From WhatsApp to Viber, Snapchat to the humble Facebook chat, messaging apps are a dime a dozen. With the market so crowded, each is quickly adding new features to distinguish themselves from the others. A new Australian app aims to compete by taking words out of the picture altogether.
Rather than offer emoticons and stickers as an extra feature to complement text-based messages, Yap Chat has users send messages based entirely on visual content to express emotions. Founder Paul Dames originally thought of Yap Chat as a platform for families to chat with each other, having come up with the idea after noticing the popular stick figure family stickers on the backs of cars.
“The idea actually grew from there. I involved some very creative people from Johannesburg who helped me on this project and we quickly realised we needed to go much broader than a family construct. We started realising that people instinctively want to add expression into their messaging. What we wanted to try and achieve was to create a whole new construct around messaging, to not just add an emoticon as an afterthought, but really wrap the entire messaging experience into a very creative visual experience,” Dames said.
Though he acknowledges Yap Chat faces a lot of competition, Dames said that when he originally came up with the idea of a visual messaging app more than two years ago, stickers were still a very new concept to the established apps. However, he still believes that Yap Chat is doing something different to all the others.
“We’re really trying to see how we can create a very unique creative platform, and the next steps we wanted to start doing is really engaging the creative communities to start adding to this. We really want to actively involve all the creative talent. There are amazing character artists, cartoon artists, and various genres that one could employ and implement as well,” he said.
Dames explains that, like Facebook and YouTube becoming two of the world’s largest media platforms without creating any of their own content, he hopes to see Yap Chat become a content engine as users add their own character sets and create cartoon strips through the cartoon builder.
“That’s a clear differentiator for me. We’ve got a full cartoon strip generator inside of the iPad version, and the whole idea there is that we want the community to start creating interesting and engaging content which they could then start distributing via all the social media channels. It’s almost a storytelling device,” Dames said.
“You can imagine Yap not just being used by a mum to send cute messages to her friend, but she can use the cartoon builder to build full, engaging stories for her kids. You can use the application to create little jokes and memes, and really use it in very creative ways.”
Though Yap Chat is an interesting concept, the reality is again that the messaging app market is extremely crowded and consumers are attached to the apps they are already using. What’s more, using a new messaging app means getting your friends to download and use it too in order for it to be any fun. However, with social networks full of memes and graphics, the cartoon and meme generator could see Yap Chat’s download count grow as users look for tools to make social content creation and visual storytelling easier.
“You don’t have to have a single design skill arrow in your quiver. All you have to do is open the application, use what we’ve provided for you in this content library, and be creative in how you pull the components together to start telling stories,” Dames said.
The app is free to use with a limited number of character sets. Access to additional sets ranges in price from $2 to $6.
2015 will see the Yap Chat team focus on optimising the iPhone platform before launching an Android version. Building its user base is also top of the list.
Dames said, “We really focused on the usability of the app to make it very simple for users to create content. But the biggest challenge for us is going to be breaking through that noise.”