We know the Exercise: Snapchat is adding the Stories feature, and Instagram is catching up. TikTok has become so popular, pivot Instagram makes a short video. Now, this is another one for the list. This week, Instagram quietly added a feature to TikTok-clone Reels called Dual, which lets you record with the front and back camera at the same time. Visually, it looks very similar to BeReal, the two-year-old bustling social app that is currently number one on the App Store.
Founded in France by former GoPro employee Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau, BeReal is marketing itself as anti-Instagram. At a different time each day, you receive a notification telling you that “BeReal time” (a phrase that has become a meme in itself). From the time the notification comes out, you have exactly two minutes to take a picture of what you’re doing at that moment, and you have no choice but to use both the front and back cameras. The idea is that this randomness will generate authenticity, but in practice, it just means that we see a lot of pictures of our friends on their laptops or watch Netflix.
Instagram Dual is an obvious steal from BeReal, but BeReal has also been criticized for copying Frontback, a short-lived app that boasts users like Jack Dorsey, Ashton Kutcher and the Prime Minister of Belgium. As its name suggests, Frontback allows you to take pictures with the phone’s front and back camera at the same time. Twitter has expressed interest in buying the app, but the company raised venture capital funding instead… and it eventually ended up being sold out. Like many social media startups, Frontback couldn’t hold user interest beyond the popularity it has in the flash world.
BeReal like Wordle
Obviously Instagram is spreading from BeReal, not Frontback, but Instagram seems to be missing the reason why people like BeReal. While the two-camera feature is fun, BeReal probably looks more like Wordle than it does Instagram or Frontback (which other book as indicated). BeReal is not so much about photos as it is about the daily ritual of sharing something with your friends. Sure, it doesn’t matter if a friend had a Thai dish for dinner last night, but it’s fun to share a moment of the day with them nonetheless. This friend also probably doesn’t care if you’ve got Wordle in four or five tries today. But we’re all used to sharing Wordle results with each other because it’s a simple and unobtrusive way to stay in touch, even if we only respond with an excellent reaction.
“Wordle is just an easy way to check in,” Josh Wardle, creator of Wordle, told TechCrunch earlier this year. “Sometimes you just post your result, sometimes you can respond to other people’s results, but it’s really a relaxing way to let others know you’re thinking of them. It’s a shared experience.”
BeReal has been widely criticized for not actually being authentic. If you miss the daily two-minute window, there’s really no penalty for that, so it’s not hard to wait until you’ve had a nice lunch, instead of your messy desk, to share your slice of life. And when you’re using the app natively, you’re probably not doing anything interesting. But BeReal isn’t really about the specter of authenticity.
The Wordle craze has proven that we have an appetite for online social experiences that are not inherently addictive. There is one Wordle per day, and after you complete it, you are done. And at BeReal, you and your friends are all limited to one post per day. Even if you check your feed two or three times to see if anyone has posted a new BeReal, that’s probably less than what you open on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok. It’s refreshing. You really can’t freak out over BeReal…unless your friends post that they’re hanging out without you, a concern as old as MySpace.
BeReal’s rookie case vs. Instagram identity crisis
BeReal may top the App Store charts now, but the app still faces an uphill battle toward becoming a social media mainstay. For one thing, it’s pretty tricky right now – even if you see the daily push notification once it’s out, you might not even be able to post in a two-minute window, as the app can take a long time to load when there are a lot of users on it. Another concern is that, like in Snapchat, if you share your location on BeReal, you’re essentially broadcasting where you live, so friends can see your location on a map. Plus, we can get bored of it, just like we did with Frontback – but then again, I still do Wordle every day.
Every few years, a new competitor appears to challenge Instagram’s dominance, but it’s hard to compete with an app that is said to have more than 2 billion monthly active users. According to Apptopia stats, BeReal has been downloaded 7.67 million times annually so far, which is 74.5% of lifetime installs. With that said, BeReal is ahead of Dispo, another beloved venture capital firm that is also positioning itself as an alternative to Instagram (CEO Daniel Liss even cast some shade Instagram head Adam Mosseri today).
Dispo, originally co-founded by YouTube celebrity David Dobrik, aims to capture the feel of a disposable camera. You can take as many photos as you want, but you can’t see your photos until the next morning. This way, you can’t do that thing where you take 20 selfies before choosing the “best” to post. BeReal has some similar functionality – if you take your photo back, your friends can figure it out – but the basic concept of the apps is quite different, despite their common goal of authenticity.
It’s been a bad week being a Meta CEO. Instagram head Adam Mosseri has been perverted for trying to defend recent Instagram auditions that make it sound like a knockout for TikTok. Then, as Meta reported disappointing quarterly financial statements last night, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recommended content will shape more of our Instagram and Facebook feeds next year. The general feeling seems to be that people are missing out on an era of Instagram where we can actually see our friends’ posts instead of algorithmically recommended reels from strangers. But that era of Instagram and picture-perfect posts is how apps like Dispo and BeReal have ended up trying to make a sense of authenticity.
It’s hard to say who will win here: the cute and rather boring BeReal app, or the tried-and-true Instagram, an app we all hate and can’t help but use?
As fun as TikTok can be, people can only take an endless number of algorithm-generated content feeds. Instagram has always been difficult for a startup to contend with, but if there’s ever a good time to capitalize on the growing concern about the app, now is the time.
#Instagrams #Dual #feature #copied #BeReal #missed #point #TechCrunch