Mike Isaac

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4chan Creator’s Drawing App Comes to the iPhone

Chris Poole is looking for another image-based hit.

The territory isn’t foreign to Poole, who founded 4chan — the popular, anonymous online message board community notorious for its crazy photo sharing and meme generation. Among other reasons, 4chan found success in its network effect; create a strong, vital community, and its popularity will build on itself.

That’s essentially what’s behind DrawQuest, the app Poole launched on the iPad in February and, beginning Thursday, on iPhone and iPod touch devices, as well. Think of it as something of a hybrid between a game, a social network and an artist commune. Users are given a daily mandate (or “quest”) to draw a picture, be it an item, a scene or an idea.

The goal, according to Poole, isn’t about “winning” — like, say, Zynga’s popular Draw Something apps. Instead, it’s about “trying to solve the ‘blank sheet of paper’ problem” — bringing the daily activity of being creative into people’s lives and providing a prompt to help them get started.

The app gained some early traction when it launched exclusively for tablets this year; it boasts a decent 100,000+ active users who have created more than 5 million drawings to date — many of which are quite impressive for a simple image-creation app. It’s not a breakout success, but considering it has been a tablet-only app for its first nine months of existence, it’s plugging along well enough.

Obviously the iPhone launch will bolster that number, offering a few extra features and game-like elements. I asked Poole if the app would follow a similar trajectory as Zynga’s Draw Something apps, which saw immediate success and then sharply dropped off over time (just months after Zynga acquired the OMGPOP company for hundreds of millions of dollars).

In response, Poole emphasized that DrawQuest’s strength lies in what Draw Something lacked: A community. “Once you burned out on the Draw Something game elements, there was nothing left to do,” Poole said. “But even if you burn out on drawing in DrawQuest, there’s lots of rich content there for you to scan through and view from other people.”

Which is true. For such a simple image-creation editor, users have already produced a mass of impressive pictures — more than enough to browse and admire for quite a while. And with the iPhone release’s new features that let users build their own small fan bases and follow friends and other individual artists, the community-centric features are only getting stronger.

Poole’s app is available in Apple’s App Store beginning today, free for download.

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