A Quick Dissection Of FrontBack’s Rise

If you’re like me, you’ve seen a new photosharing app — FrontBack — fight its way into your Twitter feed, often with the hashtag #FrontBack. People are talking about it. I noticed this after friends from Lerer Ventures in NYC were sharing pictures from it, and if you search the hashtag on Twitter, it seems like 100 pictures are uploaded from this app every minute (at least on the weekends, which makes sense for photosharing). For the past few days, I’ve been taking tons of FrontBacks and started sharing them today, taught my wife how to take some with our kid, and she loved it. The app is simple, pure, and fun. And, yet again, MG is right on the money (here’s a link to his post about it) when it comes to social media apps, like after he called Instagram.

Here are some interesting tidbits about why FrontBack is so fun yet useful to use:

  1. The front-facing camera is generally underexploited. Aside from the obvious “selfie” culture that SnapChat (even the pic above reminds me of SnapChat’s branding) is riding, no other apps timed their release to coincide with better front-facing camera hardware on the iPhone 5. And, again, MG was ahead of this trend, a few years ago writing how DailyBooth was potentially an interesting app (before it pivoted) because it was focused on this specific camera.
  2. Speaking of “selfies,” Frontback is a clever way to photobomb your own picture. The product puts two pictures together to create one image, with the selfie at the bottom and the main camera (back-facing) at the top. The media it creates seems more engaging, less “filtered,” and more real-time. Today, in fact, I saw MG was driving across the fog on the Golden Gate Bridge, right there, it was like I was in the car with him.
  3. Greedy on the point of capture, but not greedy enough to be a destination. A big mistake lots of apps make is that they try to leverage networks like Twitter (smart) and then try to peel off the audience’s attention to their property (not smart, to begin). FrontBack mostly cares about being the place where you take the original image. Point of capture is important because you can grab location and other key photo metadata. The software is not rocket science (and they should be concerned about an Android clone rising), but it’s so easy and seamlessly designed that even my wife enjoyed it. And, then we shared the pictures to Facebook, and people loved them — thought they were great. And then they asked about the app — FrontBack didn’t try to con them into going to their walled-garden because it doesn’t yet exist.
  4. FrontBack has a fun, simple “follow and heart” network only on the app. I connected with Twitter and Facebook. The app figures out which of my friends are already on those networks (no spamming) and then shows me a slideshow of their feeds where I can “heart” the pictures with one tap.
  5. The app has a simple yet very slick UI that subtly distracts you while it’s working in the background. Thanks, Instagram and Mailbox!
  6. Yet again, it’s early-innings for mobile photo-sharing. I’ve written about it 100+ times, and I’ll say it again: don’t bemoan the funding behind new photo-sharing apps because we’re just starting, all sorts of image tech and new UIs are possible.
  7. Another neat social media advertising opportunity. I think it will be easy for FrontBack to have people taking pictures of brands, or inserting brands into the photos and/or streams. And stickers. Yep, just a matter of time for those, too. I’m partially kidding, but also this also how these photosharing apps can make money.
  8. Word-of-mouth drives the best app virality. I followed Steve and Jordan, learned about #FrontBack. Read MG’s piece. Then downloaded it. Then saw a bunch of pictures in my Twitter feed. Then saw the hashtag moving fast, and then started making light jokes about how it would be cool if Elon Musk used FrontBack to take a picture of his SpaceX rocket blasting off combined with a selfie of him bored, hitting a lonely key on his keyboard, as if to say, “no big deal.” Given all the hurdles with iOS distribution, it’s so important for just a few conversant folks to be talking about your app. And, I think this app will go viral.