In 2018 I wrote a TechCrunch article declaring 2018 to be “the year social media was no longer social.” Reflecting on this article, I’m not sure 2018 was a turning point. But the premise of the article still stands.
At one point, social media was no longer about connecting with your closest friends, following your distant family members, and feeling a special connection with the people you love.
TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, and
And it turns out that I’m not the only one who has noticed that social networks are gradually moving away from their original objective. Amoa small team based in Paris, has been working for most of 2023 on a brand new social app called IDENTIFIER.
ID is a social app launching today on iOS that lets you connect with your friends in creative ways. In many ways, it resembles the early days of blogging, the highly personalized profile pages of MySpace, and the golden age of Tumblr.
But first, a little background about Amo. There is a lot of hype and anticipation surrounding the launch of Amo, as the company was co-founded by Antoine Martinwho was the co-founder of Zenly with Alexis Bonillo. Zenly was a popular social app focused on location sharing that encouraged you to spend more time with your friends and discover new places.
Snap spent more than $200 million to acquire Zenly and kept the same team to iterate on it, as a separate application. Under Snap’s ownership, Zenly became one of the biggest European social apps of all time. At its peak, the company had 18 million different users opening the app. every day.
And then… it disappeared.
As part of Snap’s cost-cutting efforts, the company decided to stop Zenly completely. From what I’ve heard, the move even sparked discussions between top-level French politicians and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. Many key members of the Zenly team now work at Amo.
The second reason why Amo’s launch is highly anticipated is that the startup closed an $18 million seed round in February or March at a valuation of around $100 million with New wave leading the round, and Coatue And World Daylight Saving Time also participate. There are also 80 angel investors on Amo’s cap table.
This is a very unusual funding round since it occurred in 2023 (during a decline in VC funding), Amo is a mobile consumer startup (no revenue stream for the moment) and the startup had no product.
An empty canvas
In 2010, Jürgen Schweizer of Cultivated codethe company behind personal task management app Things, wrote a blog post shortly after Steve Jobs introduced the original iPad. In this article, he compared the iPad to an empty canvas.
“If you want to understand what makes the iPad special, you can’t look at what it has, but what it doesn’t to have. The iPad is so thin and light that it becomes the screen, and the screen becomes the app. No input device. The device disappears and turns into the app you are using. The technology is transparent,” writes Schweizer.
And this analogy applies particularly well to the work of ID and Amo. There are many things you can do with an ID. There are also a lot of things we take for granted in a social app that just aren’t there.
ID is an empty canvas combined with creative tools that help you express yourself. You can use it to create a profile that perfectly describes your interests in a visual way. But there is a social touch since you can both view your friends’ profiles and add items to their own profiles.
When you first create your profile on ID, you get an empty whiteboard waiting for content. You can fill it yourself in four different ways.
You can add stickers from your sticker library (we’ll get to that later), you can grab the contents of your photo library, you can write text or draw. When you choose a photo, ID automatically creates a cutout of the photo’s main object or subject using PhotoRoom technology.
This will immediately look familiar to Pinterest users who like to create mood boards or to software developers who cover their brand new laptop lid with stickers.
Each virtual object can be moved, resized and rotated. After a while, your profile becomes a kind of spatial canvas. You can make things so small that they kind of disappear…unless you zoom.
You can create small islands that define what you are thinking at the moment. For example, you can have a Los Angeles corner with the favorite buildings you saw during your vacation, group photos with your friends, the cup of your favorite coffee there, etc. You can also have a restaurant area with photos of luxury dishes. restaurants you have been to recently.
Everything looks soft and natural. You scroll, zoom in, zoom out, move from one profile to another. There’s a feeling of depth and space that I’ve never seen in any other app. Photos never look pixelated and you don’t feel like you’re waiting for something to load.
If you’ve been using an ID for a while, things can get complicated, but so can life. “And that’s okay. My personality is chaotic – our personalities are chaotic. They are multi-faceted and not neatly arranged in a 3×3 grid,” said Antoine Martin, CEO of Amo.
As you start browsing the app and looking at what’s new on your friends’ profile pages, you might want to steal something for your own wall. ID allows you to add content from other profiles to your sticker library so you can either add it to your own profile or put it on someone else’s profile.
I’ve been using the app for a little over a week and I’m already seeing some trends spreading among the small community of beta users. You can see who originally created the sticker as it moves from wall to wall. Some users have installed cute shelves so they can neatly organize everything that matters to them. A user created a guestbook section on their profile. “If you’re passing by, leave a message here,” she wrote.
Some video games rely heavily on the player’s creativity to have fun, such as Minecraft or the recent Zelda games. In these games you can create your own fortress or build your own vehicle.
And this is also the main concept behind ID. Amo gives you the creative tools and an unlimited Figma-like canvas. Now it’s up to the community to determine what they want to do with it. And the best part is that it’s unlike any other social app.
Maybe Amo will end up fostering a creator economy with exclusive content that can really make your profile stand out. Perhaps the company will add premium features over time. For now, Amo wants to find a hit.
“We prioritize scale because my goal is to build an indestructible business. And it’s the founder of Zenly who says that! I thought 18 million [daily active users] would be enough to make a company indestructible. But I was wrong. I think you need 100 million [daily active users]”, Martin told me.
Healing from loneliness
When Amo’s team started working on ID, they wanted to find a way to cure loneliness. It seems a bit counterintuitive to create a social app since people already spend a lot of time on their phones. But according to Antoine Martin, it’s simply that existing social apps don’t take your best interests into account.
“THE [World Health Organization] it’s now called the loneliness epidemic. And if they say it’s an epidemic, it’s because it is indeed contagious. In other words, if you are isolated, your loved ones are also isolated because you are unreachable. So for the two hours that you’re on TikTok, they don’t have anyone to talk to,” Martin told me.
“And at the same time, the human needs that the social space of consumption can satisfy are no longer covered by these products, whereas they were before,” he added. “In the early days of Facebook, I don’t know if you remember, profiles were kind of a mix. There were drawings, games, photos, text. You would write long comments, it could be a poem. . . And on the other hand, it reminded us that you mattered to these people.
According to him, the current generation of social networks is very passive. You don’t need to do much to spend two hours on TikTok or YouTube, because these companies want you to spend as much time on these apps as possible. “We aspire to go back to those earlier precepts and make them work,” Martin said.
This is also why Amo doesn’t want you to spend hours in the app. When you have a few minutes, you can open the app to check what’s new on your friends’ profiles by swiping up on the notification cards.
When you’ve reached the last card, ID shows you a message saying “get some fresh air.” And then the application closes. You are back on the home screen, you can put your phone back in your pocket.
Amo and ID
ID is a savvy approach to social apps, but will it work? Given the team’s past experience and Amo’s deep pockets, if there’s any team that has a chance of trying something radically new in the space, it’s Amo.
“We deliberately ship something 8 or 9 months after launching the company because we swore to ourselves that it wouldn’t take us a year to get started, that we would learn more by building in public,” Martin said.
Although ID is Amo’s first idea, the company likely has other ideas in the consumer social space — Amo didn’t name its app “Amo” after all. So it’s going to be interesting to follow the launch of this new application, but also the story of Amo as a company.