Why we're drawn to Dispo
[Editor note: in light of recent allegations concerning David Dobrik, we want to make it clear that we do not support him or rape culture in any form. This is unacceptable behavior]
I recently woke up one Saturday morning to my Twitter timeline yapping about some app called Dispo that was in beta. If you know anything about the mythical community known as “Tech Twitter,” you’re aware that stealthy, consumer apps like this pop up the newsfeed regularly.
And it’s easy to gloss over them, chalking it up as just another app.
At first, I was intrigued, but why all the hype for a disposable camera on their phone? Isn’t this just another Huji?
It turns out there’s more to it than that. I was lucky enough to access their early, private beta, and within 36 hours (thanks to a loyal fanbase from Japan who discovered it that weekend), it was at capacity. It “filled up.”
And within days, Dispo went from being just another app (started by celebrity YouTuber David Dobrik, albeit) to making ripples on Twitter, a “sold-out” beta, and announcing a $20M fundraise at over a $200MM valuation.
...For an app that *literally* generates replica images of a disposable camera. So, what gives?
A lot. It’s important to consider where we are culturally and societally, asking ourselves why Dispo is so appealing right now.
Here are some reasons I think we--as consumers--are drawn to Dispo, what that means for consumers and brands, and how this influences the landscape for social platforms.
WHY WE LOVE IT
Dispo brings us closer together. Do we need to explain why feeling connection is important right now?
In the app, you can create your profile. Instead of having photo “grids,” your profile consists of “rolls.” You add photos to a roll, and you can make your rolls private, public, or only share them with specific people.
When people are invited to a roll, they can all add daily photos to that roll. This allows people to feel a sense of community and belonging. This is the opposite of how other platforms work. On Instagram and TikTok, you’re a spectator in someone else’s world. On Dispo, you belong to a tribe of photos, participate in someone’s life and their day, rather than just being a spectator.
Here’s an example of someone’s Dispo profile, using it to invite others into daily moments, sharing product ideas, tips, inside jokes, anything else that feels share-worthy.
Notice the BTS (behind the scenes) roll? It feels like we’ve forgotten about anything behind the scenes on Instagram, which is a major qualm most users would agree with. We grew so accustomed to photo filters that we forgot the real content versus just polished content.
Social media content is our universal drug. We survive off the quick hits when someone engages with a post, story, video, or photo. We’re all guilty of using it that way. But, when instant gratification is as accessible as it’s ever been, do we instead crave the opposite: nostalgia?
Once you snap a photo, you have to wait until 9 AM the next day to get your photo. At first, that annoyed me. You know, having to wait for your photos.
Who even does that any more?
Then, it grew on me. My focus shifted from wondering...
- What do I look like?
- Did I smile, right?
- Is the lighting okay?
...to (re)appreciating moments for their own sake, not for how a photo turned out. That’s something all of us can appreciate.
That’s an unsung beauty of Dispo: making memories without judging them. And part of that has to do with delayed gratification.
Authenticity & Nostalgia
The photos garner real, candid moments.
Instead of using filters, retouching, or tune-ups on a shot, you’re forced to live with the imperfect moment in each photo. You take each photo because it was worth taking.
This is the origin of Dispo. A few years ago, Dobrik and his friends would show up at parties and take candids all night and eagerly await the results after getting them developed. He loved it so much that he started developing his film and posting the photos to an Instagram account called David’s Disposables.
The account grew fast, and people love the candidness of each photo. So, he thought, why not make an app where people can test this out and share it with their friends? Kind of like Instagram. But reimagined.
After a decade of face-tune apps and filtering on Instagram, we (and especially Gen Z) crave the REAL you. We want something authentic. TikTok started as a possible solution to that, deviating from “aesthetic” content to “ugly” content. Still, some argue that filtered content is making its way into the app just like it did with Instagram.
Put simply: we’re tired of being sold stuff (Facebook). We’re tired of fabricated aesthetics (Instagram). And we’re tired of noisy content (TikTok, Clubhouse).
Dispo removes all of those distractions. You see people and things for who and what they are. And the nostalgia of looking back on those photos is what keeps us engaged as consumers.
It’s early, sure, but we’re witnessing history unfold. There’s a new wave of social platforms coming, and it’s shifting how we consume content on those platforms.
Here are a few things to consider...
FOMO, Waitlists, and Hype...
When Dispo was in private beta, you couldn’t access it even once you got access to a secret link. That creates severe FOMO and forces people to constantly be on the lookout for what’s new and exciting, just to be in the know.
Clubhouse launched this way. For months, it was tough to get an invite when they were in beta. The same happened with Dispo. Before Dispo, was there ever a situation where a social app was “sold out”?
Likely, no. But the hype is free marketing. It creates a buzz, a backchannel that is powerful for those “in the know” and irresistible for those who want to be in the know. We’ll see more social apps launch this way. They will thrive off the hype early on, and early adopters will build a loyal community that scales.
If the last 4 months of life in the West have taught us anything, tribalism might be back or just more visible. After a decade and a half of connection via a few social apps, it feels like the opposite is coming. We may be entering the era of decentralized consumer apps...
From politicians getting banned on major social apps, platforms being removed from hosting services, and the whole debacle with Gamestop and Robinhood… the days of there being a “few, but powerful” social platforms we all of us rely on are certainly numbered.
Decentralization is about people feeling the freedom to express themselves without fear that they’ll be banned or removed or at the whims of changing algorithms.
This will force brands to rethink their content strategies over time.
What platforms do you avoid?
What do you “double-down” on?
Brands will have to choose 2-3 platforms, going deep with a few, rather than half-investing ineffectively into many channels.
For us--the consumers--we’ll have to choose a few platforms (like brands) to double down on too. It’s difficult to imagine that any app could replace the few we’ve known for so long (Facebook, Instagram, and now TikTok). And while those apps won’t disappear, we’ll have more options to choose from when it comes to finding our community and sense of connection online.
So far, Dispo isn’t off to a bad start at facilitating that.