The 16 most essential social media apps in the world

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Thanks to social networking apps, it's never been easier to keep in contact with your friends.

Many of the best social networking apps out there have been around for a while, but as smartphones get smarter, so do the apps, and you can now do more than ever.

From fan favorites like Instagram and Facebook to newcomers like live-streaming Periscope, there's never been a better time to find a social network that's tailored to your tastes.

 

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Facebook Messenger is becoming the one app to rule them all.

Facebook Messenger is becoming the one app to rule them all.

Facebook’s decision to break Messenger out of its main app in 2014 turned out to be a very smart move. Messenger now has 700 million users worldwide, and it’s become much more than a way to send text messages to friends.

Messenger can now send money, make video and phone calls over the internet, and send stickers and animated GIFs with ease. When Facebook’s virtual assistant “M” becomes available outside of San Francisco, Messenger will be able to do anything from order a pair of shoes to call your cable company for you.

If the future is one app that does everything, Messenger is poised to be a big winner.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android, web

Timehop will make you feel nostalgic.

Timehop will make you feel nostalgic.

The premise of Timehop is simple: connect your social media accounts, and the app shows you what you shared online a year ago, two years ago, and even further back.

It's like getting a window into your past life on social media every day.

Earlier this year, Timehop told Business Insider that the app could eventually show you more than posts on social media, like rides with Uber, the songs you listened to on Spotify, your heath tracker data, and even your text messages. The end goal is to be come the ultimate digital archive of your life.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

Periscope is revolutionizing live broadcasts.

Periscope is revolutionizing live broadcasts.

What Twitter did for making micro-status updates, Periscope could do for live video broadcasts. That may explain why Twitter bought the app and its small team in February before it even launched.

If you’ve never used Periscope before, here’s how it works: download the app to your phone, log in, and start a live video stream with your phone’s camera. Your friends on Periscope and Twitter will be notified to tune in, and viewers can interact with broadcasts by commenting and leaving virtual hearts.

You can choose to save your broadcast for people to view on Periscope later, but every video shared on the service expires after 24 hours.

Periscope was born out of its CEO’s frustration with the media’s coverage of the Gezi protests in Turkey, and as it grows in popularity, people around the world are discovering how powerful it can be for sharing a unique perspective of what’s happening.

Reporter Paul Ronzheimer recently used Periscope to document his journey with a group of Syrian refugees from Greece to Germany. “In Germany we have been having a big discussion about the intensity of media coverage of this story. But on Periscope, everybody could see it was live,” he told The Guardian. “It happened. No one was cutting it, no one was putting a two- or three-minute piece together after we filmed it. And for Germans, it was really good to understand the problems the refugees have been facing.”

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

Tinder is matchmaking in the 21st century.

Tinder is matchmaking in the 21st century.

Let’s face it: For better or for worse, no app has revolutionized dating like Tinder. Its simple swipe-right-to-like, swipe-left-to-dislike interface has enabled hookup culture, but has also led to marriages.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

Yik Yak is hot on college campuses.

Yik Yak is hot on college campuses.

Yik Yak, a social network that’s mainly used by college students, is what you get when you combine the community-driven aspect of Reddit with complete anonymity.

Yik Yak is location centric, so if you leave your college’s town you’re effectively out of what the service calls the “herd.” But the app will let you “set your herd” so you can have a peek into the hive mind of your alma mater’s student body after you graduate.

There is no identity attached to messages on Yik Yak, which opens the floodgates for all kinds of flavorful talk (hookup requests are a dime a dozen). Users can up-vote messages and comments they like and even post photos, as long as no one’s personally identifiable information is shared. Regardless of the ban on sharing personal information, the service has still forced schools to deal with cyber bullying like never before.

“Yik Yak is the Wild West of anonymous social apps,” Danielle Keats Citron, a law professor at University of Maryland and the author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” told The New York Times earlier this year. “It is being increasingly used by young people in a really intimidating and destructive way.”

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

Pinterest is all about helping you find inspiration.

Pinterest is all about helping you find inspiration.

Pinterest describes itself as “a visual bookmarking tool that helps you discover and save creative ideas.” Users can “pin” images to the service and share them in collections, or “boards,” that other users can follow.

The social network has 100 million monthly active users, the majority of which are women.

According to The Washington Post, 38 million boards on Pinterest are dedicated to wedding planning alone. Women are flocking in droves to plan their dream weddings on Pinterest — even if they haven’t met their spouses yet.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

Instagram is the top social network for sharing photos.

Instagram is the top social network for sharing photos.

If you’re not addicted to checking your Instagram feed at least five times a day, you probably know a few people who are.

Instagram created not only a huge user base — with 400 million active each month — but also an entire industry of mobile photographers whom brands hire to travel the world and post on their behalf.

It’s changed the way restaurants advertise (When have millions of filtered images of delicious food ever been so accessible?), how live events are reported, and how creative people share their work with the world.

Even after its acquisition by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, Instagram has proven that it’s focused on what’s gotten it this far: the community.

“Calling Instagram a photo-sharing app is like calling a newspaper a letter-sharing book, or a Mozart grand era symphony a series of notes,” Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom recently told The Guardian. “Instagram is less about the medium and more about the network.”

