Lifestage, Facebook’s newer “teens-only” app designed to counteract the Snapchat threat by giving younger users a place to connect outside of Facebook’s larger social network, has now arrived on Android. Previously an iPhone-only application, this experimental app represents Facebook’s attempt to woo the high schooler crowd, while also testing other features like video profiles, gamification elements, and more.
These things could make their way into Facebook’s main application, even if Lifestage itself later fails.
Lifestage is now one of many ways Facebook has been targeting Snapchat’s user base. In particular, the company understands that Snapchat’s camera-first design mechanism is one the social app’s key draws.
To engage Facebook users in similar ways, the company acquired photo and video filtering app MSQRD, then tried out selfie filters on Facebook using that technology, alongside opening your camera right on top of the News Feed.
It also reached out to the developer community with an offer of tools that would allow for third-party creation of profile filters, and it even internally tested a Snapchat clone called “Facebook Stories.”
More recently, Facebook has been testing another Snapchat clone as a standalone app called Messenger Day, and it rolled out a Snapchat-like feature in Instagram, “Stories,” which has become fairly popular.
Lifestage, therefore, is just one weapon in Facebook’s arsenal when it comes to competing with Snapchat. And, from the look of the early numbers, at least, it may not be one that lasts.
The app by its nature is limited to the high school crowd primarily. Technically, it’s for 21 and unders, but Facebook is hoping for viral spread through high schools in particular.
In Lifestage, users answer bio questions with videos, which then unlocks more questions. And when you update your profile, you get a little sunglasses-smile emoji next to your name. If you don’t update, the smile turns to a frown, or even the poop emoji. This is meant to encourage regular engagement with the app.
In addition, users can show off what they like and dislike by adding it to their profile – a feature that caters to the ever-changing interests of younger users, who often latch on and then drop new trends more quickly than their older counterparts.
Launched this summer, Lifestage has so far failed to find significant traction, however – it’s not a viral hit. According to App Annie’s metrics, the app has dropped to #1289 in the Social Networking category on iTunes, which hits at slow adoption. (Of course, without the Android app, its potential reach has been limited until now.)
It’s also, of course, targeting a narrower audience than most social apps. Lifestage blocks users over a certain age, which means it would never really climb to the top of the charts, even if it became a hit. (There is also some concern that Lifestage isn’t effectively blocking adults from signing up, which will become a larger problem as the app scales. It’s not likely the go-to destination for predators right now, though, given its small footprint.)
Still, even if Lifestage doesn’t ever find its footing as the next best teen thing, Facebook can take what it learned here, then incorporate those elements into its other products.
For example, though Facebook’s news-reading app Paper failed, it taught the company how to do Instant Articles. And via Lifestage, Facebook may discover how to better improve user profiles with video – something that is not yet working on Facebook itself, where video profiles are an option, but haven’t been widely adopted.
In the meantime, users of a certain age can download the Lifestage app for free from here on Google Play.