Ephemeral Apps

The hottest consumer social apps of the past few years have either shut down (Popparazzi) or slowed growth significantly (BeReal, Clubhouse, Dispo).

There's a few reasons why:

  • Massive UGC networks (YouTube, TikTok, IG) have the best content and recommendation algorithms

  • Messaging apps (iMessage, WhatsApp, Discord) are good enough

  • Long-term retention is really hard when you're competing against the entire internet for consumer attention

Some of the most successful consumer apps of the past 24 months (in terms of social impact and value capture for the core team) have internalized the market reality and taken a different approach.

They're building "ephemeral apps".

Ephemeral apps have a few properties:

  • Lean team (~3 people)

  • Monetize from day one (usually through subscriptions and microtransactions)

  • Have a strong viral loop

  • Only meant to last 6 to 12 months

  • Feel like a casual free-to-play mobile game

A couple examples of ephemeral apps are Gas and NGL. In web3, examples include Stealcam (created by @tryfriendtech) and Dookey Dash (by Yuga Labs)

Contrast this w/ the previous era of consumer social products which were all about "persistent apps". They raised a ton of money, hired a bunch of people, and doubled down on one core product experience. This approach can still work, but it's more difficult than ever.

Another opportunity is a product studio that specializes in building ephemeral apps for a specific niche.

Potential playbook:

  • Build a community through niche-specific content and a group chat

  • Launch ephemeral apps that solve problems for the community and generate revenue

  • Create a membership model that provides access to apps, content, and experiences across the ecosystem (through subscriptions, NFTs, fungible tokens, loyalty points, etc.)

  • Build a strong developer ecosystem that's incentivized to launch apps and plugins for the community

I'm currently in the early stages of building out this model with a team of designers, engineers, and marketers so if you have any thoughts or want to collaborate, feel free to reach out 👀

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