We all use a plethora of apps in our day-to-day lives, but many of us are unaware of the engineers and histories behind these incredible pieces of software.
Here are some of the stories and people behind our most beloved apps.
1. Snapchat: Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown
Snapchat first hit the market in July 2011 as “Picaboo” – a disappearing photo app that was first conceived of by Reggie Brown and created by Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy; a trio of recent grads who had met while studying in Stanford University. While Spiegel had the necessary business experience for the job, Murphy was the software engineer behind the enterprise.
By September of 2011, the app was relaunched as Snapchat, with the team parting ways with Brown. The first iteration of the app was an iOS exclusive, with an Android following in 2012. Today, Spiegel remains as the CEO of Snap Inc., with Murphy in the role of CTO.
2. WhatsApp: Brian Acton and Jan Koum
Former Yahoo! employees, Brian Acton and Jan Koum initially created WhatsApp in 2009 as an app that allowed you to update your status and view the statuses of your contacts. WhatsApp 2.0 saw the addition of a messaging component, an addition which attracted hundreds of thousands of users to the app.
Things weren’t easy early on, and Koum even considered giving up on the app entirely. Acton dissuaded him from throwing in the towel, and became a co-founder after securing seed funding from some fellow former Yahoo! employees. In February 2014, Facebook purchased the app for $19 billion, making it the company’s largest acquisition at that point.
3. Instagram: Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger
Instagram was born when Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger realized that their HTML-5 check-in app, Burbn, had become too similar to Foursquare. To set their project apart, they decided to transition into a photo-sharing app. The first photo on the platform was shared by Systrom himself in July 2010.
October 2010 saw the official release of the iOS version of the app, and by February 2011, the company had raised $7 million in series A funding. An Android version of the app followed in 2012 and reached almost a million downloads in a day. In March of 2012, Facebook purchased the app for $1 billion.
4. Tinder: Sean Rad, Jonathan Badeen, Justin Mateen, Dinesh Moorjani, and Whitney Wolfe Herd
Sean Rad and Justin Mateen met in high school, but it wasn’t until the pair attended the University of South California in 2004 that they forged a strong friendship.
Their campus experience was useful in more ways than one, as it gave them the inspiration to create a social app that would allow students to connect. Tinder was initially seeded in college campuses before being expanded further and eventually becoming one of the most popular dating apps on the market.
From there, Badeen, Moorjani, and Wolfe Herd joined the operation. The goal of the app was to allow people to approach people digitally who they might not otherwise have the opportunity or confidence to approach in real life.
5. FaceTime: Roberto Garcia
Apple engineer, Roberto Garcia is the mastermind behind one of Apple’s most used and beloved apps. Garcia started work on the prototype in 2007, connecting his Mac and phone so he could make calls from his computer. In 2008, he and his team began work on video calls, but the work stalled.
Garcia went on to work on Apple’s Game Center, a platform that allowed users to view their friends’ high scores on games and voice chat with multiple people. Garcia realized that the technology could be used for online calls, and so conceived of FaceTime. Steve Jobs reportedly despised the app at the beginning, which pushed Garcia and his team to greatly improve the backend for the app’s video calling feature.
6. Bitmoji: Jacob Blackstock, David Kennedy, Shahan Panth, Dorian Baldwin, and Jesse Brown
Debuted at South by Southwest in 2008, Bitstrips was designed as a tool for people to express themselves, regardless of their artistic ability. In 2014, Bitstrips spawned a spin-off app, Bitmoji, based on its prior designs.
Founder Jacob Blackstock is a comic book artist by trade, who wanted to give everyone the opportunity to tell their own stories through the medium he holds so dear. In 2016, Snapchat acquired Bitstrips, integrating personalized Bitmoji into their interface.
7. Grindr: Joel Simkhai
Many know Grindr as a popular dating app for gay and bisexual men, but its developer, Joel Simkhai, also sees it as a political tool. Since launching Grindr in 2009, Simkhai has seen users of his app sign petitions against homophobic policies and raise funds to lobby against anti-gay legislation.
Today, Grindr boasts 7 million active users, across 192 countries. In 2011, Simkhai launched Blendr, a spin-off app that was open to all genders and orientations and could also be used to make new friends.
8. Spotify: Daniel Ek and Martin Lorenzton
Spotify was first developed by former CTO of Stardoll, Daniel Ek, in 2006. He was joined by Martin Lorenzton, co-founder of TradeDoubler. The app officially launched in 2008, operating on an invitation-only basis for free accounts to control user growth.
The core of Spotify is still C++, with an interface layer called Cosmos which is similar to HTTP. By 2017, Spotify was the most-downloaded iOS app in the United States.
9. Wish: Peter Szulczewski and Danny Zhang
Developed by former Google and Yahoo! programmers, Peter Szulczewski and Danny Zhang, Wish is currently the 6th largest e-commerce company in the world. The app was first conceived of in 2011 as a wishlist app that allowed users to save items they wanted from other online stores.
Zhang and Szulczewski noticed that the most-saved items on the app were low-cost products, and made the decision to relaunch the app as a shopping platform for inexpensive goods. Today, Wish is the most-used shopping app in 42 countries, with both Amazon and Alibaba expressing interest in acquiring the app.
10. Lyft: Logan Green and John Zimmer
Lyft began as an off-shoot of Logan Green and John Zimmer’s earlier app, Zimride. Zimride was designed as a long-distance ride-sharing platform that connected users and drivers through the Facebook Connect application.
