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So you’re minding your own business one day, talking to a buddy about going to the movies. “Ah, let’s take a cab,” he says. “Do you have Taxidrivr?” Next thing you know, he’s telling you all the marginal advantages it has over Lyft and Uber, how you can choose the preferred odor, talkativeness, and hair style of your driver. You’ve never even heard of it, but then he starts telling you about TixR4Kidz, which lets you buy movie tickets and popcorn before you walk in the theater and even guarantees you a seat not behind Andre the Giant. This app is maybe three weeks old but now your grandmother is using it.
Staying hip today is a full-time job. Every month there’s a new app that you gotta have. Some of them fade away, some of them become part of life, some of them are something to browse while avoiding talking to your friends and family. The good news is you’re reading an article by an entitled millennial who has vague-at-best memories of a time when smartphones weren’t more common than wristwatches. Maybe some of these are going to be parodied on edgy Netflix original series, maybe they’ll just be something to toy with while pooping. Either way, here are five fast-growing apps that are going to be everywhere in a few years.
Have you ever wondered why all Facebook stickers are so… Japanese? Browsing the sticker list is a bit like attending an anime convention, but with less body pillows. The reason for this is simple: Facebook is jacking the style of Line. Originating in Japan in 2011, Line seemed like just a typical messenger app: you send your friend messages, they ignore them. Line’s hook? A cast of adorable characters arrayed in a variety of poses and situations instead of emojis.
It doesn’t sound like much until you remember exactly how much people love cute Japanese mascots: Pikachu, Hello Kitty, Vegeta. How successful is Line? They went from 6.5 billion yen in revenue in 2012 (about 64 million USD) to 120.9 billion (1 billion 185 million USD) in 2015! When a company grows to almost twenty times its original size in three years, that’s your cue to start paying attention. Line is free, but makes a killing on sticker sets and games available through the app.
Line is so big in Japan that there are Line Stores you can go to, where you can buy bunny rabbit stickers and duck plushies. Before you think that the buck will stop there, Line has also spread to Taiwan, South Korea, and China and has become hugely popular there too. With over 200 million monthly users and growing, there’s a great chance that Line will be filling the void that Facebook’s impending uncoolness will create.
It’s not all rising sunshine and rainbows, though. Line went public this year, but their stock is expected to be undervalued by experts, mainly because they took two extra years to do so. Line’s potential in the West is hard to say. Whether they’re the next Yu-Gi-Oh or the next Fighting Food-Ons is still to be determined.
You either have or know someone with a sleazy Craigslist story. It’s a great place to buy things, but to do that you have to wade through people looking for partners to join them in filling a hot tub with marinara or offers to shrink your dead pet’s head and put it on a pendant.
So you want to buy and sell stuff, but you don’t have time for Ebay auctions and too much shame for Craigslist. This unusually large niche is where OfferUp is shining. The premise is incredibly simple: you take a picture of your Simpsons lunchbox or hand-carved salt shakers and attach a price. People in your area can see the good and strike up a chat with you. If you find a buyer, they come to an arranged location and make the purchase. Buyer and seller then rate each other, to make it easier for others to find trustworthy and cordial merchants.
In other words, OfferUp is converting your entire community into a massive flea market. Founded in July 2011, OfferUp has only recently exploded. 73 million dollars raised, nearly three billion dollars of transactions overseen, and 607% growth in their app’s popularity— all just in the year 2015. Their success hasn’t gone unnoticed, since Facebook is continuing its attempts to dominate every aspect of our lives with their own marketplace app (still in development at this time.)
Craigslist has little mobile presence, and that’s where OfferUp is shining. The app is totally free, so it doesn’t collect any revenue— but don’t expect that to last as their profile grows. Although OfferUp bill themselves as a safer, slicker alternative to Old Man Craig and his List, it has had its share of run-ins. Turns out there’s no absolutely safe way to invite strangers into your home, judging from the multiple robberies and assaults that have come from OfferUp deals. Robbing me is a pretty swift path to a four star rating, though. Maaaybe a three.
I should warn you: if you’re over the age of 30, this entry might shock and confuse you.
If there’s one thing that all young people love, besides Not Voting, it’s short and asinine videos of them and their friends doing stupid stuff. Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, all of them used for the sharing of inside jokes, funny faces, pets doing pet things.
The next challenger to step in the ring is Musical.ly, which makes no bones about targeting teens. Their hook is that the app specializes in making music videos— and if you can’t sing, it’s great for lip-syncing too. Musical.ly is single-handedly reviving the dead trend of preteen girls mouthing along to Britney Spears or Ricky Martin that we were all so sure died in the mid-2000’s.
