We use them everyday and they are so ingrained in our day to day lives that we rarely stop to think about the roots of our favourite smartphone apps.
Aside from the now well-documented story behind app giants like Facebook, it’s the stories you don’t know that may be the ones to inspire your own entrepreneurial leap of faith…
It may surprise you to learn that the world’s most widely used disappearing photo app, Snapchat, was released seven years ago - in 2011. And with 187 million users daily (as of 2018), creators Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown should be pretty proud of themselves. The three Stanford University graduates created the app with privacy in mind. They were concerned about the longevity of shared information online, and sought to find an alternative.
The app survived a major hack in 2013 and has come under fire for its many photo filters, which are sometimes blamed for cases of body dysmorphia. However with the parents company, Snap Inc., now valued at around $25 billion, the creators are laughing all the way to the bank.
Now owned by social media giant Facebook, Instagram is a photo sharing platform that appears to have survived where many of its counterparts have failed.
Launched in 2012, Instagram is the brainchild of Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, who dreamed up the name as a combination of ‘instant camera’ and ‘telegram’. It has gone from one million registered users in its opening year to well over 1 billion today. It also pioneered the use of hashtags for pinpointing trending topics (“MotivationMonday” etc), and with such a central role in how we communicate today, the app’s estimated $100 billion worth won’t come as any surprise to you.
The world’s most famous film and television streaming service has been rumoured to now be worth more than Disney, which would make sense when you consider the American company earns almost $1 billion per month in revenue. Founded in 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, the company initially dealt in the DVD rental service. As technology and internet technology improved, the brand moved into the streaming sphere in 2012, while also creating their own in-house content.
Netflix is now a integral element of many people’s lives, as well as being part of everyday vernacular. It’s the largest digital media and entertainment company in the world, and is acquiring companies left, right and centre. It is even estimated that at any one time, 15% of worldwide internet bandwidth is used by Netflix.
Another Silicon Valley institution, YouTube was pioneered in 2005 by three former PayPal employees, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim. While now owned by Google, YouTube is still ranked as the second most popular website in the world, and has given users a chance to watch video content, share their own content and even make a living as a “YouTuber”.
While actual figures are hard to come across as Google keeps YouTube stats close to their chest, the fact that the platform has created hundreds of millionaire content creators says a lot. YouTube’s biggest earner is PewDiePie, who is estimated to be worth $61 million.
Revolutionising the world of online dating, Tinder was created in 2012 by a large group of friends. While some went on to other projects - including creating dating app Bumble - Sean Rad and Justin Mateen remained the main names behind the Tinder brand. Within one short year, Tinder was winning tech startup awards and already ranked as one of the top social networking apps on the web. Within two short years, people were swiping up a storm - 1 billion swipes per day to be precise!
While the basic Tinder membership remains free, many users opt for the perks of their paid subscription option - 3.7 million users to be precise. While the introduction of Tinder has seen many questions the morality of the app, we doubt the owners are too concerned, as the app is now estimated to be worth a cool $3 billion.
Now, the next time you open up one of these widely-loved apps, you’ll have some context for the ideas that spawned them, and their central role in the communication of ideas and information.