In 2012, Zimride launched Lyft – a ride-hailing app that could be used for shorter distances, much like a taxi. In 2013, the company officially renamed itself Lyft and received $60 million in Series C funding. Though in steep competition with Uber, Lyft sets itself apart by being a carbon neutral ride-sharing platform.
11. Bumble: Whitney Wolfe Herd
After working on Tinder, developer Whitney Wolfe Herd went on to create her own dating app – Bumble. Bumble differs from Tinder in that female users make the first move after they are matched with a male user. In non-heterosexual matches on the app, either party can message first.
Wolfe Herd due to sexual harassment and discrimination, suing the company for $1 million in 2014. She launched Bumble later that same year with the support of Badoo CEO Andrey Andreev and two fellow former Tinder employees, Chris Gulczynski and Sarah Mick.
12. Netflix: Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph
Netflix‘s story began over 20 years ago when Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph launched an online video rental service in 1997. In 2007, the company launched its streaming service which allowed users to watch films and TV shows on their computers.
2008 saw the development of the Netflix app, which allowed users to stream content on their XBox 360 and other electronic devices. In the following years, Netflix would expand and the app would become available on Apple smart devices and other internet-connected devices. Toda,y Netflix is an industry powerhouse, creating their own highly praised programming and films.
13. Circle: Jeremy Allaire and Sean Neville
Launched in 2013 by Jeremy Allaire and Sean Neville, Circle is a payment app that allows users to send payments to each other. Between 2013 and 2016, the company received $135 million in venture capital funding.
The app is available on iOS and Andriod and allows users to request, send, and receive payments with no fees or hidden costs. Until 2016, Circle allowed for the exchange of Bitcoin but has since closed that feature to focus on other aspects of the company.
14. Pinterest: Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra
Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra began developing Pinterest in 2009, and the site launched in 2010. Until 2011, the team and several programmers were operating out of an apartment. Growth was slow for the app, with the first four months seeing only a few thousand users sign up to the platform.
Silbermann was determined to make the app work. He’d given up on a career as a doctor to devote his time to tech and the development of Pinterest, and the first iOS version of the app launched in 2011. A few months later, TIME magazine listed Pinterest in its 50 Best Websites of 2011 list, and the platform finally took off.
15. PayPal: Ken Howery, Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, and Luke Nosek
PayPal began as Confinity in 1998, a security software company for handheld devices. The money transfer service we associate PayPal with today was launched in 1999.
Elon Musk’s X.com merged with Confinity in the year 2000, rebranding as PayPal the following year. In 2002, eBay acquired PayPal for $1.5 billion. By 2014, PayPal had processed 4 billion payments, both through their site and their app on iOS and Android devices.
16. Poshmark: Manish Chandra, Tracy Sun, Gautam Golwala, and Chetan Pungaliya
Created by former Kaboodle CEO, Manish Chandra, Poshmark is now the largest U.S. social marketplace. The company raised $11 million in series A funding in 2011, with a further $12 million following in 2012.
The iOS and Android app allow users to buy and sell clothing, and by 2013 over 1.5 million items had been purchased through Poshmark.
17. Musical.ly: Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang
Developed by long-time friends Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang, Musical.ly launched its prototype version in April 2014. Zhu and Yang had originally worked on a video-based educational app but turned their sights to Musical.ly after the app failed to gain a solid user base.
By July 2015, Musical.ly had hit the top of the iOS App Store charts and reached 90 million downloads in 2016. In 2017, the app was acquired by Bytedance Technology for $1 billion.
18. Facetune: Nir Pochter, Itai Tsiddon, Yaron Inger, Zeev Farbman, and Amit Goldstein
Facetune is the brainchild of Israeli company Lightricks – a software development firm founded by four college friends and a supreme court clerk: Nir Pochter, Itai Tsiddon, Yaron Inger, Zeev Farbman, and Amit Goldstein.
In 2013, their photo editing app, Facetune, debuted on iOS with an Android version following in 2014. It was named among the App Store’s Best of 2013 and has been endorsed by celebrities around the world.
19. Venmo: Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail
Venmo was conceived of by Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magon-Ismail while they were both attending the University of Pennsylvania. The pair wanted to create an app that would allow users to send and receive payments via text messages.
The project quickly progressed from this initial text-based idea to an app that creates a dialogue between buyers and sellers while transferring money. This allows users to also split bills and view statuses of contacts. In 2013, the app was acquired by PayPal.
20. YouTube: Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim
Created by PayPal employees Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim, YouTube was originally conceived of as a video-based dating site. When Chen, Hurley, and Karim found how difficult it was to share videos online, they turned their efforts towards creating a video-hosting platform instead.
The first video was posted on the platform in 2005, and by the end of that year, the site was receiving 8 million views a day. Though Apple devices included a YouTube app from 2007 onwards, it wasn’t until 2012 that the company launched their own fully-functional iOS app.
21. Uber: Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp
Originally called UberCab, Uber was created by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp after the pair struggled to hail a taxi in Paris in 2008, and conceived of a ride-hailing app. It was also Camp’s idea to create a service that would drastically reduce the cost of private car hire.
Camp created the prototype app with Oscar Salazar and Conrad Whelan, and the app launched its beta version in 2010. The app officially launched in San Fransisco in 2011.