Doink: Could This Animation App be the Next Instagram?

DoinkExpress is an odd-sounding term for a mobile social network based entirely around short-form animations, but we’ll go with it. Designed for users ages 12 and older, the Doink Express iPhone/iPad/iPod app adds a social component to the solitary practice of animating short clips for the Web, otherwise known as “doinks.”

Calling the mini animations “doinks” actually makes sense. They are not quite video animations or GIFs. Doinks only take a few moments to make, and they can express a moment that you may not be able to say or even write. Because why should images stand still when they can move, ever so slightly?

Doink is recommended for ages 12 and up, which is almost the same age range as Facebook’s 13 and up. The free version of the Doink app is targeted at preteens, and to comply with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), it does not allow for a community Web component at all. Doink Express is aimed at a wider demographic, and the social community Web component is a big part of that.

Using homegrown images, “props” (sticker-like drawings provided by Doink), various colored brushes, text, shapes and sounds, users can create their own doinks, or mini-Web animations, and share them in an Instagram-like stream. Users can like them with a heart, or leave a comment, which builds community in an innocuous kind of way.

“I have seen guys in their 60s making anniversary cards for their wives, girls in their teens lamenting the loss of boyfriends,” says Doink CEO Karen Miller. “It really runs the gamut of ages and genders.”

In terms of usability, animations are fairly simple to make and share out to the Doink community, Twitter, Facebook or all of the above. The Doink stream features all of the users you follow, and functions much like the Instagram stream. There’s also a news component and Doink staff picks. Refresh the stream as often as you wish; or leave completely to go create your own doink.

Depending on what type of visual imagery you prefer, you may want to animate actual photographs that you’ve taken with your smartphone camera, or you might want to just draw and animate thick, pixelated lines. Create your doinks, and then build your community.

During the past few days, I’ve discovered various small, miniature animals standing by water wells. I took photos of them using my iPhone camera, and then decided to turn them into doinks. DoinkExpress is being used in 88 countries around the world, and 40% of the users are outside of the U.S.

Other animation platforms such as Xtranormal focus more on templates and conforming to what’s available. You’ve probably already made your own Xtranormal and emailed it around to your friends at the office, or shared it on Facebook. GoAnimate is more focused on helping users create viral videos for work or school. Much like Xtranormal, it functions more as a meme-maker (if you’re lucky) and less like a homegrown community of fellow makers. It’s a curious situation.

Now consider this: Facebook bought Instagram largely in part because it presented a simple, useable format and had a strong, dedicated community of users. If Facebook is truly going the way of visual communication, DoinkExpress or a platform like it could be the next acquisition. That is, if they’re willing to sell.

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