfiguring the rules of the social game. And Rando is a small but telling member of that movement.
One of the early pioneers in the Quantified Self movement has quietly gone out of business. Zeo, a leading maker of hardware and software used by consumers to track sleep and improve their health, has not been operating since the end of last year. A trustee has nearly completed the sale of all company assets. Zeo has been very quiet about the news up until now. In fact, Zeo’s website is still up and doesn’t mention the news.
Zeo was founded by three students at Brown University who had a passion for using the science of sleep and technology to improve people’s lives. The company introduced its first product, the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach in June 2009.
The following week, the first article mentioning the term “Quantified Self” was published in Wired magazine. While the article didn’t mention Zeo, it did claim “a new culture of personal data was taking shape.” And that every facet of life from sleep to mood to pain was becoming trackable. “Even sleep – a challenge to self-track, obviously, since you’re unconscious – is yielding to the skill of the widget maker.”
In 2011, the widget maker Zeo introduced a mobile version to its Sleep Manager product line. By wearing a special headband, with sensors to measure electrical current, the Zeo could track different phases of sleep, such as Light, Deep and REM sleep, in addition to awake time. This data was then sent to an iPhone, iPod, or Android phone, and could be automatically uploaded to a personal and private online sleep database. This data along with some analytical tools could then be used to help improve your sleep and health.
What Went Wrong
Former CEO, Dave Dickinson, who lead the company for the past 5 years, tells TechCrunch the problem was not the brand or the product. In fact, the company was growing before it shut down.
Dickinson says the problem was the business model. “The business model is more important than the brand. Consumer health devices are a very capital intensive business. You have to find enough money to address the consumer, funds to address the physicians, and also the retailers, and that’s up and above the device business having to fund inventory.”
Zeo had two business model options on the revenue side. Become a SAAS-like business with subscriptions and recurring revenue or make enough money from a customer who bought just one unit. But that was very difficult when the company started pricing its mobile product at $99, with ‘sub-optimal’ profit margins.
The Newton, Massachusetts-based company had raised more than $30 million over eight years. Dickinson says raising capital was not the problem either.
Sleep Tracking As A Commodity
Another problem for Zeo was that sleep tracking became a commodity. Devices like the FitBit, lark, and Jawbone Up use an accelerometer to determine sleep and awake cycles, using wrist actigraphy. These products brand their products as sleep trackers just like Zeo.
Dickinson says Zeo had peer reviewed scientific studies, including one published in the Journal of Sleep Research, showing his technology was 7/8th as accurate as data from the a sleep lab, considered to be the gold standard for measuring sleep. The study also says data from wrist actigraphy to measure tiny motions in devices are much less accurate. But that didn’t seem to matter for enough consumers.
Dickinson says he admires what the Fitbit and others like it have done. Those devices are not limited to one health issue like sleep, which was another problem for Zeo. Those other products work for different health and wellness areas, such as the well established desire to lose weight and become physically fit. Consumers already spend billions of dollars to achieve those goals. And they are already educated and motivated to improve their weight and fitness.
Part of Zeo’s business model required it to educate the consumer on the importance of sleep and how sleep awareness and data can improve your health. Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post, our AOL sister site, has been a crusader on the importance of sleep to your health. But according to Dickinson, “sleep is still lagging behind as important to your wellness. So in that respect, Zeo was early in terms of its mission.”
I used the device for several months last year and thought it was amazing. While wearing the headband took some getting used to, for me and my wife, the data it revealed was eye-popping. In addition to learning that I wasn’t getting enough sleep, which I knew already, I learned about the different types of sleep I was getting.
Most nights, I would get a half hour to an hour of “Deep Sleep” (dark green in the chart below) after going to bed. This is the phase of sleep the helps you feel restored and refreshed.
I would also see several periods of REM sleep, important for overall mental health, mood, and the ability to retain knowledge. The bulk of my time asleep, like most people, was spent in “Light Sleep,” which is better than not sleeping but doesn’t do as much for my health as Deep or REM sleep.
I was able to see graphics like this on my iPhone in the morning.
Here’s a good night with a sleep score of 90 out of 100 and more than 8 hours of sleep.
And here’s a bad night, with a score of 47 with just 4 and a half hours of total sleep.
