I can’t think of a worst way to spend the past weekend than deleting pictures on Facebook from 2008.
But that’s what Justin Romano, co-founder of Backspace, a new social app, did when he was job hunting as a recent graduate.
“[From] 8:00 am to 8:00 pm [I was] deleting content on a Friday,” Romano said, “Nothing is relevant. It doesn’t reflect who I am today.”
After going through the process, there was that one question lingering in his mind,
“Why isn’t there a full social network where content completely deletes by default?”
I, too feel inundated with content.
It’s so easy to take a photo. To write a note. To send a text. To create content.
In the one month I have had my iPhone (more on that later), I generated over 2,000 photos.
Granted I went to Paris Fashion Week, and I am a lifestyle blogger. But after sifting through all of those photos, I realized I don’t want to remember who I danced with on Friday night or how long it took me to make brunch plans.
It’s not relevant.
And that’s what a new messaging app, Backspace, is aiming to do—keep content relevant.
Disappearing Content: The Power of
The tagline for Backspace is “experience social freedom.”
The concept of the social app is relevancy. And, it’s a concept that a lot of social media networks are aware of. Twitter has the “top” and “live” tabs for hashtag searches, and Instagram is about to join the game, by rearranging profile content from reverse chronological order to a new metric “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post,” reports TechCrunch.
When you join the iPhone social app, you create a profile and discover the top 10 influencers on Backspace. So, you immediately see what and who is trending.
Content Disappears Based on Popularity:
With each content you post—a photo, a video, or a quote—your content is on a clock and will automatically disappear in 24 hours.
But, there’s a catch. You can add time to your content based on the number of “likes” you receive.
The longer your content lasts, the more influence you receive. While your content disappears, your influence builds.
The longest your messages will last is a weekend.
So, you could enjoy spring break while you are on spring break, but you wouldn’t have to do damage control later by deleting your messages later.
“In 2014, 51 percent of employers have not hired someone based on content online,” said Romano, quoting a CareerBuilder survey, “It doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is.”
Meet the Co-Founders:
I felt like I met Mark Zuckerberg when I met these guys, co-founders Justin Romano and Matthew Harris.
They were passionate, they were laid back, but most importantly there were on to something.
They were cute in that they look out for each other. I scheduled a meeting with Romano after meeting him at Bloggers Meet Startups. When our meeting began, the coffee shop, Fabcakes, closed. So, we moved location to his office, the shared workspace, Industrious Chicago (320 W Ohio St #3w) , where I could see a true Chicago startup working.
Everyday, these guys are testing their messaging app, Backspace, to improve it. When I walked into their office, Harris was on his iPhone with the developer, who is working remotely from Austin, TX, fixing a bug.
He smiled, and joined our conversation. I could see the passion and dedication, but also how effortlessly they made the startup business look.
“Statistically we are going to fail,” Romano looked at me, “Everyone wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.”
The Story Behind the App: Remember AIM?
There are essentially four people building an app to change the way we create and consume content. It’s not that the Backspace team invented the wheel, they are just perfecting it.
The iPhone messaging app’s competitor is Snapchat, the mother of disappearing content, and of course Instagram and other social media apps – because where the people are is where tech goes.
Think about it, if you can’t share content with the people who you want to receive the message, then why would you share the content?
“Backspace will fill a void,” Romano said,
“AIM was the sh** but you couldn’t find anyone new. You had to type in a username exactly.”
This is similar to how Snapchat works, you have to use other social networks and social media apps to tell people who you are on Snapchat. There’s no search function within the messaging app unless you have their phone number. Most people change their profile picture to the Snapchat image. But, it’s more complicated than that, because even if they are on Snapchat, you have to type in the name exactly for it to appear.
Unless you’re Kylie Jenner, where you can just type it “kylizzle” and the rest of her name will autofill to the full “kylizzlemynizzl”, you have to remember every “z” to find the person you want to follow.
P.S. if you are looking for friends on Snapchat, these are my faves.
“Snapchat is the AIM,” said co-founder Harris, “The next step is you need disappearing content, but you need to find people.”
And that’s what the co-founders of Backspace are working on—the next step.
The Data Research to Make a Messaging App
Backspace began like most startups do, with a problem that they wanted to solve.
That problem is that things you post on the internet will last forever.
In April 2014, Romano and Harris started surveying people and a year later, in April 2015, they built the social app, Backspace.
For research, Romano looked to research firms, CareerBuilder, and universities.
Facebook is a Lame Dinner Party:
They surveyed people from ages 13-35, starting with people they knew and then attending career days and scheduling high school visits.
“They have a Facebook, but they don’t use it,” Romano recalls a recent survey at a business class at a Chicago University, “They compare it to a lame dinner party. You go there to see your family. Twitter is a noisy bar. Instagram is an over glorified part of your life.”
While Romano calls these social media platforms “household names,” he says that he waits to hear feedback about Snapchat because it is different and the majority of the people in their target market are on it.
Surprisingly, when the Backspace co-founders asked a class at Illinois State University in Bloomington, only 25 percent liked Snapchat.
Among the most negative aspects for Snapchat was the discovery and interaction aspect. You can have influence, but it’s like a secret society, unless you are invited, you don’t have access to someone’s Snapchat.
Currently, Backspace messaging app is in beta and available for download on iOS only.
The messaging app for iPhone has over a thousand users.