When John Shahidi and his brother, Sam, set out to make Shots, a photo sharing app, their primary focus was on making it a bully-free, safe haven for users -- and it appears they've succeeded.
Targeted primarily at teens and young adults, the app, which currently has more than 3 million users, including A-list stars and pro athletes, celebrated its 1-year anniversary this week. John Shahidi told the Los Angeles Times that with the success of the app, he hopes Shots will help guide social media culture in a positive direction.
Posting selfies is the main function of Shots. However, unlike other photo apps like Instagram pictures, they must be taken and shared in real time. You cannot transfer old photos. There are also no filters.
The most intriguing part of Shots is what it does not feature -- a comment section for posts. The only option is to "like" an image. Users can see how many followers their account has but they cannot see how many followers others have. The idea, Shahidi said is to eliminate feelings of inadequacy and competition.
"I was overweight as a kid, and we [brother Sam] were also Iranian Kurds. That combo brought out the cruelness of kids in elementary school," Shahidi said. "I don’t want any kid or adult to have to feel inadequate like we did."
Jamil Zaki, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, said the lack of commenting and visible followers has an effect on Shots users.
"It certainly can reduce some psychological harm that comes with social usage," said Zaki, who specializes in empathy and altruism.
While people like compliments, insults and criticisms always carry greater weight, Zaki said.
"You can hear 10 nice things about your work, but it is that one criticism or insult that is going to stick with you the most," Zaki said. "Not having comments does detract from the communal feel of social media, but it can also quell potential harm."
Floyd Mayweather and Justin Bieber are both investors in Shots and use the app regularly. Other celebrity users include King Bach, Rudy Mancuso, Destorm Power, and the recently discovered social media sensation Alex Lee, also known as Alex from Target.
Based in San Francisco, Shots is "a small, but mighty" company made up of nine people, including former employees of Flickr, Apple, Friendster, Square and the Department of Defense, Shahidi said.
"Our team has experience building great products, understands what today's generation wants, and feels fiercely protective over our users and people," he said.
The brothers have been building iOS apps and games since 2009. Shots has exceeded their expectations for the first year, Shahidi said.
"Our goal at launch was to have 30% of our users come back every day," he said. "Today we have 41% of them using Shots daily."
A series of new features for the app will be released in early 2015, Shahidi hinted. What's more, the company plans for deeper expansion in Asia, having recently partnered with Wi Harper Group, the Chinese venture capital firm, Shahidi said.
Shahidi said Shots' momentum will only gain speed.
"We know we're onto something powerful," he said.