same is a newly emerged Chinese social app that claims to have nearly 200,000 registered users, most of whom are students, female or below 28. “Many young people feel void, bored and want to be listened to in today’s stressed and speedy world.” same told TechNode in an interview. Divided into Channel to build communities and Chat for networking, same sets out to provide users with an outlet to express and find mutual feelings with each other – hence the name “same“. It intentionally makes the app easy enough so that users can pick it up quickly.

list of channels
browse and explore channels

The startup claims to be an original homegrown social network, defying lazy stereotypes of Copy2China. A same engineer recently revealed same‘s  “high rate of return” on Zhihu, China’s Quora equivalence. The secret behind the sticky user base, he suggests, is gamifying the app. Gamification is manifested by the variety of channel types such as text, image, music, movie, voting, “punch-the-clock”, and the fact that anyone can set up their own channel with a designated rule/theme.

Douban is one of the few “truly original” Chinese social networks that has stood the test of time and gained much success. It remains to be seen whether same can be the next one.

Redefine Anonymous Apps

On same, people shroud the social identities they so meticulously weave on Weibo and WeChat. Registration requires only one’s email and username. There are ostensibly mundane channels like “insomnia”, “show me your shoes” that strike a chord, and more obscure and personal ones that accommodate only several users and even just the channel host her/himself.

On that score, same is a space for whatever human affections that need to be vented out – sounds a lot like standard anonymous apps isn’t it? A groundbreaking rule on same, though, is that users can send private messages but can’t friend each other. The reason is simple: if I don’t want others’ news feeds to flood my homepage, I simply don’t have to on same.

Because users “have no friends”, they spend much time mulling the channels. Private chats only start when one is intrigued by a thread and approach the author. As such, same‘s anonymous networking is more based on genuine interest and feelings than outright hookup intentions that frequent standard anonymous apps.

Some compare same to Douban, for Doubaners can create interest-based groups and PM each other as well. But one hour on Douban simply won’t get you too far into a conversation whereas you can blend in same quickly because its user-generated content (UGC) tend to be more universal and often shallower. same‘s streamlined, mobile-oriented design further makes information flow fast and fluidly.

The “Boring” App

Both same’s employees and users jokingly label the app as “boring social networking.” We’ve written about similarly “boring” products such as the danmu movie theater and the app Jiecao Collection that young Chinese are keen on. What they have in common is that all ask for very little learning time, are anonymous-based so people can be real (as opposed to self-promotional), and often intend to lighten one up.

This explains the popularity of same‘s “punch-the-clock” channels where people can punch in when they get up in the morning and go to bed at night.

Other morning bird users' "punch-card" record. When you hit "punch card", the channel plays a song for you
See others’ record of wake-up time. same even shuffle a song for you when you punch in.

Sticker is another feature on same that can either be seen as boring or ingenious. It allows users to make stickers from their own selected images, add captions and audio recording. Sticker’s popularity on same may come as no surprise since we’ve witnessed the craze for Line stickers and an upcoming Emoji-only app, from the UK – all making ways for people to communicate something ineffable.

a sticker with audio recording and texts that are automatically created by speech recognition
a sticker with audio recording and caption that is automatically created with speech recognition

same, based in Shanghai, is a team of around ten with rich design experience and led by two co-founders coming from the advertising industry. The result is same‘s beautiful interface with details that make users smile. The startup suggests that design is one major reason for its popularity.

It’s in non-anonymous apps’ interests to have all our messages, snapshots, purchase history etc. linked to a single and genuine identity, for that’s the way to make a fortune from targeted advertising. same, like other anonymous apps, will have a more difficult time monetizing, but the co-founders are holding off plans to monetize and will focus on user acquisition for now. That said, the app does sometimes show display ads on the top.

same is launching a group chat feature soon, improving its voice chat and the recommendation algorithm.

rita liao

Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.

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