The avian world will soon rise up in arms. Birds used to have the monopoly on tweeting before humans took over. And now, we will squawk as well. San Francisco startup Squawk’s messaging app targeted at teenagers is “a fun, all-in-one messenger that lets you be you” and is projected to give Snapchat some serious competition.
A messaging app especially for teenagers
So why the teenage audience? According to Chloe Bregman, co-founder and creative juggernaut, teenagers have a very different relationship with their phones than adults. They text more than any other age group and tend to use other forms of communication, such as email, less. Their world is very much an “on demand” one – it’s teenagers and University students who are at the forefront of using the new visual social media platforms, such as Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat. Teenagehood is a transitional, tumultuous time, the point where you change from a child to an adult. Teenagers have completely different needs and expectations than adults in everything that they consume in their daily lives – from the clothes they wear, to the media they engage with, to the apps they use. To this end, Squawk’s founders worked closely with a focus group of teenagers and tried to figure out what they really wanted from a messaging app. The answers were not what they expected.
Everything is ephemeral with “self destruct”
Alex Karweit, Squawk’s CEO and Bregman realized that Facebook’s authorization methods made things muddy and unclear. Moreover, one of their focus group members, Christina Gee, mentioned that her Facebook contains old photos from middle school which she finds embarrassing now. Teenagers wanted something ephemeral, something as transient as themselves – no records left, nothing to look back to and the freedom to just move on to the next interesting thing. It’s because of this that Squawk comes with an unique auto destruct feature. Anything you share on the app, be it text, or a photo or stickers, can be removed for good if you set it to “self-destruct”. It is this impermanent nature of things that Karweit and Bregman believe will especially appeal to their target audience.
A party inside an app
The interface is bold, colorful and kooky, rather than sleek, minimal and cold. You can send texts, captioned photos, voice memos, animated GIFs you pull from Tumblr, stickers and the internet’s current favorite thing – emoji. The interface is highly customizable, and there is even a “selfie” button – sure to be a big hit considering taking self portraits from odd angles is a mandatory teenage activity. The system works on “friending” people from other people’s friendlists, which are visible, highlighting the networking side of things, unlike in comparable apps. The fact that this really is for teenagers is underscored by the “school” field in the profile section. Karweit and Bregman first thought of Squawk while they were working on the MMO game Rift and DrawChat, a messaging app based around drawing pictures and sending them back and forth.
Their personal emphasis on fun, productivity, self-expression and convenience brought the duo to the realization that there is so much more that could be done with messaging. Nuances in conversation often get lost through the written medium, which is why the current wave of messaging, with its stress on non verbal cues is so much more powerful and expressive. “Squawk’s visual emphasis on non-verbal messages like stickers and selfies encourages people to share their most fun, silly, ridiculous, private, happy and sad moments with their friends in more meaningful and fun ways,” Bregman clarifies. When asked to describe the app in a line or two, she says “Squawk is chat gone wild. It’s like being at a party but inside an app.” And what teenager or undergrad doesn’t love a good party?
Launched just a few days ago, Squawk is currently available for iOS at get.squawkapp.com. An Android port is currently in Beta.