Amino is an application centered around user-created communities. Although loosely moderated by a core team of developers who regularly prune said communities to remove inactive leaders or those which break the application’s guidelines, users have considerable freedom to decide the form and function of their communities. This article’s written as a combination of thoughts and/or observations about this intriguing application – its current state and some challenges it faces.
I first came across Amino in a subreddit I had subscribed to and downloaded the application to try it out – later finding out that I was pretty late to this bandwagon. With articles written about it since late 2015 and 2016, coming in at mid-2017 would give one a slightly different perspective (since communities and sites evolve over time – much like how Reddit has been through different stages). That said, I make no claim to know how Amino was in the past, nor do I intend to compare the present state of Amino with its past. As mentioned above, this article begins from the current state of the application and looks forward to existing or possible problems.
The Application: Slick and Flexible
Although Amino is arguably unique in its own right, it’s easier for those which have used other platforms to understand how it works if compared to something they’re familiar with.
Similarities between Amino and Reddit
- Users congregate around particular interests that are generated by users (as opposed to, say, arbitrary interests decided by a core development team).
- User-moderated (Leaders and Curators for Amino, Subreddit Moderators for Reddit) to a fairly large extent.
- Generally communities are free to join (Private Aminos/Subreddits do exist for their respective platforms).
Differences between Amino and Reddit
- No use of upvoting system by Amino – favourites are used to indicate approval, but the lack of favourites do not doom a post or thread to obscurity.
- As far as I can tell, no ‘Reddit Gold’ – premium membership option exists for Amino.
- Amino allows for avatars whereas the furthest one can go in Reddit is through custom flairs.
- Most content on Reddit seems to be reporting about recent events/news, while Amino communities tend to favour creation of original (albeit low quality) content.
Similarities between Amino and Tumblr
- Content is displayed in a similar form through scrolling down.
- Moods – changing one’s ‘mood status’ to indicate how one is feeling, similar to what Facebook does – are also present on Amino.
- If one considers captioned pictures with hashtags, there are quite a few similarities between Amino and Tumblr.
Differences between Amino and Tumblr
- Reblogging seems to be much less frequent on Amino compared to Tumblr.
- A greater focus on the community surrounding an interest rather than an individual user’s blog is present in Amino.
Similarities between Amino and Kik
- Some level of anonymity is possible – using email login on Amino as Kik does, throwaway accounts can be easily made.
- Group chat functions (Public Chat in Amino) are present on both platforms, where instant messaging is the norm.
- Private instant messaging (as opposed to the PM system of Reddit or Tumblr) is definitely possible on both platforms.
- Roleplaying is most popular among most users of both systems.
Differences between Amino and Kik
- Kik isn’t focused around a particular interest in the same way Amino is – while there are certainly Kik groups for things like anime or Vocaloid, there aren’t Kik groups for a wider range of interests such as a particular television show or drama.
- Kik lacks the content production and distribution capabilities Amino provides – polls, quizzes, blog posts and separated public chat rooms within the same Amino. In this sense, Kik is closer to a conventional instant messaging application compared to whatever Amino is attempting to be.
The interface of Amino allows for considerable customization – members above a particular level can start their own public chats within an Amino, for example, while one can have a different biography for every Amino they join instead of having a static biography tied to their account (as Facebook and many other platforms work within). This has an obvious downside: someone wanting a standardized biography for their account would have to tediously copy and paste the same biography across every single Amino they are in AND update every single Amino for any subsequent biography changes.
On the other hand, one can certainly see use of this differentiated biographies in establishing different roleplaying personas tied to the same account (the avatar of an account is shared throughout all Aminos one joins) without being constrained or having an extensively long biography for different roleplay communities.
Visually, the application is appealing in its responsiveness and thoughtfully designed interface. One can pull in tabs from both the left and right screen edges while buttons are all logically placed where one would expect them to be. Long chains of replies are hidden by default to allow for faster browsing of top-level content, while profile backgrounds are made vibrant and dynamic through rotating what images are uploaded to the gallery.
From my limited experience on the application, the Amino community remains largely unchanged from observations made in late 2016. A majority of the users continue to be below the age of 18 and popular Aminos have sprung up among what individuals of that demographic are interested in: pop music, video games, anime, dramas and relationships. There may indeed exist Aminos that cater to an older audience such as Reddit’s Financial Independence subreddit or which deal with more specialized subjects such as working with Unreal Engine, but it seems safe to assume that these Aminos are less popular than their music and television counterparts.
This may reflect a continuing ignorance of Amino, as Orsini suggested, by the older generation. Alternatively, it may indicate the effect device preferences have on one’s chosen platform to engage with others on: Younger individuals wielding smartphones lacking access to or interest in a laptop or desktop would likely find Amino more accessible for their needs, while older people who have access to desktops and laptops may find the smaller screen of their smartphones irritating to engage with others on for a prolonged period of time.
