Storytelling App Steller Becomes More Of A Social Network

A beautifully designed mobile storytelling app Steller was introduced earlier this year to deliver on a simple premise: that our smartphones can do more than serve as our cameras or a quick way to post images to social networks like Facebook or Instagram, they’re also capable of being creative devices. Today, the company is rolling out an upgraded version of its application, with Steller 2.0, an update that pushes the app more into social networking territory, with features like comments, @mentions, hashtags, search and other changes.

For background, Steller was founded by ex-Google, ex-VMware, and ex-Microsoft veterans, including brother and sister design team Brian McAniff and Karen Poole, plus Jay Wilder. Tech veterans at Steller also include Vadim Spivak, Richard McAniff, and Mark Lucovsky.

Steller_iPhone1cThe app allows you to turn your photos and videos into stories, using a set of simple tools, designed from the ground-up for mobile devices.

Today, Steller’s users are creating story collections that include both everyday images and videos, like of family, friends, or beloved pets, as well as more professional fare, like the stories created by food and DIY bloggers, or those of well-produced trip journals.

You can see some of the better examples of those sorts of stories here, from creatives, authors, athletes, chefs, and others: Beth Kirby / @Local_MilkJennifer ChongOh JoyAlex DeiboldEmily HarringtonKatie Rodgers / @paperfashionMeagan CignoliRed 6Nichole RobertsonSophie Gamund; or Tiffany Mitchell. Brands are also getting involved, like Burton Snowboards, for instance.

However, until today, the Steller experience was more of using a well-crafted utility, rather than a social app. The Steller 2.0 release changes that. Now, a new “Explore” section lets you find the most popular and most viewed stories, as well as a curated set of stories per day and other featured collections.

Steller_iPhone1bYou can also now interact with those stories, by leaving comments and using hashtags. In addition, both hashtags and @mentions work in the comments and within the stories themselves, allowing users to reference other topics or other creators, connecting the stories together in more of a social networking structure.

And you can dig up more of the stories you like to see through a search function, which also supports hashtags in addition to keywords.

“I think we’re both parts a discovery network, for finding interesting content on topics that interest you, and also a social network where you can share your stories, connect with friends and family, as well as now connect with experts and influencers you follow,” explains Wilder.

“Our vision is to keep building the best storytelling community that’s out there,” he says.

Will Steller’s Stories Last?

Steller_iPhone1dThe stories in Steller are beautifully done, and fun to browse through and read. But not everyone will be as interested in the creation process as they are in consuming the content itself. It’s a basic rule of Internet culture. So it makes sense that Steller would take its app in a direction that better highlights and supports ways to more passively search and partake in the content, rather than forcing everyone to spend time building stories themselves.

My only concern with Steller, and apps like this, is that users may be putting in time creating content that won’t be around forever. Steller’s stories today can be viewed in the app as well as on the web, but for how long? While no startup will ever admit that one day, they will be no more (or they’ll have to exit to Facebook, e.g.), I worry about building these amazing mini-tales on a mobile application’s servers, rather on your own, or at least on a web host where you’re in control of when content goes up or comes down.

But that may not matter to the mobile-first generation, who is more comfortable with the disposability of content, and apps, having grown up deleting from Facebook walls, and sending self-destructing photos in Snapchat.

Hopefully, though, Steller’s stories won’t also self-destruct over time. They’re worth saving.

The updated app is available for download here.