Tall Tales with The Backspaces App by Anna Cox

“Who knows where thoughts come from, they just appear” – Empire Records

Since coming back to IG after a long break during my pregnancy I haven’t felt the same sense of community. I thought perhaps I had changed but I began to see that the community had been degraded by the influx of stars, kids, and reposters. Understand I’m not hating on any of those groups they just changed the face of IG. Then the mass exodus occurred over the ToS a couple weeks back and now it feels like a ghost town. I’ve been exploring other apps but none had captured my attention like IG did. They are just variations on the same theme. A few days ago a friend of mine, @monoccur, pointed me to Backspaces and I took an instant liking to it. The basic premise of the app is to share stories, not just a single picture. Which, if you know me, you know I am totally down for sharing a story. In fact, most of the Juxters fall in this category. So wasting no time, I contacted the developers over at Backspaces for a chat. I am pleased to report that they are a great set of fellas with the determination to build something awesome and lasting. And the best part? They are community minded, which is at the heart of mobile photography.

The three fellas behind backspaces are New York based Adrian Sanders (@sandersAK) who manages the business end of things, and the developers Wylie Conlon (@wylie) and Dmitri Cherniak (@dlc). What originally started as a way for Dmitri to share photos from his walks around NYC with his family ended up being the seed idea for what is now Backspaces. Dmitri started building the app in May and brought Wylie in for the front-end work in August. In the beginning, they created it as a tool to share multiple photos at once bypassing the “feed bomb” that would happen on platforms like IG or tadaa but as stories where uploaded their thinking changed. In Adrain’s words, the app went “from tool to typewriter“. Not only could people share their photos but could use Backspaces as a platform to share their thoughts, emotions, or stories. What I love the most about the app is the subtle shift in thinking. The photos are important, yes, but so are the thoughts behind them and the users are there to read! There is none of the pressure to keep captions short so they will actually be perused. The users on Backspaces want to read stories- that is why they downloaded it. That, in and of itself, makes me giddy as a school girl. I won’t lie, there are some bathroom duck faces and boys in their boxers  being uploaded but if  you want to avoid all of that ignore the recent upload tab. I stick to tag searching, the featured tab, and looking through what my friends have liked to find new artists. In a perfect world, duck faces and bathroom shots would have their own app, but alas we don’t live in Perfect.

In the past few months, Backspaces has seen a gigantic jump in users and has risen in the ranks in the app store. It has been listed in the New and Noteworthy section also. Recently, two big name tattoo artists started using Backspaces and word spread through the tattoo community like wildfire.  Overnight, the number of users jumped exponentially. When  you get on the app you will notice a huge community of tattoers. At first, I was a bit daunted but then realized they are just some of the more active users. Adrian hopes to build more of these micro communities within Backspaces, so everyone will have a “home” within the app.

Then the Mass IG Exodus of 2012 happened and the number of users shot up to 50,000. The fellas have been working almost around the clock to keep up with all the new traffic. All three developers are very active on the site and I have yet to see a story that at least one of them hasn’t liked or commented on. Communicating with them is also really easy and can be done in app or  by email.

In light of the recent IG fiasco I thought perhaps it would be wise to pursue the  current Backspaces ToS. Taken from : Backspaces: Use of Your Content

  1. Backspaces will never use, modify, delete, add to, publicly perform, publicly display reproduce or translate any of your Private Content. “Private Content” shall mean any Content that you mark as “private” when uploading such Content on or through the Backspaces Services.
  2. Backspaces may use, modify, delete, add to, publicly perform, publicly display reproduce or translate any of your Public Content on the Site or Services, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site or Services in any media formats through any media channels. Our primary purpose for the above uses of your Public Content is to promote it. Nine times out of ten, we will be using your Public Content in the above manner because we are stoked about your awesome story.
  3. Backspaces will never enter into an agreement with a third party through which it will directly profit from the above uses of your Public Content through advertising sales, marketing sales or any other method of sub-licensing, redistribution or similar means, WITHOUT YOUR EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION. Backspaces promises to always allow you the opportunity to first opt-out from such uses of your Public Content.

In Adrian’s  words, Generally speaking what we tell people is that there is definitely a way to build a sustainable, strong business without screwing content creators. Great publications (Nat Geo, NY Times) and platforms (YouTube) have found a way to monetize while building value for their creators. We believe that you can build a great big platform and have everyone win. We don’t have all the answers yet but we’re committed to creating the solution with help from the community. 

The app itself is easy to navigate and the developers are working every day to make it more user friendly. Since interviewing them privacy settings, the ability to curate, and auto complete for screen name have all been added. The interface is being refined with every update and the developers are listening to the users!

Features like an in-app camera, hashtag searching and filters are already in place and are easy to navigate. Posting your first story is as easy as choosing photos and writing text. There is even a preview feature so you can see what the finished product will look like and go back and edit. Once you have published you have the ability to go back and edit your stories. The only drawbacks I see to the stories right now are the comment boxes and photo cropping. I know the guys are working on the cropping issue and I have also seen stories where you just turn your phone landscape to view without cropping. As for the text boxes, the artsits on Backspaces are using text apps and creating all sorts of great text options like this one from @fabsgrassi.

One of my favorite features of Backspaces is the website. The website enables you to send the link to the story to whomever you chose then they can then use the link to view your story. Adrian explianed the difference between the app and website  to me saying, one thing to note is that right now if you login to Backspaces via web: http://backspac.es you can browse stories, like, comment and search for hashtags, but you can’t create stories. We’re keeping that in app only for the time being. And if you just want to share a story privately, make your story private then send the link to whomever you choose and they can view it without everyone being able to see it.

Overall, this baby app has gigantic potential and the developers are working hard to make it a dynamic place for users no matter what they are sharing. I am really looking forward to seeing how this app grows in the next few months. Will Backspaces grow as large as IG? Perhaps not. But in Adrian’s words “50,000 people sharing stories and 100,000 reading them is pretty awesome.” I tend to agree.

If you would  like to see some Backspaces stories from some amazing mobile photographers (there are so many more and counting) check out:

Violet Rothko for gorgeous railway photos and histories:  Photographer, Mother, Boxcar chaser, Music fanatic, Art fiend…Former Photo Lab Rat…these are my photos, respect my copyright.
Azulbandit for breathtaking landscape stories: The Sun, the Moon, the Stars and a place to watch the Clouds drift by… welcome to My Corner of the Universe in northern California
Marie stretchinghope for moving poetry: I shoot. I write. Never always in that order. // I’m not sure what I’m doing here.
Damien Giard for amazing street from Montreal:   Mostly Montreal
thebrightdark for more street but from Portland, OR: There’s not enough light to get rid of all the dark. So they must co-exist.
Maria Muzbanger for amazing mobile artistry: N o  M a t t e r  Y o u r  I n t e r p r e t a t i o n.         I T ‘ S   A L L  A R T .
Susan Myers for amazing travel artistry:  A traveling naturalist with a camera

Some Mobile Photo Group Members:
Misho / Olly

Some Tiny Collective Members:
Crispin / Elif / Dan / Cecile / Dopez / Wes / Unai

There are also some Juxters on Backspaces:
Mike H / Jo / BP / Anna / Fabs / Rebecca / Christina / Jen B / Graham / Jen LP Rachel / Nicholas / David N / Fletch / Sam /

Thanks to the Backspace Boys for allowing us an all access pass to the story behind Backspaces. It was great getting to know you all and I look forward to more stories!

About Author

Anna Cox