Photo-Sharing App Bets On Retro, Targets Users Fed Up With Instagram

With more people complaining about Instagram’s user experience (including cofounder Kevin Systrom, who recently said the app has lost its soul), a 14-year-old rival, Hipstamatic, has redesigned its app to meet user needs. 

Unlike Instagram, Hipstamatic’s refreshed app -- which launched on Wednesday -- has no ads, a chronological rather than algorithmic feed, and no real opportunity for creators.

The app limits users’ followers to 99 people maximum, with nine spots for people considered "close friends" for private posts.

Reels -- Meta’s response to the TikTokification of social media –– will not be replicated on Hipstamatic either, with co-founder Lucas Buick telling TechCrunchhe would never introduce video to the platform.

For people truly fed up with Instagram’s barrage of videos, creators and ads (which will now be featured in Search as well), Hipstamatic aims to offer what Instagram once was, a platform where friends share photos with other friends. To set it apart from other contenders, Hipstamatic has a large collection of photo filters that have been developed since its start in 2009

“Hipstamatic filters are very heavy compared with the rest of the market,” Buick tells TechCrunch -- alluding to the app’s ability to replicate vintage camera styles, like an 1889 photo, using facial-recognition technology.

With the redesign, Buick believes Hipstamatic will capture the attention of Boomers, as well as Gen Z audiences, who are currently obsessed with retro aesthetics in tandem with an uptick in 90s fashion, vinyl sales, digital cameras, and flip phones.

“Kids are buying iPhone 3Gs to have better photo experiences in some weird, twisted world of TikTok,” he says. “All of a sudden, a lot of things that we’ve built over the last decade have started to make sense again. That's sort of where we’re at now.”

The retro trend can also be seen in the rising popularity of social-chat apps like Discord, which boasts over 150 million monthly users and focuses on close communities with an aesthetic reminiscent of AOL Instant Messenger.

Instead of stoking influencer culture, Hipstamatic will include activities -- giving users stickers and stamps for participating in a photo walk or shooting during golden hour. Likes can also be traded out for “kudos,” a sticker seen only by the user who posted the photo.

In addition, photos on Hipstamatic disappear after 30 days.

Without ads or user-targeting, Hipstamatic plans to rely on a sustainable business model, with an added  subscription option. For $4.99 a month, users can unlock premium filters, editing features and other perks.

According to TechCrunch, the app isn not planning an immediate marketing push, but may do so in the future. However, users will be allowed to share their photos from Hipstamatic to Twitter and Instagram Stories, which may get the word out slowly. 

The app is live on the Apple Store but will never be available to Android users, says Buick.

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