Did Facebook’s On This Day have an impact on Timehop?

By Abhinav Agrawal

Timehop disrupted the market with a product to view your own memories. But Dropbox, Facebook, and others innovated quickly to dampen their momentum. We turned to SurveyMonkey Intelligence, which provides detailed usage statistic for thousands of mobile apps to shine a light on the impact Timehop’s clones have had on its growth.

Timehop pioneered the “nostalgia” space with a beautifully designed product and clear value proposition: What did you do 1 year ago today?

The app, launched on iOS in late 2012, became popular with users looking to reminiscence about their digital footprint. Over the next two years they added every integration possible (iPhone photo/video, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox, Google Photos, Swarm, and Evernote) to unlock your memories wherever they may be.

The small New York based company was on a tear — launching an Android app, raising a Series A round from Spark Capital and then a $10M Series B from Shasta Ventures and adding great board members like Jason Goldman (ex Twitter, White House Chief Digital officer) to the board.

The results spoke for themselves too — ~6 million Daily Active Users and monthly engagement north of 50%!

Stellar churn metrics, close to the best in the social category

Their churn (inverse of retention) metrics were even more stellar. The churn for their app (percentage of existing users who used the app in a given week but didn’t use it the following week) was comparable to Snapchat and much better than products like Twitter, Linkedin, and Words With Friends.

For anyone who has worked on a mobile app, such levels are unheard of. Timehop is behind only industry giants like Facebook when it comes to retaining its users.

Competition able to respond quickly with a copy to steal Timehop’s thunder

But as so happens, competition was waiting for them around the corner from both the high and low end.

On the low end, other startups were launched or pivoted to compete in the same market e.g. Memoir, HeyDay. Many of them approached the market from a “keep a journal” angle but the value proposition to the user was similar.

More alarmingly, ecosystem giants like Dropbox (Flashback feature), Google Photos (Rediscover this day), and the 800 lb gorilla of them all Facebook (On this Day) entered the market with essentially identical feature sets. Note, how even the names of the features are similar! “Rip-off”, “copy”, “closely inspired” are the words that reporters used to describe those launches.

So, what has been the end result? Is the David Timehop able to hold its own against the Goliaths of Facebook, Google, and Dropbox? Sadly, not.

Despite stellar retention, usage metrics are in steep decline

Over the last year, Timehop’s active user metrics are slowly declining despite the amazing retention metrics.

Not a precipitous decline indicating a product problem — but the app is just not adding enough new users to grow given the slow but natural bleed out of existing users.

And the large companies can add users at scale by essentially putting the feature in front of them. According to Techcrunch:

“Each day 60 million people visit On This Day, and 155 million have subscribed to its notifications that show your photos, status, updates, and wall posts from this date in years past” While subjective, it is hard to make a strong case that these competitive products are better than Timehop. In fact, given the agnostic nature of where Timehop aggregates data from, the user experience might even be better for Timehop.

Unfortunately, this tale doesn’t have a happy ending and is a cautionary tale of what happens when what you are building can become a feature of something else and is not a product/solution in its own right. The dividing line of course is subjective — Steve Jobs famously told Drew Houston from Dropbox that Dropbox was just a feature of iOS. Yet Dropbox survived to prosper as an individual company.

The second takeaway is the ability of large platforms to spot an opportunity, execute flawlessly while improving the value proposition through the data at their disposal, and then go to market by leveraging their existing user base and financial heft. Expect more of that in the future from Facebook, Google et al.

This post originally appeared on May 18, 2016 on the blog of SurveyMonkey Intelligence, a competitive intelligence product for mobile apps.

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