Pour one out for IRL — a social media site that aimed to bring the convenience of Facebook-style event planning to a generation allergic to anything tainted by the presence of Mark Zuckerberg.

The app closes its doors once and for all at 12pm PDT — so likely by the time you read this, given that translates to 7am NZST. And even if you do read this before then, the iOS and Android apps have already been pulled from the store, so there’s no time to see if it’s worth mourning.

Why? Well, it turns out that the app’s self-reported 20 million users was actually closer to one million. 

Yes, according to The Information, an internal investigation by the board of directors found that 95% of the traffic was “automated or from bots”. That’s quite a fall from grace for a company that was estimated to be worth NZD$1.9 billion just two years ago. 

To be clear, only the terminally naive believe that every account on a social network is real. But 95% is really something else. 

To put that number into perspective, when Elon Musk was threatening to drop his purchase of Twitter, he was kicking off about a suspected 20% of users being bots, from a userbase of 229 million. Suffice it to say that 19:1 ration on a far smaller site (~20 million) can’t really be recovered from.

The strange thing is that IRL wasn’t exactly cash-poor. It had raised NZ$351 million from SoftBank, and one employee estimated that it had about $162 million left this time last year. Whatever’s left will apparently be returned to the shareholders.

Said shareholders may have already been a touch concerned with what was happening with their money. Just 58 days ago, CEO Abraham Shafi was suspended due to what The Information described as a report outlining a “pattern of misconduct”. A temporary CEO was put in his place.

Very temporary, as it turns out: IRL will cease to exist in a matter of hours. Back to organising RL events on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp or some other Meta-owned entity, I suppose…

Alan Martin
Alan is an experienced and versatile writer with the unique distinction of having written for both The New Statesman and Nuts. The list of publications Alan has written for doesn't stop there. His work has also been published in: Wired, CNET, Gizmodo UK, ShortList, NME, TechRadar, The i, The Independent, The Evening Standard, City Metric, Macworld, Pocket Gamer, Expert Reviews, Coach, The Inquirer, Rock Paper Shotgun, Tom's Guide, T3, PC Pro, IT Pro, Ideal Home, Livingetc, Stuff, Business Insider, theBit, Wareable, and Trusted Reviews. Alan now covers a range of subjects for ReviewsFire, with a focus on news - his unique style of covering technology news is a key part of ReviewsFire's success.


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