INNOVATE | They Left Facebook To Make An App That Will Spice Up Your Instagram Stories

The lead developers behind social media tools like Instagram Stories and Boomerang left their jobs to build new features for the very tools they created.

A group of former Instagram and Facebook employees have rolled out a new app called Chroma Stories that capitalizes on social media trends at a pace far faster than what’s rolled out by Instagram and Facebook. Flagship social platforms can notoriously take months or even years to push new features to the mainstream.

Yet more and more, users are looking for additional editing tools to spruce up their content beyond filters and clever captions. This has made way for a cottage industry of apps that help Stories, or photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours, stand out.

Chroma Stories is among these new apps, offering a variety of tones and other special effects to help users jazz up their Stories for social platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, which pioneered the concept of Stories. It’s free to download for more than 150 temples and 20 fonts – – that’s compared to Instagram’s five font options for Stories and nine for Snapchat.

Chrome Stories users can pay up to $30 a year for additional layouts, backgrounds, fonts and other features.

The app also allows users to edit photos, create multiple slides for a Story and add Boomerang-like video effects before posting to the platform of their choice. (Boomerang hasn’t been updated since its 2015 debut).

One of the concept’s cofounders is John Barnett, a former product manager at Instagram who was behind many of the site’s popular filters, including “Lark” and “Juno”, which haven’t been updated since their debut. (Instagram has since added new filter for Stories, but the filters for posting to the feed have stayed the same).

He also helped developed Boomerang, Instagram’s tool that makes video loop back and forth, and Stories, a feature he later brought to Instagran’s parent company Facebook. Stories has over 500 million active users each day on Instagram. YouToube, Skype and others have since rolled out their own versions of Stories.

But more than a year ago, Barnett, along with former colleagues Joshua Harris and Alex Li, left Facebook to create something new; an appealing opportunity to move faster on features with their own startup. The new app employs six full-time staffers, including two other former Instagram engineers.

In December 2018, the company raised seed funding from firms including Index, Combine, Sweet Capital and others, for an undisclosed amount.

“As a startup, we can move even faster”, Barnett told CNN Business. “We can go and ship (a feature), try it out and get that to people a week or two later. If it’s a totally new product, that can take sometimes months, if not years, depending on what technology it involves (at Instagram).

Bigger companies like Facebook have a road map for the next 12 months, or even for many years, which “can make it harder to try something new”, he said.

Startups generally have the ability to grow faster than a large organization and can put out a new product faster because the focus is typically more narrow, according to Eleftheria Kouri, an analyst at ABI Research.

“They don’t have internal delays”, she said. “They don’t have multiple boards, and all these things that can delay a decision”.

Chroma Stories is also working with influencers and popular content creators to build layouts for the app, including Brandon Woelfel, a photographer with over 3 million Instagram followers. The layouts include option with bright-colored borders and ways to add multiple photos to one Story post, a tool Instagram doesn’t currently offer.

To date, Chroma Stories has been downloaded 533,000 times, according to data from Apptopia, a firm that tracks mobile apps. But other apps, including StoryArt and Unfold, which offer similar layout options, photo editing and more fonts, have been exceptionally popular, too. In October, Unfold hit over 1.2 million downloads in October, why StoryArt reached over 1.4 million. VSCO, a filters app which has been a favorite among Millennials and Gen Z, has surpassed 4.3 million downloads, according Apptopia.

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