Only two years old, Musical.ly has gained sixty million users— almost all of them teenagers. If they can keep that pace up, everyone in the world will be using it by 2020. A May evaluation put them at 500 million dollars, with 100 million in venture capital. This sort of runaway success is usually only seen by horrible James Cameron movies, so how’s Musical.ly doing it? Simply, they know their audience. It’s active on twitter, tumblr, and Instagram. Videos made in Musical.ly are easy to upload and share among other sites, allowing it to seamlessly slide into the roster of teen app favorites. Popular users like Baby Ariel have landed spots on Good Morning America to explain the astonishing speed with which Musical.ly has joined the pantheon of hot-button lunchroom topics.
Although it’s not clear if Musical.ly will have longevity to match its speedy growth, the team behind it have shown themselves to be savvy businessmen. Simply inserting their logo into each video in April 2015 caused their app to rise from 1250th most popular to consistently top 50 in just three months. Musical.ly should be careful, though: the very instant their consumers decide the app is uncool, it’ll be expunged from human memory.
How well do you know your neighbors? I lived in the same house for 12 years and I couldn’t tell you the name of even one of the people living adjacent to me (maybe that says more about me than the degradation of American communities in this modern age of irony wherein the information overload of online existence has been coupled with a fall in empathy and emotionally valuable human interaction, or something.)
Nextdoor is there to change that: best described as a Facebook for a single community, it’s been instrumental in creating a sense of unity in communities across the US. This might sound like a nightmare— a Facebook where you’re only allowed to be friends with your racist neighbor and the lady who has turned her house into a cat shelter. But in practice, Nextdoor is like a neighborhood message board: power outages, crime alerts, recommendations for dog walkers and babysitters, and more.
Nextdoor was founded in 2011, and it’s gathered a lot of shine since then. At launch, 176 neighborhoods had started Nextdoor websites for their communities. By 2014, that number grew to 40,000, and now it’s over 100,000. It’s attracted talent like Dan Clancy (the engineer behind Google Books) and over a billion dollars in venture capital dollars. The last 18 months have been huge for them: the Nextdoor Android app enjoyed 717% growth in 2015, making it the fourth-fastest growing app that year. It won’t be long before you’ll have to explain to your elderly relatives (or will be the elderly relative who needs explaining) how to use Nextdoor.
If it sounds like they’re putting money in my pocket, then ha! I wish. Nextdoor’s attracted its share of criticism: Fusion inadvertently made it look a lot more appealing by accusing them of (what else) racism in a March 2015 article. Racists are going to be racist one place or another, they don’t need an app for that. Whether Nextdoor encourages it or not, they’re on the rise with no sign of stopping.
Okay, maybe this one is too much of a lay-up. If you’ve opened a tech blog or visited a business site any time in the last few months, you’ve caught wind of Slack. Slack is love. Slack is life. Six months after Slack dropped, The Verge published an article entitled “Slack is killing email.” Not an email client— email itself. And that was two years ago! They were Inc.com’s company of the year, it broke a million daily users in eighteen months, it cured cancer, resolved the oil crisis, gave Americans a palatable third party candidate, and ushered in a golden age of peace and prosperity (to hear the tech blogs tell it at least.)
But what is Slack? It’s not that exciting: essentially a chatroom for businesses. It stores messages forever, organizes conversation into various channels, and effortlessly integrates with third party apps such as Trello, Abacus, Dropbox. Ease of use and slickness of interface has turned Slack from plucky newcomer to eight hundred pound gorilla overnight, as they boot competitors like Skype and Kik out of the ring for online business communication. Much faster and more efficient than email, Slack has also inspired imitators: Discord is focused on video games, while Google is working on the similar Allo app.
It’s not that Slack is doing something new, it’s just doing it way better than anyone else before them. If you open their website, the first thing you see is “A messaging app for teams who put robots on Mars!!” I mean, who doesn’t love NASA, besides lawmakers? Slack’s rise feels suspiciously familiar, like soon we’ll all be using Slackmail and Slackdocs and telling each other to “Slack it later.” Forget five years, Slack is everywhere now. It’ll just be more everywhere in the future.
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And to find out more about another app that is quickly growing its user base, read this story on how Visme founder Payman Taei boostrapped his startup to profitability.
If you have your own list of promising apps, don't hesitate to share them with us in the comments section below!
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