It’s weird to go to Chuck E. Cheese as an adult, right? Even though the pizza is deliciously garlicky, some of the games are worth playing, and there’s nowhere else you can satisfy your strange addiction to ball pits, carbonated beverages, and anthropomorphic rats? [Note: I’ve only visited a Chuck E. Cheese once, when I was a child, and didn’t particularly like it. Don’t make this weirder than it already is.] There’s a line dividing the things that are okay for children to like and things that are okay for adults to like, and crossing that line feels… weird.
That’s how I felt using Kanvas, a new service and iPhone application that allows users to create images with predefined backgrounds, photos, text, audio, sketches, and stickers before sharing the result with the rest of the network. The app is meant to appeal to teens and people who “want a way to express themselves beyond taking a photo,” according to Tracks CEO Vic Singh. And that’s where it gets weird for anyone over the age of, say, the 20 years, 4 months (an age I figured out on my scientific calculator).
Browsing through Kanvas’ global feed is like poring through old Myspace photos. The first photo I saw was a selfie, replete with “duckface” and a faux-artistic filter. The second photo was the same, only this user decided to take a picture with a rubber chicken (supply the joke yourself) and a sticker. And so it went, photo after photo, selfie after selfie. Then the dog and cat photos started, and I had to exit the app before I felt compelled to listen to Slipknot and talk about how no-one understands me and how it’s so hard being a teenager, you don’t even know.
Kanvas isn’t alone in its millennial pandering. Path and Facebook have both introduced stickers into their services over the last few months in an attempt to encourage young users to stick with their services instead of turning to newer, more youth-oriented networks. Combine that with the rise of memes — the background images with short text overlaid on top of ‘em kind — and the fact that Kanvas isn’t Facebook or Twitter or Path and you can see why Tracks found the service appealing.
Tracks plans to make money through Kanvas by selling premium packs of photos, fonts, stickers, and the like for a dollar a piece. (Singh says that it will cost $8 to unlock everything within the app at launch.) The service itself is free to use and is available on the iPhone — other platforms will have to wait until next year before they get a native app,
So if you don’t mind wading through countless selfies, unfunny memes, or communicating primarily through hashtags, stickers, and trite aphorisms misremembered from Vonnegut’s novels, Kanvas seems great. Really. You just have to be a teen or, barring that, be okay with feeling like you’re hanging out at Chuck E. Cheese in your mid-20s.