University of North Texas student Jesse Stauffer and his peers are tired of hearing people lecture about what they should and should not post on social media.
They know companies can go back to look at their profiles to judge character after they apply for jobs, but not everyone thinks to delete questionable content. So, he came up with a remedy with the help and funding of his business partner, Mark Cuban.
“I thought I would make a tool that would help my peers stay safe from the party pictures they post,” Stauffer said.
The idea was to create an app that would allow social media content to self-destruct before careers do.
Anonymous apps and apps with impermanent content, like Snapchat, have been growing in popularity. Stauffer also said that people post meaningless things “like the cool new food you bought at the grocery store” that can clog up social media news feeds, and while the message may seem important in the moment, context can be lost over time.
His remedy is an in-vogue free iOS application that turns Facebook and Twitter posts into expiring content to wipe out the past. Xpire launched in June for Apple mobile devices; it hasn’t hit the Android market.
Before Xpire launched, Stauffer and his brother Casey developed a social networking app called Bitzy. They approached Cuban with Bitzy, leading in November to a business relationship with the businessman, investor and Dallas Mavericks owner.
“I was curious about the app and what it could do. I liked the ephemeral qualities of the app,” Cuban wrote in response to questions via Cyber Dust, a messaging app that he also co-founded this year.
Cuban provided the brothers with ideas on other features and told them to gear the app to work with existing social media instead of trying to compete with the likes of Facebook.
Casey Stauffer had started a full-time job so he couldn’t dedicate as much time to the project. Jesse Stauffer spent 15-hour days throughout his winter break working on the app and had basic functionality figured out after two months.
After the initial development of the application, Stauffer did some consulting work for Cuban on some of the deals he made as an investor on ABC’s Shark Tank.
“It’s actually kind of funny because I’ve never actually met him,” Stauffer said. “With how many companies [Cuban] is involved with, it would be insane for him to meet everyone.”
Cuban, an active social media user, has been involved throughout the process as a co-founder. As Stauffer develops the coding, programming and graphic work, Cuban works on leading the project in the right direction and taking care of the business. They also work with IT consultants for better app functionality.
“I’m loving working with young programmers,” Cuban said. “With kids you don’t talk ideas but actually create software.”
Most social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, have an application programming interface, or API, which allows developers to use data in their own apps. Xpire uses these tools and social network settings to delete posts from Twitter and Facebook.
Stauffer said that the only thing Xpire stores is a post ID to reference when deleting the post. Once it’s deleted, it’s wiped from Xpire’s servers as well.
“The app serves a real need and we are adding new features that make it more indispensable for anyone looking to manage their digital footprint,” Cuban said.
Xpire works only with Facebook and Twitter, but the partners have plans to expand to more sites, such as Spotify, which gives updates on music a user has streamed. Stauffer said you might not want others to judge you inaccurately based on what you’ve listened to.
“I do believe we’re responsible for the content we put out, but it takes us one step forward to online privacy, and we’re your safety net for long-term situations to keep content from surfacing in the future,” Stauffer said.
At this point, Xpire is not making money. Stauffer said the partners want to grow their user base before monetizing with in-app premium features that users can purchase.
“I have confidence in my ability to find revenue streams if we can find traction with the app,” Cuban said in a Cyber Dust message.
Cyber Dust sends SMS- and MMS-style text messages that are deleted after about 30 seconds of being read. Stauffer said Cyber Dust complements Xpire well because they work toward the same end goal. Cyber Dust has had hundreds of thousands of users sign up, while Xpire has had thousands of downloads so far.
Cuban has no other “ephemeral apps” in his portfolio and there haven’t been talks of merging the two at this point.
ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @Schrader_Adam.