It is not all that uncommon to see a social media platform rise and fall over the course of several months. There are many examples of platforms that experience a sudden (sometimes unexpected) initial growth soon after they are made public before slowly losing active membership and eventually falling into obscurity. Yet, none of these long-gone networks saw such explosive growth as Beme.
Co-founded by Matt Hackett, former Vice President of Engineering at Tumblr, and Casey Neistat, a YouTube film maker with 6.7 million subscribers as of this writing, Beme promised to be the difference in mobile video-based social networking. Built with the intention of providing an unfiltered view of life, Beme allows users to film and post short videos (up to eight seconds) to their profiles. Unlike other apps (such as Snapchat or Instagram), the user was not able to review or edit their videos before they are posted; a feature that served as a major selling point. Instead, the videos were immediately uploaded and published.
This is accomplished by using the phone’s proximity sensor. When the sensor is blocked the app starts recording until the time limit has been reached or the sensor is no longer blocked. Additionally, while a user was watching a shared video, they can send “reactions”, real-time photos of themselves, back to the creator.
Much of the initial interest in Beme came from Neistat’s YouTube following. In a video posted on July 17th, 2017 titled “Meet Beme”, Neistat introduced the app to his audience and demonstrated how it worked. Initially released as an invite-only iOS app, it soon after became open to everyone and later on May 2nd, 2016 an Android version was released. Soon after, several other YouTube creators, especially those who’d collaborated with Neistat on YouTube videos, were seen using the app. Within a week of being publicly released, Beme users had reportedly posted 1.1 million videos and sent 2.4 million “reactions”.
The Beme fairy-tale began coming to a close on November 28th, 2016, when CNN purchased Beme Inc. for a reported $25 million with CNN stating that it would shut down the Beme service on January 31st, 2017 and refocus the 11 person Beme team on improving CNN’s mobile influence. When the acquisition was announced, many feared that Neistat’s personal brand (primarily his YouTube channel) had also been purchased by CNN. In a video posted on November 30th, 2016 titled “I sold my company to CNN”, Neistat informed his viewers that he had not sold his YouTube channel or other personal ventures and that the sale only involved Beme Inc.
Nearly two months after Beme’s final days, the platform doesn’t seem to have made a widespread impact in social media. Much of the recent developments in mobile video-based social media stem from the likes of Snapchat, whose grasp on the industry seems to be nearly unbreakable even with the advent of Instagram Stories and, most recently, Facebook Messenger’s new “Day” feature that was released just days ago. Beme’s growth was largely due to Neistat’s influence and personal following.
In a world where just about everything is photoshopped, filtered, or faked using computer-generated images (CGI), Beme’s focus on “raw reality” distinguished the app from many of its competitors. While the app may not have caught on with the broader audience enough to make it successful, the innovations developed by the Beme team could have an impact on the future of social media.