By Ken Yeung at The Next Web:
As we wind down the year, The Next Web compiled a list of some of the social apps that have made some significant moves in 2013. How did we qualify what a social app was? In our mind, it was a service that had a core functionality that enabled users to interact and engage with other people, either online or offline.
Perhaps one of the apps that made the most headlines this year, Snapchat ends this year with a rather large valuation, coming off reports that the company entertained acquisition talks with Facebook. It was said that the social networking company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg had sought to purchase the ephemeral messaging service for north of $3 billion.
Snapchat functions as a messaging service, but in an “ephemeral” way. Messages can be sent to friends, but will only be stored momentarily — up to 10 seconds, in fact. Afterwards, they disappears from existence.
In February, Snapchat launched video messaging for its Android app. It then unveiled a new service specifically aimed at kids on iOS to help it expand its user base. The company has certainly been busy trying to justify its growing valuation. This summer, it said that 350 million messages were sent through the service each day.
Of course, let’s not forget that Snapchat recently hired away Instagram’s head of business to be its Chief Operating Officer, a sign that the startup is looking to stay independent and may help it to begin monetize its service. Will the new ‘replay’ feature play a role here?
➤ Snapchat for iOS | Android
WhatsApp recently announced that it has more than 400 million monthly active users, giving it an extra leg up in the mobile messaging battle. Available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone, and Nokia Symbian devices, the service has certainly been active both in the US and around the world. It ended 2012 saying that it processed 18 billion messages on the last day of the year alone, but found itself on the wrong side of the law when Canadian and Dutch authorities claimed WhatsApp violated international privacy laws.
In 2013, more activity took place on the mobile messaging service — in June, it hit a new milestone when it processed 27 billion messages in just one day.
➤ WhatsApp for iOS | Android | BlackBerry | Windows Phone | Nokia Symbian
Another messaging app that has made news in 2013, Line has been expanding rapidly around the world, but hasn’t quite made it to the United States. In November, it passed 300 million registered users and is known for its stickers, another popular thing of 2013.
Line’s stickers feature has become so popular that it has generated $188 million in gross revenue in Q3 2013, alongside other in-app purchases with its ‘connected’ games. In August, the company said that it makes over $10 million per month just from stickers.
With such a booming business, there are even reports that suggest Line is preparing for a US or Japanese IPO soon that could be worth up to $28 billion.
This week, the company revealed that it would be introducing video ads into its product, but would pay users to watch them through its Line Coins payment system.
In a fit of philanthropy, the mobile messaging service announced this week that it had raised $500,000 to help benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines through the sale of ‘charitable’ stickers.
➤ Line for iOS | Android | BlackBerry | Windows Phone | Nokia Symbian
Social networks have also been busy this year. Google+ has remained active, now with 17 comments. It has also become a hub for photos, something that Google has exploited with new services such as releasing an improved, Snapseed-powered editing tools, the release of Auto Awesome, and more.
Other updates to Google+’s iOS and Android app include photo sharing, auto ‘Locations’ updates, unified search, and other features.
As Google+ has become a haven for photographers, the company has been making significant changes, including new filters, better profiles, improved user flows, and more.
➤ Google+ for iOS | Android
Yes, people still do use Foursquare and its seen a bit of a resurgence in 2013. In fact, just this week it raised $35 million in a Series D round. Although still fundamentally a location-based service, Foursquare has evolved its product so that it’s not about the check-in, but more about local recommendations and proactive learning.
Years ago, users were obsessed with checking into a location in order to earn badges or become the “mayor”. Now the app gives you smart recommendations based on friends’ data, and in 2013, the company began giving relevant, location-based information and tips to users, using push notifications (even for users who rarely – or never – actually open the app itself).
This year, the company also opened up its self-service ad platform to small businesses. With this feature, any company can pay to have a personalized promotion appear in a user’s feed in an attempt to garner more business. App users can also parse through 43 million menu items from more than 500,000 restaurants now with an improved Explore option.
In August, Foursquare released a new app to bring the location service to Windows Phone 8 devices.
➤ Foursquare for iOS | Android | Windows Phone
In its inaugural year of existence, Vine has been a big player in helping Twitter move away from being just a text-based service to one expanding into other media. The company first launched its six-second video app in January before quickly being acquired by Twitter. Soon after, Vine quickly added Web embeds, Android and Kindle Fire versions, the ability to edit videos and save multiple drafts, and just recently added vanity URLs ahead of future Web-based user profiles.
This video app has also been at the top of Apple’s App Store charts earlier this year for free and social apps and counts more than 13 million users on its platform.
