Breaking Out Features as Individual Apps in Social Media

Over the last year or so it’s become a popular trend to spin-off features of your existing app into their own separate apps (or create new apps for features that should just be included in the original app itself). Facebook actually started doing this more than a few years ago with Facebook Messenger, but most people probably didn’t know that Facebook Messenger was a standalone app before the big hoopla about its privacy settings within the last few months (which is a whole different topic). Facebook even broke out their camera into a separate app… even though all phones have actual camera apps. But then they acquired Instagram and moved in that direction, so I guess technically they still have a “camera” app, but it’s far superior to anything they were going to come up with on their own. And don’t even get me started on their Snapchat clones Poke and Slingshot.

So with the track record that Facebook has had with their spin-off apps over the years, it’s still a wonder to me why they continue to do it; or force people to do it for that matter. The new Facebook Messenger is mandatory now if you want to use Facebook Messenger. I understand they want to be able to jam more features into the app without bloating the normal Facebook app, but I highly doubt that people would prefer a standalone app with more features, than the original messenger built into the Facebook app, but maybe I’m wrong.

Facebook isn’t the only company that is doing this these days either, FourSquare, the social check-in app, recently broke out their entire “check-in” business model into a new app called Swarm. If you now wanted to check-in to locations and get stickers and mayorships and what not, you had to download Swarm. The actual FourSquare app would now be used mainly as a Yelp clone, or a place where you can find information about different restaurants and their free wifi passwords (which is pretty much all it’s good for). I don’t even think I’ve opened the actual FourSquare app since we were in Italy and looking for free wifi. If we’re looking for restaurant reviews and recommendations, we still default to Yelp, no matter how skewed the reviews/listings appear to be. I have even gone so far as to bury FourSquare in a folder on the 3rd page of my app screens on my phone because it never gets used.

And finally, the reason this article idea popped into my head this week, Instagram released Hyperlapse earlier in the week. Hyperlapse is a camera app that allows you to take timelapses while you’re in motion. The app processes a video you take (in the app) and smooths out the motion and speeds up the time, leaving you with a “timelapse” video across time and motion. It’s actually a very cool app, and I hope to find some use for it in the near future. My only gripe with it is that I feel it could have just been a feature built into Instagram… Why do I need a totally separate app? They were able to build the video smoothing feature into the Instagram app when they announced video (granted I never use it because I never take video in the actual Instagram app)….

I’m sure the answer comes down to monetization and bloatedness, but I still don’t see the point in all of these social apps breaking out key features into individual apps. Maybe I’m in the minority here, maybe people like having a folder on their phone solely dedicated to “Facebook” and all it’s different apps (don’t forget Paper). I’ll admit, I do have a social media folder for those networks that I may not use that often, but I don’t want it totally filled up with Facebook apps…

I have yet to see a good reason for a company to break out features into their own apps, but I’m hoping this is just the beginning and one of these companies actually proves me wrong because this trend is starting to get very annoying.

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