Facebook is jumping on the video-first bandwagon with the launch of its new app called Lifestage. Currently targeted for teens, the app aims to connect people under 21 by highlighting everything about themselves. Lifestage is created by 19-year-old Facebook product manager Michael Sayman.

Sayman said that the idea behind Lifestage is to bring back the “who I am” theme of social media. He explained in his Facebook post, “Back in 2004, Facebook was all about ‘who I am’. I could post my relationship status. I could share what my favorite music was. And it was all about expressing myself. Today as Facebook has grown into so much more, we see the opportunity to explore that concept of ‘who I am’ once again, but for Generation Z in 2016.”

How it works

Basically, the user creates his or her profile using video fields. You then connect with other users in your school. The app calls it a video yearbook. However, you can only add one school. You have to create a new account if you want to connect with people from other schools.

Photo Credit: Lifestage App in App Store

Sayman added that they “went all out” with Lifestage like you can create videos showing your different facial expressions like “My Happy Face” and common actions like “How I Dance.” Your videos do not get deleted after 24 hours but they are all public. So far, there are no privacy settings which means that all your videos can be viewed by anyone. This has posed security concerns from internet experts for teens who are using the app.

Photo credit: Michael Sayman Facebook Page
Photo credit: Michael Sayman Facebook Page

The app doesn’t have a messaging feature so it’s really all video with Lifestage. In a nutshell, it differs from Snapchat in four areas:

  1. Age limit – for users under 21 years old only
  2. No privacy settings (so far)
  3. No messaging
  4. Connects you only with people in your school

Will it topple Snapchat?

If we will only base it on these factors and the disturbing 2-star rating so far, the answer is no. The fact that it can only be used by a particular demographic makes it limiting. The security issue is a huge problem which is probably why even the teens are not so keen in using it.

Instagram Stories has a better chance of competing with Snapchat as the feature is enjoyed by all its current and future users. It’s also simpler to use. Facebook has a history of failed standalone apps namely Paper, Poke, Notify, and Slingshot. Will this be another app added to their frequently uninstalled list? Let’s give it six months or so and see if it gains traction. Otherwise, Facebook should just devote its resources to improving its features to retain its top position in the social media arena.

How can Lifestage improve?

For starters, they need to fix their privacy features. Teens can easily be stalked or fall prey to sexual offenders with its all access viewing. Also, anyone can pretend to be in high school to create an account. There’s no way to validate if you’re actually going to the school you’ve chosen.

On the marketing side, they also need to promote it more. The app was launched quietly last August 20. If Mark Zuckerberg believes in this app so much then he should double his efforts in promoting it. Tap teen influencers or celebrities who fall in the same demographic. Show potential users that there are actually trustworthy people who are using the app.

They should also consider adding an option for connecting with users from different schools, at least for a few months, to widen the reach of each user. The fact that your network is only limited to your school makes it less enticing specially for teens who love more engagement in their posts.

A note to app developers

Social media apps are already a dime a dozen but that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for newcomers. If you want to break through this industry, you have to offer something unique and not just a slightly different version of what’s already there. Instagram made it big because it was only focused on photo sharing. Pinterest carved a niche because of its idea hub format. Snapchat got everybody snapping because of its limited-time video viewing. So what is it out there that users want but no app has been able to deliver? Put those thinking caps on!

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