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Rando’s 5M Anti-Social Photo Shares Could Be The Canary In The Social Networking Coalmine

rando_youhavenofriendsRando only launched in March but the anti-social photo-sharing app that deliberately eschews the standard social network clutter of likes and comments and connections – simply letting users share random photos with random strangers and get random snaps in return — has blasted past five million photo shares after a little over two months in the wild. It is now averaging around 200,000 shares per day, says its creator ustwo.

For half that time Rando was iOS only, with its Android app not launching til April. Platform spread aside, the huge point here is that Rando has ditched all the self-congratulatory, endorphin-boosting hooks that apparently keep people tethered to their social networks. Yet managed to grow regardless. As Rando’s tagline pithily put it: ‘You have no friends’. The photos you share here will never be liked, never be favourited, and if they are shared outside Rando to other social networks, a feature Rando most definitely does not enable within its app, you likely won’t ever know anything about it. It’s a very rare digital social blackhole — but one that’s proving surprisingly popular (and all without any embedded social shares to grow virally), even while it’s refreshingly ego-free.

Rando has been downloaded almost 230,000 times since its March 10 launch, with nearly 35,000 downloads in the past seven days, according to data shared with TechCrunch by ustwo‘s Matt Miller (aka Mills). The platform breakdown is pretty even right now — with only slightly more iOS app downloads than Android (roughly 120,000 vs 107,000), showing how Android users are adopting Rando even faster than their iPhone owning counterparts, having had a month less to send strangers strange shots. There are, of course, many more Android owners than iPhone owners out there so there’s a lot more scope for growth on Google’s platform.

Even though Rando does not enable social sharing within its app, users can take screengrabs and share shots manually — and that’s happening a little. ustwo notes there have been more than 25,000 #rando Instagram shares, for instance, despite the app not giving users any simple path to do that. Searching for #rando on Twitter also typically brings up a handful of organic daily shares.

The single piece of contextual information that Rando does allow its users to retain — the general location where a photo was taken — is also removed by close to a fifth of users (17%). While less than 1% of shared images have been marked as inappropriate so you can’t accuse Rando’s growth of being fuelled by sexting. You could perhaps argue it’s a bit of a curiosity that’s appealing to a small minority of people, even while most folk find it baffling. ustwo’s data shows that the app’s most active users (top 10% in terms of uploaded randos) have uploaded more than half (57%) of all the shared randos. But the app retention rate (50% in the past week) does sound strong. Specifically that means half of Rando’s users logged in within that week, which isn’t bad as an active user type stat.

So while Rando’s relatively modest growth trajectory (vs Facebook or mobile messaging giants) is unlikely to make it onto Zuckerberg’s radar, it’s something any developer working in the social space would do well to take note of. Because even Facebook can’t overlook the wider forces at play in mobile – forces that appear to be reconfiguring the rules of the social game. And Rando is a small but telling member of that movement.

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