If I woke up in the morning during REM sleep, it was hard to get out of bed. If I didn’t get enough Deep Sleep, I didn’t feel I had a good night sleep.
Zeo claimed the real value of the program was I could get personalized online sleep coaching. But this required logging in to the website and entering more information about my sleep and other variables I wanted to track. If I could have entered the data right on my iPhone, I would have likely used it more. Since it required logging in on the website, it proved too much friction for me.
I also stopped wearing the headband after awhile because it does feel a bit awkward. The former CEO says the company was aware the device was too invasive for some customers.
But if a less invasive sensor was made and it was easier to enter custom data and get actionable information, I would have used it every night.
Dickinson can’t comment on exactly what’s next for Zeo, after all the assets are sold. But he is hopeful that there may be an opportunity for the company to re-emerge in the future.
An article appeared in the MobiHealthNews in March, that reported the Better Business Bureau had listed Zeo as being “out of business” but with no official announcement by the company, the news hasn’t been widely known.
It is still possible to log-in to Zeo’s “My Sleep” site that contains your sleep data. An article on the Quantified Self website today tells users how they can download their data in case the site goes offline.
As word about Zeo’s status has spread, Dickinson says they have received tremendous support and inquires from all over the world from disappointed customers and sleep researchers who had planned to use the units for the research.
He wrote a post on the MobiHealthNews site last week that included some additional lessons learned. He concluded by writing “motivating behavioral change through data visualization can be very powerful, but it is more of an art than a science. We will need far more artists, user interface experts and psychologists to help make our data work harder to motivate better health.”
The Saturday Evening Post has a prominent spot in the history of American magazines. It’s where artist Norman Rockwell made a name for himself, and it has published classic American authors like Edgar Allan Poe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But if you had no idea that it was still around, you’re not alone — the magazine’s technology director Steve Harman said that many people “are surprised we’re still publishing.”
Yes, it is still putting out a magazine every two months, with a circulation of about 350,000. Subscribers are mostly in their 50s, but The Post is trying to reach younger readers and adapt to the digital world, as recounted in a couple of stories earlier this year. Now it’s taking the next step in that direction with the release of its iPad and iPhone app, which was built by digital publishing company Yudu.
“Lately, there’s been a lot of commitment convert the post into a 21st century media company,” Harman said.
He added that this isn’t The Post’s first move onto tablets and e-readers. It’s already available on the Nook and in Google Play — he said that wasn’t a conscious strategy, but rather a response to overtures from Barnes & Noble and Google. The Post knew it was important to get onto Apple devices too, but it needed to find the right partner to make it happen.
The app itself includes digitized versions of The Post’s issues going back to November/December 2012 — you can enter your existing subscription information, buy a subscription, or purchase individual issues for $3.99 each. The issues themselves are a pretty straightforward PDFs of The Post’s print publication, without additional interactivity or media. Harman said that if Wired represents the cutting edge of what a magazine can do on the iPad, “we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum.”
He doesn’t want to stay that way for long, however — he said The Post chose to work with Yudu because of the promise of adding videos and interactivity. One unique opportunity: The Post already tries to highlight aspects of its long history in the magazine, but the digital versions (which don’t have limited space) provide an opportunity to do that much more of that.
The Post’s broader challenge is trying to court a younger audience without making it seem like it doesn’t value its existing, older readers. I could see that in the May/June table of contents — putting actor Alan Alda‘s face on the cover probably won’t persuade many folks younger than 40 to buy the issue, but there are also stories on Star Trek, Mad Men, and the speed of WiFi in America. And Harman said the magazine’s digital strategy is particularly important for reaching a broader audience. That strategy covers tablet, smartphone, and e-reader editions, and it also includes The Post’s website, which is supposed to be overhauled next month.
Uncovet, a startup that wants to be the recommendation engine for indie designer clothing and accessories, has raised $1.3 million from Javelin Venture Partners, Siemer Ventures, and L.A. angel investor Paige Craig.
A graduate of Science, Uncovet is an accessories and home décor site that is building a style graph to personalize product recommendations. With more than 500,000 monthly visitors, the startup uses Facebook Connect to allow users to invite friends to the site and can also take a user’s Facebook Likes into account when recommending products.