Coupled with the lack of smartphone computing power (being unable to run powerful, industry-standard programs on a smartphone and doing the associated projects), older people who have access to desktops and laptops may simply see their needs for productive discussion on specialized topics met by existing desktop platforms such as Reddit or gitHub. Youths and teens, on the contrary, are attempting to answer different questions and fill different needs. Spending considerable time on a desktop or laptop would be difficult compared to how much more accessible a phone is, leading to social and fandom needs being filled by interest-specific Aminos that also draw together other like-minded users.
After spending but a few days on this application, I have observed several challenges the application might face regarding its user engagement and retainment.
- Duplicate Aminos require constant pruning – for every fantasy roleplaying Amino which exists, there are most certainly a few more like it which differ only slightly. This may not necessarily split the user base (for one can join several Aminos at once), yet it complicates finding one which meets the user’s needs.
- This seems to be an unfortunate result of allowing users to create their own Aminos. On one hand, the use of a ‘listing’ and ‘unlisting’ option provides developers with some flexibility to prioritize which Aminos have greater activity, but unlisted Aminos still appear in searches. However forcing similar Aminos to merge would greatly stifle creativity and the feeling of freedom one has in deciding to create a place where they and others can engage on, so I view this as an unfortunate consequence that may not require remedy.
- Most public chatrooms are inactive – similar to the creation of multiple Aminos, allowing the creation of multiple chatrooms within a certain Amino does not necessarily split the user base. The benefit of allowing separated chatrooms is that a main chatroom isn’t flooded with groups of people talking about unrelated topics over each other – some roleplaying Aminos have also creatively used separate chatrooms as different locations for roleplaying to occur within. Unfortunately users have to once again seek the most active chatroom they wish to engage within, for the creation of a group chatroom tends to stifle conversation in the same way Whatsapp groups function.
- One suggestion may be to allow users to see how active a chatroom has been without having to join the chatroom – perhaps with a bar representing activity or a number showing recent messages in the past few hours.
- Alternatively, the creation of multiple chatrooms can be time or level-gated – only allowing an Amino to create a certain number of chatrooms once it has gained a certain number of members.
- Active chatrooms could also perhaps be featured or pinned by the Leader or Curators so that new users would know where most individuals are conversing within, and judge from there their future community membership.
- Biographies are automatically set to being differentiated, forcing one to tediously replicate any biography changes they have made across all Aminos they are within.
- Perhaps an option could be created to allow utilization of static biographies that are tagged to one’s account in the same way a profile picture/avatar is.
The general feeling one gets from browsing semi-active and inactive Aminos is that users enjoy being on the site for the possibility of meeting other users and having conversations with them, but this remains more possible than probable. Lacking close relationships within a community’s members, most interactions are likely to remain superficial (several roleplaying Aminos observed are irregularly kept alive by a lone user roleplaying by themselves), leading to disengagement of new users within an Amino that is difficult to reverse.
Of course, this Amino disengagement may not lead to disengagement from the application itself. To some extent as well, it depends on how committed one is in maintaining a presence on multiple Aminos – it takes time to generate new content or devise a plot for a particular roleplay, yet most young and working adults lack the time or interest for such an endeavour. Youths and teens, however, seem to lack the commitment to coherent and consistent engagement on the application, leading to the current state of Amino as observed. While not all social issues on the application can be resolved through technical fixes, some limited success resulting from improvements in a user’s experience may be a potent force for a stronger community and a wildly successful application.
Amino remains a promising application for teens to connect with other teens – talking with strangers and online friends about a mutual interest via group chat seems a lot more enjoyable than within the disconnected and infrequent replies subreddits seem to result in. The possibility of creating a fantastical world for roleplaying their personas or fursonas is attractive as well to this demographic, having much time and imagination.
Yet these ideals continue to remain as ideals – most roleplaying tends not to happen within group chats (which then lead to perceptions of a chat being “dead” or otherwise inactive) but private chats. Exceptions to the norm certainly exist, yet they are simply what they are: exceptions. Individuals seeking deep conversations of the sort found within some Reddit or Tumblr pages may be successful in their search, but with blog posts being differentiated across Aminos as well, one runs the same problem of having to update multiple Aminos with the same blog post in order to ensure that everybody knows how one has been. Such a taxing chore may well discourage one from even beginning to offer information about themselves – information vital to having a deeper conversation that can build non-superficial bonds between users.
A slick application with a lot of potential that will likely remain on my phone, yet like most applications, ideals are regrettably distant from the perceived reality.