➤ Vine for iOS | Android | Windows Phone
Crowdsourced traffic management app Waze hit it big time when it was acquired by Google earlier this year for a reported $1.3 billion. Before then, there was speculation that Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook were all in contention to grab the company.
The Israeli-based startup joins Google as part of its Maps team and brings with it the 50 million users that have signed up to help tell others where there are traffic delays.
➤ Waze for iOS | Android | Windows Phone
The photo-taking and sharing app made some big updates in 2013, including the addition of 15-second video technology and the launch of a pseudo-Snapchat-like feature it called Direct. In addition, Instagram began solidifying its monetization strategy by launching sponsored ads directly into users’ feeds.
The company’s ad product is still in its early stages, but Instagram says early testing shows “promising” results across various metrics like ad recall, awareness, and reach.
➤ Instagram for iOS | Android
A popular game this year, QuizUp launched on the iPhone to give players countless hours of entertainment by participating in trivia games against their friends or random people. Created by Plain Vanilla Games, there are more than 100,000 questions across 300 categories. It still has far to go before it gets to the level of King’s Candy Crush, but it certainly has helped to provide countless hours of time drain.
It hasn’t all been good news for Plain Vanilla Games — in November, it was reported that QuizUp had privacy and security issues. It was said that the app was believed to be sending user data in plain text and even deceiving players, allowing others to exploit a weakness and cheat. In response, the company said that third-party server code had been patched in order to resolve insecurities and acknowledged that match-ups against ‘ghost’ players are used to improve the user experience when a small number of users are online.
Currently only available for iOS devices, the game’s developer says that an Android version is coming soon.
➤ QuizUp for iOS
Circle has been around a while and focuses on answering the question “Who’s around you?” It raised $6 million from notable investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, actor Ashton Kutcher, CrunchFund’s Michael Arrington, and others.
Instead of telling you when other users are nearby like Foursquare or Highlight, Circle instead hones in on those in your network like your friends, family, and close acquaintances. While apps like Highlight almost allow you to virtually stalk who’s around you, whether they’re friends or strangers, Circle doesn’t retain that creepiness factor, and you can dictate what you’re interested in around you, not what’s happening across the country.
Earlier this month, the mobile-first ‘local network’ released an update for its iOS and Android app that allows users to share photos with each other and gave the ability to post content based on specific topics.
At last count, the company said that it has more than 10 million users and is receiving more than a million new members each month. However, its user acquisition techniques have been called into question by some.
➤ Circle for iOS | Android
- BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)
Here me out for a second … yes, we all know that BlackBerry is in a bit of trouble and disarray. However, 2013 was a good year at least for its BlackBerry Messenger app. The company finally launched the iOS and Android versions of the app, but it wasn’t without a bit of drama — a leaked app preempted the official release that probably prompted some users to simply roll their eyes.
When it was released, BlackBerry forced interested users to queue up. But amid all the criticism, the phone manufacturer said that 5 million users downloaded the app in the first eight hours of its release.
➤ BlackBerry Messenger for iOS | Android
- Candy Crush Saga
Still as addictive as ever, Candy Crush makes it on our list because it’s the game that made the most revenue in 2013, according to Apple’s App Store. It has been downloaded more than 500 million times and played 150 billion times across the Web, Facebook, and on mobile. Chances are that you have a friend that’s hooked on the game — it might even be you.
Earlier this week, the game’s developer, King, announced a new expansion to the game called Dreamworld that is available to those players that have advanced beyond level 50.
➤ Candy Crush for iOS | Android
Free, Skype-like app Viber has been in the news as it expands its service. Already available for iOS and Android devices, this year it launched on BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Windows 8. It currently stands at over 200 million users with 500,000 downloads each month, and has updated its apps with new features, such as group messaging and stickers.
➤ Viber for iOS | Android | BlackBerry | Windows Phone
The latest creation from the YouTube founders, Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, MixBit dives into the ever-crowded marketplace of video creation and social sharing services. Available for iOS and Android, it lets anyone capture video clips of up to 16 seconds each and then build a longer video (up to 1 hour) from other collaborators.
Earlier this week, MixBit’s iOS app was updated to enable users to respond to any video with their own. It also increased the size of an individual clip rather substantially. Instead of 16 seconds, it’s now 60 seconds. However, this is only for iOS only.
MixBit is a product of Chen and Hurley’s San Mateo-based incubator AVOS, which they founded soon after they left Google-owned YouTube. You can check out our deep dive here. Similar competitors include JumpCam and Montaj.
➤ MixBit for iOS | Android
Flipboard has seen the number of magazines appear on its publishing platform grow pretty rapidly in 2013. It now has more than 85 million registered users, thanks to its one of its biggest features. In March, the company released updates to its apps that enabled users to create their own magazines. No longer did available magazines need to be curated by Flipboard itself — now anyone with an interest could generate their own. This became so popular that within the first two weeks more than 500,000 magazines were created.
