Twitter and its co-founder Biz Stone are synonymous with social media success. Anyone who's anyone is on Twitter, spouting 140 character witticisms, retweeting celebrities and uploading pictures of cats. Consequently, it's surprising to remember Stone's 2014 effort Jelly is something of a miserable failure.
On paper Jelly sounds like a great idea, being an imagery based question and answer platform to connect people locally or internationally. The premise is simple: take a picture of something, ask a question, and wait for the community to respond. Other services, such as Quora, have applied this concept with great success, and Jelly's emphasis on imagery meant it was released with great expectations. How did it all go so wrong?
Launching To Failure
Jelly launched with much fanfare and the initial buzz saw a flurry of downloads, and it was also touted to businesses looking to cash in on its early promise. Early marketing campaigns suggested Jelly could help companies by answering customer questions, driving up engagement, connecting brands with influencers, creating hype around impending products or services, and being an effective research tool on customer behavior.
Whilst brands experimented, big names began trying Jelly out. Arguably the most prominent individual was Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who spotted an unusual spider in his bathroom and required verification on its outright deadliness (as reported on Business Insider). All of this helped develop significant media coverage, providing Jelly with a sufficient launchpad to success. Sadly for Biz Stone and his staff, there was a problem.
Whilst search engines like Google offer ever improving responses to queries, Jelly hoped to answer questions more effectively through people. Unfortunately, the failure of Jelly is due to people turning to Google for their answers irrespective of this possibility. In short, people weren't asking enough questions and were leaving a community of people ready to help with little to do. This is like a Wikipedia editor with no pages to modify - a sad situation with no real solution.
By mid-2014 the app was considered a failure, and whilst it's still available for download Stone has moved on to other projects. At March 2015's South by Southwest he outlined his views on what happened, along with his plans for future social media platforms. In his conference Creativity and Redefining Success (which you can listen to on SoundCloud) he said: "What I want is hundreds of millions of happy customers, because that's how you make an impact." He added rather poignantly: "I knew Jelly wasn't that."
Making Things Super
Clearly not one to contemplate his failures, Stone soon launched a new project - Super. It's an app which has a major emphasis on images and outright fun. It's aimed at adding authenticity to social media, as opposed to the spurious glamorization of peoples' lives the likes of Facebook and Instagram often create.
As it says on the official site, "For Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone's next act (and first time in the role of CEO), he teamed up with entrepreneur and Twitter alum, Ben Finkel, to co-found Super, a bold, condensed, and oblique take on social." Whilst Stone works his magic, Jelly remains indefinitely on the App Store due to a cult following who appear to genuinely love the format. However, for all intents and purposes it now stands as an interesting coda in social media history, a cautionary tale of high expectations turning sour.
Success is never guaranteed, and capturing the online world's imagination can sometimes be an erratic affair. The best way to handle this? Overcome your failures and move on to better things - creativity usually always provides the answer, so don't dwell on unhappy memories.