Somewhere between Myspace and X, the new social media app now sitting at number one in the US App Store charts offers a text-based social experience targeted at Gen Z with the aim of being a healthy, interest-led social platform – here’s what you need to know.

Image credit: noplace

The noplace groundswell

New social apps are interesting because they speak to a desire – or perhaps the aspiration – of young, fast-growing audiences to engage with culture in different ways from those currently offered.

The animating principle, then, is important. Speaking to TechCrunch, founder and CEO Tiffany Zhong argued that social media is increasingly unsocial. “We’re watching different content and [following] different interests than our friends, so community is harder to find as a result,” she explains.

“Everything is just media. It feels very disconnected.”

Now #1 on the US App Store in the Social Networking category, the app – formerly known as NoSpace in a nod to the social network that arguably started it all – asks prospective users: “remember how fun the internet was before all the algos and ads?” Capital letters and full stops apparently died when millennials stopped being considered the youth.

Why a new social medium matters

It might, but it very likely also might not.

The major incumbents are large, powerful, sticky, and not above putting out copycat features that – alongside the network effects that help keep people coming back – can quickly wipe out rivals. Look at Snap’s pressure from Instagram; more recently, witness TikTok’s hasty launch of a BeReal clone back when the French upstart looked like it might pose a threat.

But, weirdly, a lot of new apps ultimately seek to scratch the Facebook itch from the late 00s into the mid-2010s: a time when the site was about having fun with friends, seeing what people you actually know are up to and what’s cool.

The “enshittification” conundrum

What’s wrong with social media? A term coined by the tech writer Cory Doctorow is useful here – he calls the process “enshittification” in a January 2023 essay, defined as the transition of platform companies away from being user-obsessed to being shareholder-returns-obsessed.

This doesn’t mean they’re fundamentally bad services, rather that the aim of the game changes. The underlying question is whether any successful service can withstand the process and make money while staying true to the promise to early users.

Features

Users cannot create private profiles. They will see two feeds: one for friends and one global feed both in reverse chronological order. Users 13-18 will see a more moderated feed, the company says. You also can’t upload photos or videos yet – it is positioned as a place to talk about what you’re currently doing rather than posting highlights of what you have already done.

Rather than algorithmic curation, the app claims to use AI to summarise topics that may be of interest to users and to identify new topics or content suggestions.

Some of its features speak to even earlier social media like Bebo with the inclusion of “levels” which are “gained thru spreading good vibes” and help unlock additional features (some of which are yet to be decided).

Some of the services it offers:

  • customize your profile: change your background colors, show off your best friends, share your relationship status, and more. express yourself however you want, we won’t judge
  • add your faves: see what your bffs are up to, who’s their current top 8, which shows they’re binging, or whatever else they wanna share
  • make new friends: it’s like an internet neighborhood where you can hang out and meet new people you like – all you have to do is be yourself (no clout chasers allowed !)
  • plug your favorite music: show off your unique music taste and find new artists your friends are listening to *before* they take over the aux
  • update your current vibe: share your mood, what you’re eating, gaming, streaming, reading, or that weird tiktok rabbit hole you've just crawled out of”
Will it work?

Who knows? It’s a tough world out there and VC money even from alternative social figures like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s 776 among others won’t last forever. In a growth phase, noplace currently has noplans to monetise.

Interestingly, CEO Zhong has the profile of a founder willing to pivot: a previous incarnation of Islands.XYZ, the developer behind Noplace, was all-in on Web3 as the next fundamental social technology amid the pandemic-era NFT boom. Its X profile – now RIP Islands – reads mournfully: “went from web3 to web0.”

So expect to see Zhong’s name again – in this noplace or the next.