The result is a personalized and curated group of products that act as a style graph. The company, which launched last year, also features “Daily Finds” and will be launching its first native iPhone app early June (half of the startup’s daily visits already come from mobile device. Android and iPad apps will be released later this year.
Uncovet shoppers visit the site more than six times per month and will open an Uncovet email nine times per month. Uncovet delivers a more engaging experience by targeting specific consumer segments with products that resonate with their specific tastes. Uncovet is a next-generation version of Urban Outfitters; filled with unique items from independent designers, targeting a young, trend-conscious audience, and leveraging a new world of social data to fuel growth and loyalty,” says Michael Jones, CEO of Science.
Pinterest is not just another copycat social networking site. It focuses on the age-old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Who has time to read a thousand words all the time, anyway? Sometimes a picture is all we have mindshare for. Pinterest allows you to collaborate and to stimulate your audience by sharing images and visually engaging them.
And today with the growth of smartphones and tablets, more of us are networking socially and consuming content via mobile devices. Using some of the following Pinterest apps will only make your experience that much more profitable, and they all work on the go with mobile devices.
12 Pinterest Apps for Mobile
If you want to post to Pinterest from your smartphone or tablet, you first need to download an app to your mobile device.
iPhone and iPad - The granddaddy Pinterest mobile app of them all is the Pinterest iPhone app. There used to be a separate iPad app, but now it has been combined into a single iOS app that can also be used on the iPhone, iPad and the iPod Touch.
Android – If you have a device on an Android platform, you will need to download an Android app in order for Pinterest to work. Although you will not have the same functionality with the Pinterest Android app as you do with the iOS app, each allows you to pin your pictures, which is the important part.
Pinterest Pin It Button makes pinning easier and greatly improves the functionality of iPhone and Android apps. Just go to the goodies page and drag it to your toolbar. (There are several apps for Pinterest all with this same or a similar name and different functionality, so follow the link to get this one.)
Just today Pinterest announced that it had made its Pin It button available in a number of website-specific mobile apps. Those apps include: Behance, Brit+Co, Etsy, Fotopedia, Jetsetter, Modcloth, Snapguide, TED, The North Face, and Zulily. You have to have switched to the “new” Pinterest look with it’s larger pins, to be able to see these pins.
Windows phones – There’s no official Pinterest app for Windows phones, but one third-party Pinterest app, Scrapbook for Pinterest, is available. It seems to function well, but has the disadvantage of carrying ads or requiring subscription fees. However, if you have a Windows Phone, this may be the only way to be mobile with your Pinterest page currently. Scrapbook works with Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.5.
PinHog for Pinterest lets you be mobile, but allows you to minimize extra data charges while you are browsing the Web for pins. Check it out in the Google Play store. This unique Pinterest app allows you not only to browse while offline, but it also lets you schedule when you would like to pin items to your board.
PinReach is designed to let you know how well you are influencing others. It provides you with a “Klout” score to inform you about trends and let you know when your influence is waning, you know, before it is gone.
PinPuff lets you track trends and analyze how your Pinterest account is doing. PinPuff also calculates the monetary value of your Pins and what kind of traffic they are generating for you.
Snapito is for you if you prefer surfing the Web and taking screenshots for your Pinterest page. this app gives you a variety of easy ways to pin screenshots to your page, including a Pinterest Bookmarklet that lets you do this from your iPhone.
Wallo Pinterest allows you to use your mobile wallpaper to discover new images and travel destinations. You can pin things from your Android Live wallpaper, on Android devices.
Reachli (formerly Pinerly) has a user-friendly dashboard interface. It keeps you updated on your pin schedule, helps you locate like-minded users, and unfollow groups.
Wisestamp, while not a Pinterest-specific app, lets you add a follow button for your Pinterest account to the bottom of your emails. It features your latest pins.
Pin4Ever lets you create a backup of your pins on your Android or any storage device by using the Pinterest backup app. They have a simple signup process shown in the screenshot above.
Finally, be sure to check out our Pinterest Start Guide for Small Businesses. And if you already know how to use Pinterest, you might be interested in Pinterest analytics tools to tell how much traffic is going to your site.
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