Max Levchin’s latest: Homer, a creepily intimate look at what apps your friends use

Photo by Bloom Design/Shutterstock

My gchat pinged. “Why do you have Glow? Isn’t that the pregnancy app?” a Gigaom co-worker asked me.

Such was my introduction to the latest product to spring from Max Levchin’s R&D lab HVF: An app called Homer that just launched today. It connects to your contacts and lets you view their phone screens. That way you can see what apps your friends use and note which ones made the coveted homescreen cut.

The concept behind Homer isn’t revolutionary: Using social networks as an app discovery engine. For example, if you’re Max Levchin perhaps, you’d scope out your hardcore cycling friend’s screen for good bicycling apps. If you’re a foodie, maybe you check your chef friend’s screen. If you’re single, maybe you scope the dating apps of your crazy best friend.

It doesn’t appear to be a serious business endeavor for Levchin, who has his hands full with his new company Affirm and his data science lab HVF Labs, and tweeted that Homer was “for fun.” He worked on the app with his fellow co-founders Elliot Babchick and Jason Riggs. Homer appears to have snuck past the iOS store police, who once upon a time were tamping down on app discovery engines like Chomp and Tapjoy.

Homer offers a strangely intimate glimpse into another person’s life, and after signing up you could find yourself explaining to your friends and co-workers why, exactly, you have a pregnancy app downloaded on your phone (For those wondering, it’s because I’ve written about it).

Homer app: Adding your phone screens

The Homer app adds your phone screens during setup

The apps you use hint at who you are, what you care about and how you spend your time. With Homer, you put all that on display for the world, although you can hide certain apps from appearing after you set up your account or restrict who sees it to only people you approve.

What’s more unique than the premise of Homer is the execution.To set up your Homer account, you take screenshots of your phone screens and then connect your contact book and social media profiles. Levchin’s data-focused lab, HVF Labs, uses image recognition to analyze the app icons on your phone screen and pull up summaries of the actual apps themselves. That way you can click a friend’s app icon and get more information about what that app does, plus download it. It chooses what it believes are your “top four” apps and features them prominently in your profile.

Since the app just launched to the public today, it’s unlikely most of your friends will be using it. To keep you entertained in the meanwhile, there’s a trending section where you can stalk the likes of Max Levchin, Pulse’s Ankit Gupta and a bunch of random names you won’t recognize.

Although Homer certainly isn’t the first to tackle the app discovery problem, its social approach is intriguing. If you can get over the creep factor, it’s fun to stalk the screens of your fellow friends or public figures — the virtual version of poking around their living room and seeing what they’re all about.

Left: None of my contacts are on Homer yet. Center: Homer's trending screen Right: Max Levchin's user profile

Left: None of my contacts are on Homer yet. Center: Homer’s trending screen Right: Max Levchin’s user profile

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