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‘Amazing’: SF founder’s underground Gen Z app boots TikTok, Temu off download charts

A smiling individual with glasses excitedly shows a phone while vibrant graphics in the background include a rainbow, pixel art, speech bubbles, and the word "HELLO."
On the morning of July 3, noplace founder Tiffany Zhong surprisingly found her social media app atop Apple’s free download charts, beating out names like TikTok and Temu. | Source: Photo-illustration by Clark Miller

“I am no longer a one-hit wonder,” tweeted Tiffany Zhong, on the morning of July 3. 

Zhong, the 27-year-old founder and CEO of noplace (yes, the name is all lowercase), a MySpace-styled social media app for Gen Z, posted a screenshot of the Apple app store, next to a selfie of herself screaming. Noplace ranked number one for free iPhone apps.

“[It’s] an amazing feeling,” she told The Standard. 

“Take that, Temu,” tweeted Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, in reply to Zhong’s post. “Such a vibe. Congrats.” Noplace’s release knocked the Chinese shopping app into second place, followed by social media giants Threads, TikTok, and Google. (Ohanian co-hosted the “Probably Nothing” podcast with Zhong a few years back).

Noplace has been around since April, but was previously an invite-only beta. It’s one of the growing number of startups that are launching new social media platforms, ostensibly to address the loneliness epidemic. 79% of Gen Z (ie, people born roughly between 1995 and 2009) report high levels of isolation, according to  to a Cigna research survey, with 42% of people aged 18-34 reporting they “always feel left out.”

Of course, turning to another social media app to solve this problem may seem contradictory, seeing that social media usage has been linked to increased rates of depression. But Zhong believes it’s not the platform per se that’s the problem, but the way people interact with it.

Zhong, who splits her time between San Francisco and Tokyo, has been immersed in startupland for some time. In 2017 she released Zebra IQ, a platform for Gen Z people to give brands feedback, and also founded Pineapple Capital, an early-stage investment firm.

The image features a purple background with the word "NOPLACE" in white pixelated text and floating phone screens showing a colorful app interface, rainbow graphics, and emojis.
The homepage of noplace, a social media app that's trying to be a MySpace for Gen Z. | Source: Courtesy noplace

The noplace app has a distinctly early 2000’s vibe, with the design team heavily leaning into teens and twentysomethings’ Y2K now-stalgia. The MySpace comparisons begin with Zhong: her LinkedIn profile lists her as the founder of “noplace, fka (formerly known as) nospace.”

The design is clean, cheeky—the default text in a user’s “about me” section, says “i am cringe, but i am free”—and the intentional use of lowercase i’s give it a playful feel. 

The sign-up process for noplace was straightforward; I picked a username, selected some interests—I love that the hobbies section had “sleep” as an option—then uploaded a profile picture and tried to connect with some friends. Clearly, I’m not the target audience (I’m peak millennial) because I couldn’t find anyone I already know—but some potential friends were suggested to me.  I could also interact with users en masse in the “everyone” feed, a stream of consciousness that spanned what musicians people loved, their hobbies, and various deep-cut Y2K references. Everyone there seemed to be spiritually, if not literally, 19.

A woman walks on a street, wearing headphones, sunglasses, and holding a coffee cup and phone, with a cable car in the background.
The noplace app appears to favor users who are spiritually, if not literally, 19.

It was interesting to skim the noplace updates, as they felt so natural. “Has anyone else been sitting in their rooms the entire summer?” asked the user uncooked-pizza. “I’m too broke for anything.”

Instagram and TikTok algorithms have made me used to seeing posts non-chronologically, and only surfacing the most exciting content, where this was intentionally not designed that way: the goal here is for connection, not claps.

Pre-launch, over half a million people were on the waitlist, and today the download volume exceeded expectations.

“Our dev is updating the mainframe and getting a glass of milk…he hasn’t eaten anything in the last 18 hours,” wrote Zhong in a noplace post.

“We have gone too viral to function,” tweeted noplace’s X account. 

Given the surge in interest, for now,  Zhong’s holding off on partying. “We’ve gone super viral a few times now, and it never ceases to be super fun,” she said. “We celebrate by working hard on keeping the app up and making it better and better.”