For most of its life, Timehop has been a slow-burning success story. The app, which shows you photos and social media posts from the current date in previous years, grew out of hackathon project in 2011 to an app with more than 6 million daily users and $14 million in venture capital. It inspired copycats — most notably Facebook’s On This Day feature. And it inspired also loyalty, with half its users opening the app every day.
But now those users are staging a revolt. On December 26th, the company introduced a redesigned version of the app that replaced the vertically scrolling feed with a Snapchat-inspired design. Instead of quickly scanning through your digital time capsule, you would now tap through it, with Timehop presenting your photos as awkward crops you have to press and hold to expand. The update also removed some of the app’s most popular sharing tools, including cartoon frames for sharing old posts and the ability to see comments on your old Facebook posts.
Users began pelting Timehop with 1-star reviews in the App Store and Google Play Store. Within hours, the company published a second blog post (“Thanks for all your feedback!”) promising to bring back some of the missing features.
For the first time, it explained why it had redesigned Timehop: attempting to present a reasonable number of highlights to users whether they had lots of old updates are just a few. The new version stripped out Twitter replies and retweets, for example, in an effort to make it more streamlined. “We have clearly not struck the right balance just yet with the new version,” the company wrote. “We aim to get better. We’re exploring different solutions here, but they are a bit more complex.”
In the meantime, an app that has a lifetime 3.5-star average in the App Store now has more than 7,000 1-star reviews. “I used to enjoy checking out Timehop everyday but now it just irritates me to even open it,” one user wrote in a 1-star review. “I don't understand the layout at all. Why in the world would every photo be automatically zoomed in? On top of that you can no longer see the timestamp or the caption of the post, which basically takes away half of the meaning of the memory.”
Timehop says that a fix coming in “the next day or two” will begin to address some of users’ biggest concerns, including the broken aspect ratio on photo cropping, the missing comments, and the missing links to original posts. “We are definitely on a very quick-moving, proactive track, getting the features out that people miss the most,” spokesman Rick Webb told The Verge. He said that the app had not seen a meaningful drop in usage despite the negative reviews.
The question is whether the outrage will subside after a couple of fixes, or whether it’s an early indicator that the new design just isn’t as useful as the old one. I liked the old vertically scrolling feed, which handsomely presented all my old posts in a format I could scan quickly. On many days, the new format has made my old posts unreadable. Timehop says the format affords it some advantages — it’s easier to incorporate video, for example, and offers good opportunities for interstitial advertisements. But until its users start to see some benefits, the 1-star reviews are likely to continue.