All your selfies are belong us. Popular photo-sharing app Frontback just received a major update. You will now be able to leave comments on a Frontback post — but not just text comments. With Frontback React, you take a selfie of your reaction and adds a few words. It’s perfectly in line with the deeply personal soul of the app.
While I very irregularly post to Frontback, I open the app every day — you can call me a lurker. I get to see what my friends have been up to, beautiful or funny staff picks, and posts from popular accounts. As a reminder, a Frontback post is just two square-ish photos on top of each other, filling up the entire screen of your phone — the bottom picture is usually a selfie, while the top picture is what you see. You get a photo and the context of the photo.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been browsing reactions from strangers around the world. Something interesting happened.
People from very different parts of the world started sending reactions to my friends. Depending on the original post, they could be funny, supportive or helpful. The vast majority of them are nice and personal. With each swipe to reveal a new reaction, you can feel the pulse of the Frontback community.
And because sometimes selfies are not that helpful, you can also switch camera and take what you are seeing instead of taking a selfie. You can even shoot a short video. Overall, React is by far the biggest update for Frontback and deeply changes the main mechanism of the app. By adding comments, many things could have gone wrong, but the startup did this right.
First, you have to understand how the Frontback community works. Before today, the only possible interaction with a Frontback post was pushing the big central heart icon to like a post — the only feedback you got on your pics was the number of likes. In other words, the app voluntarily restricted you to positive feedback.
There is probably nothing worse than receiving insults on a selfie, and Frontback prevented that — this is not a cyber bullying app. Don’t get me wrong, there are strong business incentives for this. You improve your retention rate, make your platform more welcoming to new users, lower self-censorship. In short, your numbers look better.
Then, as Frontback is a global public platform, memes started to appear — #whereistand, #multiplyme, #mysky, #newface, etc. Community manager Elissa Patel has done a good job fostering them. To talk to each other and react to meme posts, people started taking a picture of their laptop screens showing a popular Frontback, and answering it with the other pic. React is just the natural evolution of this use case.
Frontback posts can be very personal, and reactions follow the same trend. Each comment displays the username, the location and a caption. And of course, most of the time you can see your friend’s face. In some way, it reproduces real life interactions as closely as possible.
Recently a Frontback user has been going through a depression and sent a Frontback with a caption that read “My depression hasn’t been this bad in years.” Beta users from Japan, the U.S., Chile and Canada sent reactions to bring her a bit of support. This is one of the most human experience I have seen on a social network.
Finally, Frontback’s new feature is a funny turn of events. Before Frontback, the team was working on Checkthis, a storytelling website and app. You could put together multiple photos and paragraphs to create a short story. While the product didn’t get enough traction, Frontback accidentally recreated part of the storytelling experience behind Checkthis.
Co-founder and CEO Frédéric della Faille has used the React features multiple times to add more pictures to his posts. For instance, he recently got a coffee table book about the inspiration behind Supreme. He shared a few pages of the book in the reactions, adding more pictures to his original post.
To build a feature like React, you first need to nail the basic user experience of your app and create a community. Comments can’t work without a lot of active users. Now, I have no doubt that reactions are going to be an important part of Frontback. I can’t wait to see how the community is going to use this new feature in a creative and compelling way.