Every year, thousands of mobile apps are developed. Yet, barely 5% of the apps survive the first year and 25% of just installed Android apps are wiped out in 10 minutes. On the other hand, there are some mobile apps that wins international fandom. It seems that what makes or breaks an app is about the ease of usability and being a part of the user lifestyle.

Let’s talk about the success stories: the apps that became global sensation. Facebook, a modest social networking site which started out in a college dorm, currently boasts more than 1.5 billion monthly active users. This was the result of impressive growth in both in domestic and international markets.

The Economist

So what made it expand so rapidly in overseas markets? One way of explaining this may be something called the “network effect”. This refers to how social network’s audience grows. Once a certain number of users are acquired, the user numbers will explode as existing users will recommend the app to their friends and family. LinkedIn chief executive, Jeff Weiner, also mentioned that the firms’ first million users were acquired in 16 months but the additional million users were added in only 11 days. This is how many mobile apps quickly become global phenomenon with little marketing expenditure.

The Economist
However, the network effect is not universally applicable. MySpace, which once was a main contender to Facebook, also garnered a significant amount of users. Yet, instead of focusing on facilitating sharing of popular contents such as music and video the company added other features and this made the website look clustered. Many users defected to other social networking sites. Hence, focusing on the ease of usability of the core service can create a necessary environment for the network effect to take place.

Another element is crucial in making an app an international phenomenon. The app should be embedded in the users’ daily life. Take the case of Snapchat. The app’s CEO, Evan Spiegel, thinks that the app combines self -expression and ephemerelity. Sending or receiving a selfie that lasts for ten seconds bears resemblance to seeing someone’s funny face during an actual conversation. This makes the app an indispensable part of the users’ life especially among the younger generation. The graph below shows the app’s strong penetration in multiple countries. Once the app becomes part of users’ life it is pretty hard to prevent it from spreading.

So far, we have talked about conspicuous international apps. Yet, there are also successful apps that have touched the hearts of global users although they are not as widely covered in the media. A case in point is a leading file sharing app called Zapya. The core business mission for the start-up was to make it easier and faster for people to share files using their smartphone regardless of WiFi availability. Instead of using codes to go through the complex procedure of connecting to Bluetooth, users can transfer photos, videos and even apps to different phones and PCs. In addition, they can also send offline message to friends and family using the same app.

The Atlantic: Zapya enables farmers to use Facebook

The app has over 400 million users globally and have a considerable market share in many countries. In particular, the app is regarded as “the Network for the Disconnected” in Cuba as it enables people without reliable WiFi network to use smartphones and apps. In Myanmar, the whole local economy is said to rest on Zapya.What is clear from this example is that in order to become a globally successful app, the core mission of the company should be user convenience through providing a service that can become an integral part of users’ life.

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