How did the face app go viral all of a sudden?

Yes, the FaceApp goes viral again. But why? And how many downloads are there from it?

A very grizzled Drake, Lil Nas X as grandpa, ski legend Lindsey Vonn 40 years after the end of his career - for a few days the timelines of social networks and worldwide media have been full of photos of very old celebrities. The reason for this is the viral success of the FaceApp app, which is now experiencing its second spring after 2017 thanks to the aging filter. While most of the reporting revolves around privacy concerns, the main questions we asked ourselves were: Where did the sudden success come from? How many app downloads have already been generated? And what does the operator earn from the hype?

The functionality of the FaceApp app is explained quite quickly: After downloading the application from Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store, the user first has to grant a few access rights, without which the app is basically useless. After approval has been given for saved photos and on the camera, users can either take a new photo or choose from photos that have already been taken. Here the app already makes a preselection and only shows photos on which at least one face can be seen.

Users can then apply various filters to the selected photo, use it in collages or add backgrounds. Options such as “Smile”, “Beards”, “Hair Colors” and “Hairstyles” are available in the editor. All nice gadgets, but no outstanding, one-off functions. The option that has ensured that FaceApp has been an indispensable part of social media and news for a few days is called “age”: a filter that significantly ages the person in the photo.

Why is FaceApp suddenly so successful again?

The app is not new: It made its first big appearance in 2017. Two weeks after its launch in April, only for Apple's iOS operating system, the application is said to have been downloaded a million times. At that time, Japan, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Norway, Russia and Argentina were the main drivers of success. In an older version of the website faceapp.com from March 2019 that can be viewed with the Wayback Machine, it reads: “Number 1 free iPhone app in 95 countries in 2017. Number 1 free Android app in 83 countries in 2017.” In the current version lacks the specification for the Android version.

After the brilliant success in 2017, including global reporting from the Guardian to the Washington Post to the BBC and at the same time massive criticism of ethnic filters, the FaceApp app was much quieter in 2018. Google Trends visualizes very well how global interest has increased massively in the last few days. The topic reached its global peak, i.e. a relative search interest of 100, on July 17th at 10 p.m. Since the hype in April 2017 (relative search interest: 23), this value moved between 1 and a maximum of 2 until a few days ago; since July 13th around noon it rose explosively.

trends.embed.renderExploreWidget ("TIMESERIES", {"comparisonItem": [{"keyword": "/ g / 11g8ktm0fn", "geo": "", "time": "now 7-d"}], "category “: 0,“ property “:“ “}, {“ exploreQuery “:“ date = now% 207-d & q =% 2Fg% 2F11g8ktm0fn “,“ guestPath “:“ https://trends.google.de:443/trends / embed / “});

It is also interesting to take a look at the interest in various regions over the past seven days. The list provides at least a first clue as to where the origin of the current FaceApp hype could be. First is Iran (100), followed by Myanmar and Syria (60 each), Egypt (49), Bangladesh and Libya (44 each). Germany follows in 67th place (6th), the USA in 71st place (6th).

The trend started on Twitter in Japan

In the daily Meedia newsletter "#trending", Jens Schröder also writes about the possible origin of the current FaceApp hype. Evaluations of the social media tool Talkwalker would show that on July 11th, 88 percent of all tweets with the hashtag “#faceapp” came from Japan. On July 12, the Arabic language would have taken first place with 70 percent; on July 15, 62 percent of the tweets originated in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking regions. English has only been the number 1 language since July 17th.

The Similarweb analysis tool provides a further approach. According to the data, traffic on the faceapp.com website increased significantly from July 5th. While the average number of visits per day was around 19,000 in advance, this value then grew to over 40,000. By July 15, it was over 550,000. According to Similarweb, the most relevant countries for the traffic on the homepage in the past 28 days were Brazil (16.28 percent), Egypt (14 percent), the USA (7.94 percent), Morocco (4.16 percent) and Russia (4th , 07 percent).

Even if the values ​​shown by Similarweb are only approximate, the tool gives an interesting indication of the pages from which faceapp.com receives traffic under the item "Referring Websites" - that is, it may switch advertising in the form of sponsored posts. Using the search command “faceapp site: DomainXY” one comes across some viral sites on which FaceApp has apparently placed numerous paid articles. These include nametests.com (here a detailed portrait of the operator from Mainz, social sweethearts GmbH), viralemon.com and the Russian portal opossumsauce.com.

FaceApp apparently advertises very intensively on the quiz page nametests.com, which is operated by social sweethearts GmbH from Mainz.

Prominent users and a challenge increase the viral effect

Sponsored posts alone do not, of course, make a viral phenomenon. And since the spread of the app in this case is incredibly international and obviously does not originate in Western countries, it is almost impossible to identify the trigger. On Instagram alone there are currently around 750,000 posts for the hashtag #faceapp, and just over 120,000 for the hashtag #faceappchallenge. The influencer database InfluencerDB shows over 6,100 influencers who have used one of the two hashtags. The latest, very far-reaching post comes from the producer and DJ Marshmello, who made a name for himself at the beginning of the year with a concert within the hype game Fortnite. His post has over 180,000 likes after just two hours.

The reach of posts like that of rapper Drake (see above) is not even included in these numbers - many celebrities and influencers share their photos without the corresponding hashtags. Nevertheless, every subscriber and fan should be able to quickly draw conclusions about which app is involved; especially since the “FaceApp” watermark is often included in the photos.

On average over a million downloads per day

But what does this enormous amount of attention bring in the end? How many downloads has the app achieved so far? And what revenue does the application generate? A look at the Berlin app analysis tool Priori Data, which Appscatter bought for around 15 million euros last year, provides impressive figures. According to this, FaceApp was downloaded 7.6 million times in the past seven days (Android: 4.3 million, Apple: 3.3 million), the generated revenue - the free version can be expanded with filters and functions using paid subscriptions - estimates the tool at $ 807,400 (Android: $ 112,900, Apple: $ 694,500). Of course, the numbers are even more impressive if you look at the period since the first launch in April 2017. Accordingly, the app was downloaded a total of 81.3 million times (Android: 55.4 million, Apple: 25.9 million) and had a turnover of 8.4 million US dollars (Android: 3.1 million US dollars, Apple: $ 5.3 million).

Priori Data shows the origin of the downloads for the month of June, i.e. before the current hype. For the Apple version, 16 percent come from the USA, 13 percent from South Korea, eleven percent from Russia, nine percent from Japan and six percent from Turkey. The situation is significantly different with Android: 16 percent from India, nine percent from Russia, seven percent from Brazil, six percent from Mexico and six percent from the USA.

The operating company from Russia and data protection problems

The company Wireless Lab OOO from St. Petersburg in Russia is behind the app and the FaceApp Inc developer studio specified in the app stores. Since the app's renewed great success, the media and experts have repeatedly expressed concerns about security and data protection. The photos would not be saved locally on the users' smartphones, but online in the company's cloud in Russia. Yaroslav Goncharov, the company's CEO, has already responded to the questions and allegations when asked by numerous news sites. Only photos selected by the user for editing would be uploaded to the cloud and usually deleted after 48 hours. He also points out that you don't have to log in with any data in order to use the app - and any user can have all data deleted by sending an email to the company (the complete statement is available from Techcrunch).

Overall, these concerns don't really seem to bother many users. The app is still number one among the free apps in the app stores. In Apple's App Store, alternative applications follow in second and third place with “AgingBooth” and “Facelab - Face & Body Editor”.