Disappearing messages, like those on popular apps like Snapchat, give users a sense of greater privacy when compared to larger, more public social networks like Facebook or Twitter. While not infallible (see 2014’s Snapchat hack, for example), the idea is that your content doesn’t live forever etched in stone online, but exists to be consumed in the moment, then discarded.
An app that wants to bring that same sort of impermanence to other social networks, Xpire, is now available for Android users who want to share “self-destructing” posts on Twitter.
The Android version currently only works with Twitter, but support for Facebook is in the works. The iOS counterpart supports Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, it should be noted.
The Mark Cuban seed-funded app created by Dallas area computer science college student Jesse Stauffer first launched to iPhone users late last year. It’s meant to give users better control over how long their messages are public on social networks by offering tools that let you set the expiration time on posts. It also offers a way for you to dig back through older posts you previously shared using keyword search to find additional content that you may want to delete.
And with the new version out now, Xpire has added a feature that proactively warns you about potentially inappropriate content before sharing.
Stauffer explains that Xpire is using an algorithm that scans the post to find risky words, as well as the weight of their risk, then calculates whether the app should warn you about the post. “We are also working on refining this method by implementing some machine learning techniques that will learn what type of content you tend to post and whether or not your current post is ‘out of the ordinary,” he notes.
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While it may seem odd to think of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr as networks for more “ephemeral” sharing, Xpire taps into a trend that had been popular among younger social media users for some time.
As researcher danah boyd explained a few years ago, teens had come up with a variety of ways to use Facebook to reduce the risk of content’s permanence, or its ability to cause drama. In some cases, teens would “white-wall” their Facebook profiles, deleting every wall post and status update. Other times, they would temporarily deactivate their accounts, especially if they knew they wouldn’t have time to keep up with it in the days ahead.
A 2013 Pew study indicated that the practice of deleting social media content continues, with 58 percent of U.S. Facebook-using teens saying they had edited or deleted content from the site. Meanwhile, on networks like Instagram, it’s now relatively common for teens to delete photos that don’t receive enough likes, as a way of asserting more control over how they’re perceived on the network.
The question, then, is not really one of whether the practice of content deletion takes place, but whether users will respond to a centralized app for managing this sort of behavior.
Stauffer says that Xpire has been downloaded “tens of thousands” of times since launching last year, which is notable because the company’s small seed round has not likely left it with much money for marketing or ongoing user acquisition strategies.
Now the company’s goal is to develop more features that will help increase user engagement, and bring users back to Xpire daily, in contrast to the app that many see as something to use for the occasional “social cleansing.”
“We’re working on a way to reduce the time spent browsing through social media,” says Stauffer. “Most of us spend large amounts of time consuming content throughout the day and we are creating a solution that will allow you to open the app, browse through your content in minutes – or even seconds – and finally have control over the time you spend on social media. And of course, we’ll be building in some ephemeral technologies as well,” he adds.
The idea of being able to spend less time consuming social media is also popular among some teens, according to anecdotal reports, at least. As one teen shared recently via a blog post where he documented his peers’ habits and interests with regard to social media, one of the things they liked about Instagram is that it’s possible to actually get “caught up” with their feeds. Xpire is aiming to deliver a similar feeling of control to other networks, it seems.