Facebook Just Released ‘Whale App’, A New Meme-Creation App In Canada And It’s A Real Headscratcher

Facebook is going experimental.

In July, the social media giant created the NPE Team (which stands for New Product Experimentation), a division that was charted with creating experimental apps. 

Now, the fruit of that labor has debuted…in Canada. The Whale app lets you create memes by adding text and pictures and then share them with your friends. There’s a simple layout scheme where you can select how many grids you want and add the content. You can add filters to the images, create stickers, insert emojis.

So basically what a thousand other apps can do.

This is a real headscratcher, but there’s some logic involved.

Microsoft has an experimental group as well, called Microsoft Garage. You could argue that Alphabet, the parent company of Google, was originally designed to be an umbrella corporation to help the search giant experiment with driverless cars, machine learning, and other research and development projects without directly impacting the real revenue generator (e.g., search and apps).

It makes a little more sense that Facebook has a new logo, even though it’s not exactly eye-catching. The NPE Team will act like a startup within a major corporation, and it’s a smart way to do business. There’s a little note at the end of the app store page for the Whale app that says “Developed by NPE Team, from Facebook” and it’s worth noting.

Here’s why: Facebook wants to grow up. Companies like Microsoft and Google experiment because they want to keep challenging the status quo, and they are just as confused about market trends with younger users as the rest of us. Who would have predicted that TikTok has been downloaded 1.5 billion times? It’s basically YouTube with shorter clips. The mantra here is, experiment or die.

Still: Experimentation inside major companies is nothing new. What has changed with Facebook is more like the company is finally adulting. They want to establish a clear corporate brand that is not really the same as their social media app. They want to release experimental apps that, who knows? Maybe it will catch on and become the next TikTok. They want to solidify and mature, to become recognizable not just as a social media platform but as a company that is diverse. They want to be known as more than a conglomerate that bought Instagram and WhatsApp.

The question is whether it will work.

Sometimes, a single app can become too massive and too popular. Everyone knows the word “Facebook” means the app, not the company — even though that is technically not correct. It doesn’t matter. The users define the company. They determine the brand. My guess is that Facebook will always be known as the social media app, similar to how Google is known as the search giant. You could argue that Microsoft successfully diversified with Office apps, operating systems, tablets, enterprise apps, and even a Slack competitor.

What could help is a truly successful product, which is why we keep seeing so many ads for Facebook Portal. Or maybe Facebook the company should change its name, similar to what Google did when they invented Alphabet.

To become a grown-up company that could survive a massive social media downturn (possibly at the hands of legislators), Facebook needs to figure out how to change user perception. “We’re a company, not an app.” Good luck to them.