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android, web

WhatsApp is the most popular way to talk with people around the world.

WhatsApp is the most popular way to talk with people around the world.

If you don’t understand why Facebook would pay a staggering $19 billion to buy WhatsApp, then you probably don’t use the app.

WhatsApp is used by over 900 million people around the world, and a whopping 30 billion messages have been sent through its servers. Its popularity took off because it uses an internet connection to send messages instead of traditional cellular networks, so messages don't count against the allotment from your wireless carrier.

Another reason WhatsApp spread quickly around the world is that it populates your friends list with phone numbers already on your phone — you can find a contact that works without having to look up a separate email address or username.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

WeChat is huge in China.

WeChat is huge in China.

If you live outside of China, it's unlikely that you use — or perhaps have even heard of – WeChat. But with more than 600 million users, WeChat is one of the largest messaging apps in the world. And to call it a messaging app is actually an undersell because it does so much more.

You can use WeChat to do just about anything, including play games, send money to people, make video calls, hail a taxi, order food, buy movie tickets, read the news, book a doctor appointment, and more.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android, Windows Phone

Snapchat is the future of social media.

Snapchat is the future of social media.

With more than 100 million daily active users and a primary audience of 18 to 24-year-olds, Snapchat is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon.

The app’s premise (and Snapchat is just an app — there is no web interface) is the idea of ephemeral messaging: once a message, or “snap,” is viewed, it disappears forever.

Its 25-year-old CEO Evan Spiegel has a portrait of Steve Jobs hanging in his office, and he has a grand vision for his multi-billion dollar startup. In essence, “It’s all about talking with pictures and expressing yourself in the moment."

But Snapchat is also about consuming media. The app’s Discover section features interactive content from a range of publishers, including BuzzFeed, Mashable, CNN, People, and Vice. The goal seems to be keeping Snapchat’s users in the app as long as possible — and it’s working.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

Twitter is where news breaks.

Twitter is where news breaks.

Whether you use it or not, there’s no denying that Twitter has changed the way news is spread and reported. When the riots in Ferguson, Missouri began, people on the ground shared firsthand accounts of what was happening there on Twitter. And when events like the recent presidential primary debates take place, Twitter lights up with commentary, jokes, GIFs, and quick analysis.

Twitter has seen its fair share of turmoil recently — Jack Dorsey, one of the founders, is back as CEO, and the company recently laid off 8% of its employees — but it’s still the first place many people turn to to see what's going on.

We'll see if Moments, the company's latest endeavor into curating the news and making the service appeal to a wider audience, will catch on.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

Vine is pure entertainment.

Vine is pure entertainment.

Vine, the six-second video app owned by Twitter, has established itself with creators and entertainers because it easily allows them to create six-second videos and share them with followers.

While it's not as popular as Instagram or Snapchat, Vine has developed a vibrant, unique community that spawns countless internet memes. (Remember Smack Cam?) Vine stars have created a new class of celebrity with their mission set on creating Hollywood 2.0.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

Kik makes messaging easy and (potentially) anonymous.

Kik makes messaging easy and (potentially) anonymous.

It’s difficult to mention Yik Yak without bringing in Kik, the hugely popular app that, unlike other messaging apps, doesn’t require a phone number. Because you only need a username and an internet connection to use Kik, the app has become the main way for people to chat over internet without exchanging personal information. (It rarely takes more than a few minutes on Yik Yak before you see a question like, “What’s your kik?”).

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

Facebook is the most popular app of all time.

Facebook is the most popular app of all time.

Facebook is the most downloaded app of all time, according to the app analytic company App Annie. It's used by over 1 billion people.

There’s also a good chance that, out of all the apps on your phone, you use Facebook’s the most. The News Feed is the most coveted avenue for publishers, and many news organizations are part of Facebook’s Instant Articles program, so some of their stories are hosted directly inside the Facebook app.

Video in the Facebook app has also taken off, and the largest social network in the world sees the News Feed consisting mostly of video content within two years. That would explain why Facebook is so interested in virtual reality — it snapped up the VR company Oculus for $2 billion. 360 degree video in the News Feed could be just the beginning of what’s to come.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android, web

Tumblr is social blogging.

Tumblr is social blogging.

Tumblr isn’t just a place to blog — it’s also a place to consume content from the more than 250 million other blogs on its platform.

The mobile app is good for posting text, photos, videos, and links on the go, and it of course lets you view all of the blogs you follow.

Tumblr has faced some criticism in recent months for changes its made —a controversial change to its dashboard design earlier was met with pushback — but the company’s colorful community appears to be staying on Tumblr.

Price: Free
Available on: iOS, Android

LinkedIn makes it easy to find new business contacts.

LinkedIn makes it easy to find new business contacts.

LinkedIn used to basically be just a place to post your resume online. But it has since become the go-to network for easily reaching out to people in your field, and even recently for posting content relevant to your job.

And there are now many job openings you can apply to simply by attaching your LinkedIn profile, sometimes without even sending a cover letter.

Price: Free

Available on: Web, iOS, Android

Additional reporting by Steven Tweedie.

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