Dana Adams says she just wanted to create an app that might make socialising online a little more private for her two children — currently two and five years old — but that everything changed once people started testing the app and using it in an unusual way.
Adams’ initial impulse led her to build Tribe, an app that lets you share videos with a circle of ten friends (your “tribe”), safe in the knowledge they will never be indefinitely stored on some company’s server. What she didn’t expect was that the beta version would be a smash hit with marijuana smokers, who have been using it to blaze joints in a virtual smoke circle of sorts with their friends from around the world.
Here’s how Tribe works.
You select your “tribe” of ten friends, with whom you can share one video “status” at a time. These videos are five seconds in length, and are replaced — on the app and on the server — each time you upload a new one. It’s a simple concept, and Adams decided to beta test it with 1,000 users.
But when she began to get feedback from the beta testers, something strange happened. A significant portion of them were using it to have virtual weed smoking sessions with their friends — about 57% of them, in fact.
Adams has some vague ideas about why this happened: there’s a focus on privacy, a small group of friends, and a user base that spreads across the world. But she says it was certainly not something she originally envisioned, or planned features around.
Now it is.
Tribe is a particularly goofy case of a pivot based on user data. When 57% of your users are smoking pot on your app, it makes sense to listen to them. And they definitely are smoking pot. Tribe’s PR showed me a private video compilation users had sent them, proudly blowing the smoke from joints and blunts and whatever else at the camera.
This use case has come to define the app, so much so that Tribe’s PR pitched me on the app as “Snapchat for potheads,” and now Adams is trying to please these users.
Before launching the official version of Tribe in the app store today, Adams added a feature that was variously described to me as a “whistle” and a “high meter” — a small notification you can send letting your friends know you’re done smoking. And that’s just the first of the pot-centric features.
What the users want, the users will get.
You can download Tribe for free starting Thursday over at the App Store.
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