Meet Cara, the Instagram alternative that poses strong competition

Cara, founded by an artist and has gained over 600k users in a week with AI free policy for artists.
Words by
26 June, 2024
2 mins read

Cara, an Instagram alternative launched in January 2023, has done just that by amassing 700,000 users in a single week. As Instagram faces backlash over AI usage, artists are flocking to Cara for its no-AI policy. Particular things make Cara stand out and why it might be the next big thing for artists.

What is the Cara social media app?

Cara is a social media app designed specifically for artists, offering a familiar user interface similar to Instagram. Available on Android, iOS, and the web, it’s free to use and has gained popularity due to its strict ban on AI-generated art. Users can create profiles, post images with captions and hashtags, and explore others’ work through a Discover tab.

However, Cara adds a unique twist by allowing users to organize their highlighted posts into a ‘Portfolio’ and tag them by field, medium, project type, and software used, making it a blend of Instagram and ArtStation.

Instagram vs Cara

While Cara and Instagram share many similarities in terms of mechanics and user interface, Cara offers some artist-friendly features. Logging in through Google or Apple, Cara eliminates passwords, and allows users to reorder ‘Portfolio’ posts. Unlike Instagram, Cara doesn’t support video formats but does support GIFs, appealing to animators.

Users can post text-only updates to spark discussions, and Cara’s no-AI policy filters out generative AI images, ensuring artists’ work isn’t used for AI training.

How does Cara block AI art?

Cara employs a third-party service for automated AI image detection and moderation, as it lacks the manpower for manual reviews. To prevent image scraping, Cara tags uploads with ‘NoAI’, though this relies on good faith from scrapers. For additional protection, Cara recommends using Glaze, a free tool that applies style cloaks to artwork, and is working on integrating Glaze directly into the app for easier use.

Can Cara actually compete with Instagram?

Cara’s rapid growth from 50,000 to over 700,000 users in a week is impressive but still pales in comparison to Instagram’s two billion users. Focused on art, Cara is unlikely to become a mainstream platform but offers a peaceful community for artists. Without a stable revenue model or significant investment, Cara’s sustainability remains uncertain.

However, the platform’s ad-free, community-focused atmosphere has already attracted artists seeking refuge from Instagram’s algorithm changes and AI controversies.

Who owns Cara?

Cara was founded by Singaporean photographer Jingna Zhang and launched in January 2023. Currently managed by a small team of volunteers, Zhang’s vision for Cara focuses on creating a supportive environment for artists, free from AI exploitation and commercial pressures.

Does Cara allow photography?

Yes, Cara supports photography alongside illustrations and animations. Although the majority of content leans towards digital art, photographers are welcome. Zhang herself is a photographer and has shared her work on Cara, hoping to see more photographers join the platform.

Is Cara free?

Cara is completely free to use, with no subscription fees for its mobile apps or browser-based site. The platform relies on donations to cover operational costs and maintain its services.

How many users does Cara have?

As of early June 2023, Cara reported reaching 700,000 users, with numbers growing rapidly. The platform briefly surpassed major social networks like Twitter and Reddit in the Apple App Store for downloads, highlighting its appeal amidst Instagram’s controversies.

And finally, why are artists leaving Instagram?

Artists are increasingly frustrated with Instagram due to algorithm changes favoring video content and an influx of advertisements. The tipping point was Meta’s admission that it uses Instagram images to train its AI, with no easy opt-out. The introduction of a ‘Made with AI’ label has also been problematic, misidentifying minor AI edits and missing fully AI-generated images. This dissatisfaction has driven artists to seek alternatives like Cara.

Cara’s focus on art, community, and strict no-AI policy has struck a chord with disillusioned Instagram users. While it faces challenges in scaling and monetization, its early success suggests a strong demand for platforms that prioritize user integrity and creative freedom. If Cara can sustain its growth and community ethos, it might just create a new social media platform dedicated to artists.

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Gareth Boyd

Who Design Today founder and editor. A design enthusiast in every area from digital to print and physical form.

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