Tapkast, a new iPhone app from the founders of London-based Narrato (whom I understand have departed the Wayra-accelerated startup) is hoping to tap into two recent trends. The first is the demand for services that respect the need for the Internet to forget. The second are apps that you interface with primarily via your phone’s lock screen and push notifications.
To that end, Tapkast’s iOS-only app lets you broadcast ephemeral status updates to your friends’ phones, with each status update replacing the previous one. You can also comment on status updates, until they disappear that is. In some ways it harks back to the early premise of Twitter — if Twitter was built to be history-less.
“We wanted to create a super-simple way to share ‘whats happening right now’ with friends and keep it relevant,” Tapkast’s Tony Million tells me. “The app is designed to be super-simple: When you have something to share, just go to Tapkast, it opens right into the compose screen, type whatever you want, maybe add a photo, then hit share. Friends and family who follow you get your update instantly on their lock screens and can respond if they want to.”
Interestingly, the decision to make Tapkast updates ephemeral wasn’t just because of the thirst for privacy-based apps, but as a potential way to help cut through the noise, as counter-intuitive as that sounds.
“The problem now is that when you share on Facebook (or many of the other popular networks), you have no idea who will see your update and when they might see it. You also frequently miss the interesting stuff from friends because they’re shoved into a feed full of BuzzFeed articles and viral videos,” explains Million. “So we made Tapkast ephemeral, only your latest post is saved. Next time you share something, your previous update and any of its replies disappear. We also added a feature so your status is cleared after 24 hours to keep it relevant.”
The result is an experience that reduces the status update to exactly that. A simple way of telling your immediate social network what you are up to right now (or at least in the last 24 hours). No links, viral videos or other spammy content. Just text and an optional photo. But, of course, if you follow a lot of people on Tapkast, the app will soon get noisy in its own right.
Not so, says Million.
Firstly, he argues that because notifications are intended to be from close friends and family, they remain “hyper-relevant”.
Secondly, Tapkast’s notifications are by default silent so that they don’t make a noise or buzz your phone to grab your attention.
The result, he says, is that during testing he and co-founder Ramy Khuffash found that the “cognitive burden” of notifications are small and you don’t receive as many as you think you will.
“If it does all get too much, we’ve added ‘shhh mode’ which will silence notifications for a while,” says Million. “With our notification center widget on iOS8 you can still see a quick snapshot of whats happening without getting a single notification.”
(I’m “sohear” on Tapkast if you’d like to get my insipid status updates.)