Riffr is like getting voicemails from strangers


Riffr has some good audio tools built in.V
Riffr has some good audio tools built in.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Riffr is yet another social network, this one based around audio snippets. And maybe it’ll actually take off, despite its awful design. It’s as if the makers took the confusion that is late-stage Instagram as a starting point, and then made things worse from there.

That said, Riffr could be quite useful.

Riffr: An audio-based social network

Like getting voicemails from strangers.
Like getting voicemails from strangers.
Photo: Cult of Mac

The idea of Riffr is that you share “riffs,” or snippets of audio, up to three minutes long. Then, anyone who follows you will see your clips in their timeline. Tapping a “riff” will play it immediately, and you can choose to play all the clips in your timeline, one after the other, presumably as a soundtrack to your depression.

I think that Riffr could actually be a decent service, but I don’t think it will work as any kind of social network. First of all, this kind of timeline view works for photos (Instagram) and text (Twitter), because you can quickly glance to see what you’re interested in. Even video works, because you can see the thumbnail, or even an auto-play preview.

Audio isn’t nearly so browsable. Nor is it as acceptable to play in public spaces — although tell that to anyone under 30 on my local metro line.

Riffr “makes up” for this lack of browse-ability by making your timeline as busy and confusing as possible.

Posting audio to Riffr

And then there’s the Riffr posting experience. It’s a little bit ragged around the edges. I like that you can add effects to your audio, as well as cleaning it up a little with some basic tools, but there are some weird design decisions.

For instance, if you want to tag your post, you can’t type anything into the text field, unless you type a # first. If having the # is mandatory, why not just add it automatically? Or have it there in the text field already? As it is, you can’t add a hashtag unless you know this trick. But maybe it’s just me. Maybe the kids already put hashtags in front of everything they write.

A social network for musicians?

Yet despite all this, maybe Riffr will succeed as a way for musicians to share their work. You could share whole tracks — up to three minutes at least — or you could share samples and snippets. It would be a neat way to share field recordings, musical sketches or ideas. Unfortunately, you can’t upload existing audio using the app. For that, you must visit the Riffr site in a browser (although it does work in mobile Safari). You can import a video from your Photo Library, and Riffr will extract the audio, and you can also grab any Riffs stored in your Drafts.

Or it could be a nice, closed, platform for short podcasts, although I’d rather own my own microcasts.

Maybe I’m all wrong about this, but I can’t see a social network based around voice messages taking off. I accidentally tapped on an entry while writing this post, and my iPhone started playing it.

“Hi, I’m Ed…” it started, before I could cut it off. Later, I checked it again, and almost fell asleep listening to the short clip.

Perhaps Riffr could be a cure for insomnia. Or maybe the kids will love listening to each other drone on about nothing. Or they’ll engage in rap battles or something. Who knows?


Price: Free

Download: Riffr from the App Store (iOS)