Matt's Blog: while { coding }

On Beme

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Beme (”beam”) is an app for iPhone that lets you record 4-second snippets of video and then broadcast them out into the void. You record by holding your phone to your chest. There is a chirp when recording starts and when it ends. You cannot see the video you are shooting on the screen of your phone and you cannot review it before it is sent. This is the rawest, least controlled form of social video to date. And that’s quite on purpose, because the ethos of Beme is to avoid artifice or filtering and share your authentic experience.

This philosophy is great. Share honestly. No filters. No posturing. No editing. Not even deleting! You grab a slice of your experience and send it out into space. It’s such a strong departure from a lot of social sharing ideas.

Is that enough to make a compelling social media platform?

It’s not as easy as it seems to just share video. It’s embarassing to just record whatever, whenever. You’re confronted with your ego and social boundaries that you may not be used to. I feel incredibly self-conscious using the app. More than when I record regular video with my phone. Part of that may be the hand-over-heart mechanics (looking like a dork) but part of it may also be the lack of control. I’m basically putting the people around me on live TV. It’s TV that only 5 other people will see, and it’s only for 4 seconds at a go. It’s still out of my hands where that video goes and who sees it.

Aside from feeling self-conscious, your daily life is likely pretty boring. Which means your videos are pretty boring. I’m lucky enough to live in an interesting place and I see some interesting things every day. I have a lot of raw material to work with and even so most days are pretty boring. Now, aggregate that over thousands or millions of people and as a content consumer, you’ll never be bored because you can always look at other people’s boring lives all day. But as a content creator, you’re challenged to come up with something novel on a regular basis.

Who is this app for? I’m not quite sure. You’re definitely at an advantage using it if you’re an experienced daily vlogger, but judging from what I’ve seen over the past year or so I’m guessing the target audience is younger folks, probably teen girls. If it’s aiming to be a Snapchat killer, I can only say I’m not in the target demographic.

How is this app going to grow? It’s had a hell of a launch. Casey did a great job of building hype beforehand, and the throttling of new users only added to the hype. But that only gets people trying the platform. Why will people stay on Beme?

For me, I like the idea of being able to share things I see. I’ve even found that when I see something interesting and I don’t put it on Beme, I feel guilty, like I’ve let people down. In reality I haven’t let anyone down. I have very few followers so far and even so, no one is expecting anything of me. I wish I was letting people down; I wish I had that many people who cared. But I don’t see how that can ever be the case because there is no virality.

I’ve been a loyal Twitter user for over 7 years. Twitter does the viral thing quite well. I can say something funny or stupid and that can be retweeted through the network. I get rewarded with more followers, but more significantly I get more chances to interact with other people. As things stand right now I can’t do anything like that with Beme.

The lack of virality seems like a glaring weak spot in the entire effort. It’s certainly possible to build a social platform without an overt viral mechanism. Snapchat did it. But Snapchat also has different mechanics, a different origin story, and a long build-up. (Maybe Beme consists of a lot more nudes than I am aware?)

I worked at a startup years ago that decided they needed to pivot and build a social media app. None of the brass in the company actually used Twitter in any meaningful way, but we went ahead and build a niche Twitter clone anyway. Shockingly, no one used it. Beme reminds me of that experience. Plenty of people are using it because it was well-launched. But Beme doesn’t complete the circuit in a few key ways and that makes me doubt people will continue to use it unless the developers move extremely fast to shape things into a more compelling experience.

Beme feels a little ahead of it’s time in the wrong way. This app would absolutely rock for Google Glass. Maybe there is some bigger picture that Beme is playing to which we can’t see yet?

You can follow me on Beme as user: built