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Meta's NPE Team Continues to Shift Focus with the Shutdown of Another Experimental App


Meta continues to reformat its New Product Experimentation (NPE) team, which, up till now, has been working on various experimental apps, with the shut down of another NPE project.

Dating app ‘Sparked’, which enables users to hold 4-minute video chats with potential matches in order to better decide on their suitability before moving forward, is the latest NPE app to be cut from the rotation, as Meta seeks new avenues for development of its tools.

Sparked app

Evidently, Sparked never truly caught on, and Meta is now cutting its losses, and removing support for the project, with any learnings, you would assume, to be integrated into its broader Facebook Dating project.

Sparked users have been informed that the app will shut down for good on January 20th, with users able to download their information from the app till then.

As noted, Meta has been working to re-align the focus of its NPE team, which has released a swathe of apps over the past two years as it sought to tap into the latest user trends, and get ahead of the next big thing.

Seemingly, none of those experiments worked, with the full list of the NPE team’s apps reflecting the ebbs and flows of online fads throughout the period.

  • Super, a Cameo-like platform for connecting with celebrities, which appears to be no longer available
  • Hotline, a social audio app in the vein of Clubhouse which launched in beta last April, but has since been removed
  • Forecast, which aimed to facilitate crowd-sourced predictions, was launched in June 2020, then shut down in October last year
  • Venue, a live sports engagement app was launched in May 2020, and shut down sometime last year
  • CatchUp, to facilitate phone calls between friends who are up for a chat, launched in May 2020 and is now gone from the App Store
  • Collab, for music collaborations via short video clips launched in May 2020 and will shut down this March.
  • Kit, which provided expanded messaging options via Apple Watch, is now gone from the app store
  • Hobbi, which provided a way to collect images of creative hobbies, and sort them into boards lasted just six months
  • Whale, a meme creation tool, quietly launched in November 2019, lasted till just recently, based on reported updates.
  • AUX, a participatory DJ app also didn’t make it
  • Bump, a chat app, also failed to hold its place

In fact, of the thirteen experimental apps launched by the NPE team since November 2019, only two still remain active – rap creation app ‘Bars’ is still in the App Store, along with ‘Tuned’, a messaging app for couples. The track record here likely suggests they also won’t be long for this world.

Meta announced last month that the NPE team would be shifting its focus to building with and for communities that have “historically been overlooked, underestimated, and undervalued by our industry”. The idea here is that while the latest broad-scale trends can drive greater app adoption, there are many areas where new use cases and functionalities are evolving, which may not have as broad appeal, but could lead to significant new shifts.

As per NPE:

“We’re expanding from our current US footprint to build with and for communities across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and scaling what works there across the globe. Right now, the increase of global connectivity and falling cost of experimentation have created new opportunities. During this next era, anyone with a design mindset, wherever they are, can quickly see that rapid experimentation overrides received wisdom, and adapt. We need to be more intentional about building with proximity to how the world looks today, and how it’s going to look tomorrow. In time, this is how we’ll learn to identify universal experiences.”

Evidently, part of this will see the group clearing the slate, in order to re-focus on these new projects. How exactly that will look, and whether these new experiments will be any more successful, or valuable in the long term, remains to be seen, but it’s interesting to see Meta shutting down these past experiments, which, at one time, had seemingly held significant enough promise for exploration.

Does that flag an end to Meta’s trend-chasing, and working to fend off potential competition in the space? Maybe Meta’s now moving away from copycatting, and instead turning to the future, with projects more focused on the next stage of connection – i.e. the metaverse.

The new focus, which also includes new offices for the team in Lagos and Asia, could be a big shift, and it’ll be interesting to see how these new collaborations and partnerships evolve over time.

But if you’re keen to test out your rap skills, I’d download ‘Bars’ pretty soon.





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