What Are You Left With When Your Favorite App Closes?
From finding an outlet to create and share stories to losing it and having to start all over again.
Last summer I stumbled upon Tapestry, an app that let you mix text, images and gifs on a 16:9 format to create stories. This summer, I received an email informing me that the app was closing and “transitioning from the public storytelling platform it is today to one for telling brand stories” .
I didn’t know that apps could close, so when I discovered Tapestry, I instantly fell in love with it, like teenagers do, without holding feelings back while waiting for things to go South. (Now I’ll know better.)
Tapestry was this perfect platform that let me combine two of my favorite mediums to tell stories: films and graphic novels. It also let me play with a new passion of mine: telling stories that required the audience to participate rather than be passive sponges.
You see, in order to move forward to read a story in Tapestry, the reader had to “tap” on her/his screen. That meant that readers couldn’t scan through a page or fast forward to see what was going to happen, but that also meant that they had control over how fast or slow they would move forward. Pretty dope.
Only a few days after I discovered Tapestry, I created my first story, Insomnia. The response from people was positive, and the story got featured on the app. I was pumped. I finally had a way to quickly produce and release content. As I could see the possibilities unfolding before my eyes to tell better stories and use the app to its full potential, Tapestry started taking more space in my life. I would always be thinking about new ideas for this specific medium in the back of my head, and I had plenty of them.
It’s important to add that the small team behind Tapestry was friendly and supportive; and the family vibe surrounding the app helped make me want to stick around and keep going.
And so I started publishing a story every couple of weeks. Each story gaining more likes than the one before, up until Small Joys and Little Miseries that was released when the 2.0 app’s version came out last November, and reached 900 likes. I had been an early adopter of Vine, six months prior to Tapestry, and the only evolution I knew for apps was the one that was going forward and up. I was hopefull.
I published over 20 stories and gained more than 5,000 followers between July 2013 and now. Not the Vine or Instagram numbers, but still the biggest number of followers I’ve had anywhere so far, and on an app that was dedicated to “beautiful storytelling”, which was not to displease me.
Sure, I could see that the app wasn’t growing neither faster nor stronger after their 2.0 release and that, even though my following kept expanding, less and less people seemed to actually read or publish stories. It seemed clear that creating full stories, as opposed to sharing a picture or a very short video, required too much work for little reward. We are used now, after-all, to get big rewards for much less work, as a carefully framed selfie will bring you more compliments than a well-crafted story that takes 10 min to read.
When I received the email from Tapestry announcing the app would be closed by the end of August, it came as a shock. Despite all the red flags accumulated over the last few months, I never thought that an app I had been checking almost daily could actually close.
Suddenly, all the stories I had spent so much time creating would only be available in a lowered quality version. All the stories I had liked, along with the storytellers I was following and the followers I had gained would be gone. And, of course, I would no longer be able to create new stories using this medium.
I’ve lived three decades without Tapestry, I am confident I’ll survive this news. But it did make me think about the other apps I am using and how much of my emotional life I put into them.
Even though it seems unlikely that Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Vine etc. would announce that they were closing tomorrow, who is to know what crazy new app will come out in a week, in a month or in a year from now and shakes the Earth, changing this brand new game we’re trying to play?
And if Twitter was to close tomorrow, what would you be left with? Did you archive your tweets? Do you know the (real) name of the people you follow? Do you know their websites? Can you find them anywhere else? And the people who follow you, would they try to find you again? What about all the comments you’ve received and made on Instagram, the pictures you’ve liked and the one you’ve shared? What would be left of all those moments? (And would you be able to summon any tangible memory related to them?)
We are building an emotional life made of dialogues and creations on applications that might have a very short lifespan. And when they go down, it’s a piece of our history that goes down with them.
For myself, I’ve decided this was supposed to be a short-lived love. Drawing and writing stories on a regular basis on Tapestry not only helped me develop my creativity, but also lead me to do an interactive animation, something I would have never even considered possible a year ago.
I can’t know how many people who read my Tapestries will follow me through other mediums; it’s probably safe to say that from the thousands I have now, the number will shrink considerably. The good old email list allowing you to reach people directly to their mailbox suddenly makes a lot of sense. So at least when an app you love falls apart, and everything disappears into broken ones and zeroes, the human connections you built remain.
Because that’s all what we do is about, to express and to connect. To connect and to express. A story without an audience isn’t much more than an inner monologue, and an audience without a story to discover remains a group of strangers. Apps die, but we stay. We need to keep in touch with the people who wants to connect with us outside of the apps system. Building an email list is one way. What’s yours?