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In an attempt to lure back the youth, Facebook created a meme generator app

Is this what the youths like?

whale meme app facebook
Image: Facebook

Last week, Facebook quietly released Whale — a new app that lets users create memes out of their pictures, which they can share on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

Whale is currently only available in Canada, with no word of an international release. That said, it points to renewed vigor within Facebook to attract and retain younger users, who might be tempted to jump ship for other social networks.

Oh Canada

Facebook’s decision to release a new product in a relatively small market (Canada has a population of 37 million, compared to California’s almost 40 million) isn’t particularly surprising. In fact, it fits comfortably into Facebook’s playbook.

When Facebook wants to launch a new product or feature, it typically tests the water by launching it in a small market, where it easily can measure the response. We saw this in 2017 when Zuck and Co released Bonfire, its clone of the popular Houseparty service, in the tiny Scandinavian nation of Denmark. 

And by testing its new features on a relatively small scale, it’s less painful (not to mention embarrassing) to discontinue an unsuccessful product. For what it’s worth, Facebook discontinued Bonfire earlier this year.

Chasing trends

Whale is an unapologetically youth-oriented app. It borrows ideas from Snapchat and TikTok, both teen sensations. And it potentially addresses a major problem for Facebook — it’s losing younger users, as the demographics of the platform skew older.

That is an interesting problem for Facebook to find itself in. As we all know from the hit Aaron Sorkin film, Facebook was born in a dorm room. Zuckerberg initially conceived it as a way to connect college students. To join, you needed a university email address. 

A few years later, Facebook opened the floodgates to users of all ages. Now, nearly 12 percent of its US user-base is over the age of 65. Meanwhile, apps like TikTok continue to grow at a breakneck pace.

Will Whale work?

That remains to be seen.

I’d also say it’s beside the point, as Whale is primarily an experiment. It even came from the same secretive skunkworks unit that produced the company’s other apps, like Bump and Aux. 

Facebook wants to prove a concept. If it’s successful in Canada, we can expect the social network to roll it out to more users, and even integrate its functionality into its other social media apps.

What do you think? Would you like to see an official Facebook meme app come to a phone near you? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Reason, The Next Web, and Wired.

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