How Zenly made social maps cool again — and what’s next – TechCrunch

Zenly has always felt like the little social app that could be the next big thing. But it turns out that Zenly is quietly becoming a social giant without anyone paying much attention — at least until now.

Originally designed in Paris, the app was acquired from Snap back in 2017. But that acquisition was just the beginning of Zenly’s insane growth story. According to company-internal data, the app has now reached 35 million monthly active users.

And today, the Zenly team is releasing their biggest redesign ever. As the update rolls out to the App Store and Play Store, Zenly co-founder and CEO Antoine Martin is taking this milestone to leave the company in just a few short weeks.

Before I unwrap all of this, let’s take a look back at Zenly’s original vision. I first covered Zenly in 2016. When you opened the app, you were presented with a map showing your location and the location of your friends.

“This is not another messaging app. This is not a social network. This is not a utility. It’s something that lies between all of these realms. And I keep opening the app,” I wrote at the time.

Not much has changed in this vision. Zenly still wants to make the definitive social maps app. It’s an unconventional bet that’s been worked on for years. And the brand new Zenly could bring a new wave of users.

people and places

When you look at the metrics, Zenly is performing better than ever. March 2022 acc (formerly App Annie), Zenly was the 10th most downloaded social app worldwide. There are still nine apps ahead of Zenly. But popular social apps like Discord and Twitter aren’t growing as fast as Zenly.

There’s a reason Zenly is doing so well at the moment. “When the lockdown rules are lifted, when people go back out, they need Zenly,” Antoine Martin told me.

“It’s still a product that’s very personal, very contextual, and very social.” Anton Martin

But the company does not want to stand still. I’ve been using the updated app for a week. The redesign is confusing at first, but sets a promising foundation for the future. It doesn’t look like Zenly as the design language is a completely different one. There are some new features while some existing features have been refined.

The old Zenly featured lots of rainbow colors, animated emojis, and playful design elements. It was both polished and entertaining, but it also felt like peering into the supermarket for candy.

Here’s what Zenly looked like when Snap acquired it in 2017:

Photo credit: Zenly

When you open the redesigned Zenly app, it feels a lot more serious. Profile screens and conversations now have a black background. The main buttons at the bottom of the screen look like neon signs in a trendy restaurant.

With this new look and feel, Zenly wants to appeal to a broader user base. “What is appealing to college students worldwide today?” Antoine Martin summarized.

Instead of bold and rounded fonts, Zenly now uses thin, elegant fonts. You’ll also immediately notice the permanent overlay on the map in different shades of yellow and orange. Like in strategy video games, it tracks your footprints – it shows where you’ve been and where you haven’t been.

Here it is again:

Screenshots of the all-new Zenly

Photo credit: Zenly

“We have been working on a global redesign of the entire app since the end of last year. It’s the biggest redesign we’ve ever done with multiple goals. First, we’re turning Zenly into a map app,” said Martin.

There are now three buttons at the bottom of the screen. The messaging function is front and center. When you tap on it, the recent conversations list slides in from the bottom of the screen.

In the lower right corner you can use the button to either re-center the map or view the latest highlights. This way you can see where you’ve been in the past few days, share a highlight with friends, and more.

“It’s still a product that’s very personal, very contextual, and very social,” Martin said.

And finally, there is a magnifying glass icon in the lower left corner. This button alone has a lot of potential.

“The big complement are places. We believe we can build something better than anyone else,” said Martin. “Zenly has this unique ability to run in the background all the time. We eliminate the friction associated with check-in.”

“Locations and movement are the best ways to add personality to a map,” he added.

You can search for a friend on the search screen to see what they’re up to. When you tap on a profile, you can see where they are, how long they’ve been here, and who they’re dating. You can also see recent highlights, start a conversation, and tap the What’s On button.

This feature has been around for a while and has become very popular. It sends a request to a friend, asking them to record and share what’s happening.

You can now also search for places like bars and restaurants from the search screen. The search experience itself is pretty awesome, with the list updating in a split second with each new keystroke.

Each place card includes basic information such as address and phone number. But Zenly also adds contextual information to give you clues about that particular place. For example, you can see if it’s a suitable location for a large crew, if there are best friends there, or if there are many loyal visitors.

Unlock my world

With today’s update, Zenly wants to passively build a location graph. Users shouldn’t have to open the app and check in when they go to their favorite bar. Instead, the company wants to learn from your habits and highlight that information for you and your friends.

There is a new section called “My World” on every profile page. You can tap it to see a person’s top city and place. You can also look at some recently visited places to get a better sense of their lifestyle.

But you can also use this feature to navigate the map and view places. It’s a nice way to discover new places or revisit old favorites.

“My World” is locked by default for privacy reasons. After installing the update, users can enable the feature in profile, which means you share some information publicly. For example, each location has a leaderboard of people who go there often.

Interestingly, Zenly is creating a global rollout event around this feature. If you choose to participate in My World, your map will not unlock immediately as Zenly wants to pre-populate the map with some of your favorite locations.

Instead, people who activate the feature today will get a countdown. Three days later, you can browse your world and let other people browse your world. The feature is a bit frustrating at the moment as there aren’t many users in the beta version. I can’t wait to see data from the company’s millions of users.

100 million

When I installed Zenly beta on my phone, I had to enter “100 million” to unlock it. At Zenly, everything has meaning. And that number is the company’s milestone for monthly active users.

Zenly was a radically different app when Snap acquired it. The company only had 120,000 active users per day. “Zenly is now the biggest European social app of all time,” said Martin.

“We joined Snap five years ago and started working on Zenly eleven years ago.” Anton Martin

And yet, if you live in the US, you probably haven’t necessarily heard of Zenly. “Today we’re very small in the US, but we’ve never tried to grow there since we joined Snap,” Martin said.

The app is particularly popular in Japan, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. There are also many people signing up in Brazil and India. It is clear that there is still a lot of untapped potential. But that will not be Antoine Martin’s job.

“We joined Snap five years ago and started working on Zenly eleven years ago. I want to continue And I haven’t had the opportunity to take long paternity leave,” Martin said.

He hasn’t told me what he’s going to do next. First he takes a few months off. After that he can start a new business.

Going forward, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel will take charge of Zenly (in addition to the rest of Snap). It could indicate synergy between the Zenly and Snap teams, as Zenly’s team has remained independent since the acquisition.

“I would like to thank Antoine for his leadership of Zenly over the years and for his friendship. I remain inspired by his vision and wish him well in the future,” Evan Spiegel said in a statement. “We will continue to support Zenly and ensure its success, and I am confident that we will make Antoine proud with our responsibility for Zenly’s product and vision.”

During my meeting with Antoine Martin, he kept saying that Zenly has come full circle – “la boucle est bouclee‘ as he would say in French. I asked him why he kept using that expression.

“We’ve come full circle because we achieved the original vision,” he said.

How Zenly made social maps cool again — and what’s next – TechCrunch Source link How Zenly made social maps cool again — and what’s next – TechCrunch

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