Soon afterwards, another update saw Flipboard adding profile pages, SMS sharing, and the ability to collaborate with one another. But if this wasn’t enough, later in the year, it made its magazines accessible via the Web browser and then added new functionality that let anyone add product listings directly to their magazines.
Flipboard also became available on Windows 8.1-supported devices, complete with Live Tile support and native gesturing. It also added Reuters, TIME Magazine, and other new publications to its roster.
Of course it wasn’t a perfect year for Flipboard as it faced increased competition from the likes of Clipped and Zite, and even rumors of a Facebook social reader. It also had a couple of outages in July and was even blocked in China in August.
➤ Flipboard for iOS | Android | Windows 8.1
2013 marked the one-year anniversary of App.net, the latest incarnation of a social network created by Dalton Caldwell. The service launched as a social platform that puts more of a focus on developers than generating revenue. And while it still has a bit of a way to go before it finds itself on a level playing field with Twitter and Facebook, App.net does appear to be creating a community vibe quite yet, despite its ecosystem of third-party apps.
To help move its mission forward, App.net added 10 GB of storage for every one of its users and opened up its File API in order for developers to create apps that can store and share images on its platform. In order to entice developers, the company increased its incentive plan by 50 percent, giving out $30,000 each month — developers like Hootsuite and Ohai have already created apps for Caldwell’s creation.
A free tier option for users was also unveiled this year in an effort to get more customers to sign up. Available by invite only, these free accounts will allow users to follow up to 40 accounts and receive 500 MB of storage.
➤ App.net for iOS | Android
Pinterest ends 2013 with plans to a monetization plan, a new API and functionality to support travel interests. It also released a redesigned app for the iPad to accommodate iOS 7, along with a new menu, long-press board sharing, and improved discovery.
The interest-based, visually-focused social network continues to expand its accessibility throughout the world. Pinterest has said it had plans to launch 10 new countries this year — it has a 125 percent growth rate internationally. Earlier this month, it localized its service for those in Russia, Poland, Turkey, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The month prior, a similar version was available for those in the Nordics.
Its mobile apps have received functionality like improved pin discovery, profile editing, push notification support, predictive search results, and friend mentions.
➤ Pinterest for iOS | Android
Hipstamatic unveiled a brand new standalone app this year called Oggl. When it launched, it had more than 4 million users and was a blend of Instagram and 500px. The company hoped that it would offer a new way for fans of Hipstamatic’s filters to connect with others in the community.
Trailing behind Instagram in the photo-sharing market, Oggl tries to take the experience beyond just snapping a photo and applying a filter. Instead, it functions almost akin to what you would find on a point and shoot camera.
Months after its debut, it released a version for Windows Phone 8 devices, beating Instagram in landing on Microsoft’s platform. It became one of the first supported apps on Nokia’s Lumia 928 smartphone. This was a good move for Oggl, especially as Microsoft had been touting the performance of the device’s camera. However, in August, it was said that fewer than 100,000 people had downloaded the app.
Oggl does have a subscription model where users can pay $2.99 per quarter or $9.99 annually in order to access new lenses and filters — an entirely different model from the original Hipstamatic app.
This month, Oggl’s iOS app was updated to provide an Instagram feed and a Pinterest-style Collections and Discovery tab.
➤ Oggl for iOS | Windows Phone
YPlan is a mobile app that helps you find out what to do around you, similar to WillCall and Sosh. It focuses on giving you last-minute access to a small number of hand-picked events happening tonight. The company launched its second city and expanded internationally all in the same move. Originally centered around London, in September, it touched down in New York City after being installed on over 15 percent of iPhones in London and being downloaded more than 300,000 times.
The company released an Android and iPad app this year as well.
➤ YPlan for iOS | Android
The question-and-answer platform makes it onto our list as it spent this year making updates to its service to help curate knowledge from its users. It added a blogging feature to its social network allowing anyone to publish long-form thoughts about any topic. Additionally, recognizing that mobile devices like the iPhone and Android device are the best for reading and responding to questions, Quora released app updates that included a rich-text editing component.
Other improvements made include a new save option for draft answers and a predictive question suggestion capability. As more users begin to create content and share their knowledge on Quora, the company wants to make sure that everyone knows how impactful it is. In November, the social network revamped its analytics service to now measure content distribution, views, upvotes, and shares.
Quora even rebuilt its iOS app to work with the latest operating system. While it’s currently available for iPhone and Android smartphones, an iPad version is coming soon.
➤ Quora for iOS | Android