The history of social media platforms is filled with apps that had their moment before fading. BeReal, the 2022 darling that required users to post just once a day at a random time, has lost momentum, according to Gen Z. Dispo, a photo-sharing platform inspired by disposable cameras, briefly made headlines in 2021. And in 2015 there was Beme, which was marketed as an online space for sharing everyday life as it really is.
Now there’s a new contender: Lapse, a photo app with the tagline “friends not followers.” It had its launch in 2021 but, after a rerelease, it has shot to No. 2 in the United States on the Apple App Store’s free chart.
Much like Dispo, Lapse encourages people to take pictures the way they did in the analog days, when disposable cameras were all the rage. Users snap photos and “develop” them in the app. When the photos are ready, several hours later, their takers can decide if they want to post them for their Lapse friends or archive them for private viewing.
All photos posted on Lapse must be taken in the app and cannot be altered in any way. There are no visible “like” counts. Instead, friends can react with emojis.
Lapse was started by two brothers, Dan and Ben Silvertown, with funding from GV (formerly Google Ventures). It’s meant to create a social media experience without the anxiety associated with trying to win the approval of strangers. The app sits somewhere between a big platform, like TikTok, and the privacy of a group chat.
“We see that as a huge space in the middle that used to be filled by other social networks that is now being left wide open,” Dan Silvertown said.
Maria Rendon, a 21-year-old receptionist from Woodbridge, Va., said she recently started using Lapse. “I think a lot of the new apps want that feeling back where people just post and don’t really care about followers or likes or anything like that,” she said.
Ms. Rendon described herself as a frequent Instagram user — mostly for scrolling — who tried BeReal last year, only to give up on it quickly. She said she liked the way Lapse gave her photos a filmlike appearance. Nostalgia, she said, is the draw.
“When Instagram first came out, it was a picture-based app,” she said. “That’s all that it was. Now it’s become so many other things.”
Another Lapse user, Ann-Abele Blassingame, 22, mentioned nostalgia as part of the app’s appeal. A graduate student in Greeley, Colo., they use Instagram as a “marketing tool” for their artwork and see Lapse as a place for sharing photos more casually.
Lapse is available by invitation only and requires newcomers to invite five people to join before they can start posting. Some people have been put off by this growth tactic. Andrew Lee, a 20-year-old student at Rutgers University, said he was wary of how users’ phone numbers might be used. Lapse’s website says the company does not sell user data.
Its rise on the Apple app chart suggests that the strategy is working. The big question is if it can stay hot. Neither Ms. Rendon nor Mx. Blassingame was sure if they would stick with it in the long term.
Mx. Blassingame said they had experienced a few technical glitches with the app, which have since been fixed. They complained by commenting on Lapse’s Instagram account.