The year TikTok officially debuted in the US in 2018, it had roughly 271 million monthly active users. Fast forward to 2023, and it now has more than 1 billion, according to Statista.
Not every new social media app has enjoyed that scale (we’re looking at you, Peach, BeReal, and Vsco)—but there are still plenty of apps working to stand out. This fall, a new app, Lapse, briefly topped the App Store after it required new users to invite friends before signing up.
Lapse allows users to take photos and share them, unedited, once they “develop,” like a digital version of a disposable camera. While it remains to be seen whether it will manage to outlive initial interest, the UK-based app is working on perfecting its current iteration, co-founder Dan Silvertown told Marketing Brew—and some marketers said they are keeping an eye on the app to see if it becomes a viable tool for their clients.
Second time’s the charm?
Lapse, which first debuted in 2021, is in a reinvention phase. The first version, Silvertown said, encouraged people to take photos with their friends when they were all together, sharing the pictures with the whole group afterward. And while photos were snapped during group gatherings like parties or vacations, the structure “didn’t work so well day to day,” he said.
The latest iteration of Lapse, which is the one currently available and which rolled out in August, was introduced to help sustain interest in the app, Silvertown told us.
“This new version of Lapse takes the same idea and concept of shooting on a disposable camera, but rather than shooting in a collaborative way, the shooting actually happens in an individual way,” he said. “It can be used by someone to journal their day and capture their memories.”
Marketers compared the growth of Lapse to another recent photo-based social app, BeReal, on which users are prompted to snap a photo of themselves once a day. Molly Esselstrom, a senior content writer at digital marketing shop Savy Agency, is monitoring the growth of Lapse and assessing the platform’s legitimacy and appropriateness for certain clients, she said.
Evan Carpenter, a strategist at Mother New York, views the app as having “the potential to follow a similar path [to BeReal],” noting that both seem to be “structured differently” from more traditional social media. While BeReal enjoyed a burst of initial popularity, users have seemed to lose interest.
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For that reason, Carpenter said some marketing clients may be hesitant, adding that “I don’t know if it’s fully hit their radar yet…I don’t know if there’s a BeReal hangover” that could be affecting interest in the new platform.
“I think that the energy around platforms like BeReal has shifted,” Carpenter said. “Not saying that it won’t happen again with Lapse—I’m always an optimist—but I haven’t quite felt the same fervor or energy around it quite yet.”
Ad to it
One big question for marketers is whether Lapse will emerge as a place where advertisers can run ads, which not every new platform does. If Lapse does go that route, Esselstrom said she thinks that may mean more clients focus on the app’s potential.
“It seems like Lapse and BeReal don’t really have an opportunity for advertising as of yet,” Esselstrom told us. “I know it took a while for TikTok to get on that bandwagon, but as soon as TikTok did, then our clients started talking about it.”
Whether Lapse pursues an ad-supported model, though, remains to be seen.
“We haven’t actually looked at monetization yet,” Silvertown told us. “There are no immediate plans to allow ads on the app.”
If at first you don’t succeed
Lapse is the latest in a line of similar apps that have sought to capture user attention in the last several years. Dispo, another disposable camera–style photo app, experienced some initial excitement in 2021, due in part to the involvement of YouTuber David Dobrik, but the app’s leadership was thrown into turmoil after one of Dobrik’s associates was accused of rape.
Meanwhile, apps like Clubhouse and BeReal, which were popular early in the pandemic, have since struggled with relevance and user retention. Clubhouse, which initially offered audio-only chat rooms and was recently rebranded as an audio messaging app, laid off more than half of its staff in April, and BeReal has seen its monthly active user base decline on both iOS and Android after its height, according to Similarweb.
It can be hard out there for new social apps, and even those that are backed by Big Tech companies have struggled to find sustained popularity. This year, Meta introduced Threads, its response to X, but that app has continued to bleed users, and back in 2018, it debuted Lasso, a TikTok rival that shuttered in 2020.