Facebook is paring down its collection of standalone apps. The company's experimental "teens-only" app Lifestage, designed to counteract Snapchat's threat, has been pulled from the App Store. Its disappearance was first spotted by Business Insider, and Facebook confirmed its removal. However, Lifestage isn't the only Facebook app that's being killed off as of late - the company is also closing down its Groups app, first launched in 2014 to help users better discover, search and connect with their various Facebook Groups.
In its announcement about the Groups' app's closure, Facebook said it believed the team could do more for the community by working on improvements to Groups within the main Facebook app.
It seems that's been the case for some time, however. The Facebook Groups app had grown to be very buggy in recent months, often to the point of becoming unusable. And it didn't look like Facebook had any interest in fixing those glitches, much less continuing to roll out improvements to the Groups app overall.
Groups, I'd argue, ultimately failed because it didn't address the problem with using Groups on Facebook at all. There was no News Feed in the app where you could browse just Group posts without Page updates and status updates from friends mixed in; there was no universal search across your Groups; and there was no way to organize Groups into collections for easier access, among other oversights.
The app itself has already been removed from the App Store, and will stop functioning for existing users on September 1st, Facebook says.
While Facebook Groups is still a key focus for the social network going forward - if not as its own, separate mobile experience - it's not as surprising that Facebook shutting down Lifestage.
That app, by design, targeted a limited user base - only those 21 or younger could even sign up. Launched last year by then 19-year old product designer Michael Sayman, Lifestage put a heavy emphasis on video and on getting to know your friends through a Q&A type experience.
But Facebook no longer needs a direct counterpoint to Snapchat. It has Instagram. In April, Instagram's Stories feature hit 200 million users, surpassing Snapchat's user base of 161 million. As of this month, Instagram Stories has 250 million daily users compared to Snapchat’s 166 million.
The company has blatantly ripped off some of Snapchat's best features, like its augmented reality and selfie filters. Its ability to clone Snapchat's features is speeding up, TechCrunch's Josh Constine also recently noted. Though it took nearly three years to launch its version of Stories, Instagram was able to copy the "create your stickers" feature in four months.
That leaves little need to continue to focus on an app like Lifestage, which never became an App Store success. At the beginning of August, it was ranked #1,392 on the iOS's free charts in the U.S., and unranked on Google Play.
This is not the first time Facebook has cleaned house of under-performing apps. A couple of years ago, it closed down its internal incubator Creative Labs, along with several of its apps, including photo-sharing app Slingshot, anonymous chat app Rooms, and collaborative video app Riff.