Kong is a new app for creating and sharing selfie GIFs with your friends. Created by Dave Morin's Path Inc., the app studio behind the Path social networking app, Kong marks the studio's third app — and the first one that shows Path is serious about trying new ideas.
Path launched in 2010 as an alternative to Facebook. It was a social network that limited the number of friends you could be connected to, and it was mobile first. Morin, who was a former Apple and Facebook employee, founded Path and raised nearly $50 million at a $250 million valuation. Path is still live in the App Store, but in January 2014 the company raised $77 million to become more of an app studio, testing out new products and seeing what sticks. Kong is the studio's latest launch.
"We actually did quite a bit of internal developing and prototype, throwing around different ideas about what that third app might be," Path CEO Dave Morin told Business Insider. "One of the ideas we were most excited about was the idea, 'What if we created an app that was faces only?'"
Morin says this faces-only idea was "the most popular idea prototyped," and it later turned into Kong, a selfie-focused app where all your friends' faces are animated in GIF form.
"Almost like the Brady Bunch," Morin said, chuckling. "We thought it'd be interesting if you could post your face to this grid and it would notify everyone, and they would then be encouraged to post their own face and it would turn into an entirely new format."
The top-left square in Kong's grid belongs to you, and it always shows the view from your phone's front-facing camera. The rest of the grid is filled with your friends. To record a GIF, users simply hold down the camera button, and they're good to go.
People can post as many Kong selfies as they want, but only your most recent one will show up in your friends grid, which Morin says helps get rid of the problem of any single friend posting too many times and dominating the feed.
Faces can also get a bit boring, so Kong makes things more interesting by allowing you to add text or photo filters and effects to your GIF — which has led to people using Kong to share their own versions of memes.
While you can choose to post to only your friends, a lot of the excitement in Kong takes place in public channels, which include #coffee (GIFs of people drinking coffee in humorous ways) and #emoji (GIFs of people interacting with on-screen emojis in funny ways).
"This format is very different," Morin said. "It's a group format, and because of that — the emoji channel is a really good example — people can post creative content and do something interesting with a hat or crystal ball and you're not just getting a photo from a single person, you're seeing multiple examples of creativity all in one screen. This allows you to not only see what other people are doing, but it also allows people to mimic and copy each other."
Kong will also make it easy to notice when your friends post a new Kong selfie thanks to its upcoming Apple Watch app, which will allow users to view GIFs right on the watch's small screen.
"Kong marks the beginning of a call," Morin said, who said the studio will continue to support Path and its spinoff, Path Talk, as long as they continue to garner interest. "Last year, we shifted to a multi-apps or studio strategy where we have multiple apps under our umbrella. Our core app, Path, continues to grow and continues to be popular — predominantly in Asia — so we're still excited about Path."
Morin says Path will also continue to support and update Talk, a messaging app that allows you to message stores, businesses, and restaurants. "We're really bullish on that space, so you'll continue to see us do more there."
Looking to the future, Morin says Path will continue to branch out beyond Kong, introducing new ideas and apps.
"We have even more stuff coming in the wings, so we're excited for what's next."
You can download Kong for free for iPhone over at the App Store, and for Android phones over at Google Play.
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