Why a Mediocre Keyboard App Is Topping the App Store Charts

Why a Mediocre Keyboard App Is Topping the App Store Charts
Graphic: Techin Park,Graphic: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)

It’s hard to tell what will go viral online at any given time. Carp? Sure. Andrew Cuomo’s Nipples? That happened. The latest darling of the internet’s eye is less fishy and less… fleshy than both of the above, but no less bizarre: a low-grade knock-off of Apple’s Notepad app that was developed by a tiny Korean studio about two years ago. It’s called Paste Keyboard, and it’s the most popular iPhone app in the US right now.

An intrepid reporter at Mashable was the first to notice that the app isn’t only rocking the number one spot in the App Store right now, but it managed to snag that spot from TikTok. This is nothing to sneeze at; not only was TikTok the most downloaded iOS app in 2020, but it had also enjoyed its spot at the top of the charts for roughly a year, give or take some blips.

It’s impossible to say exactly what the tipping point was, but in the last few days of May, Paste exploded. An independent analysis by the mobile app researchers at AppFigures shows that the keyboard went from enjoying about 100 to 150 downloads per day, on average, to rocking 29,000 downloads on May 29th. The next day, more than 127,000 people downloaded it. Then 182,000. Over the past two weeks, the apps’ been downloaded more than 346,000 times — almost entirely from folks in the US.

The app went from being #910 in the App Store’s “Utilities” category to being #1 in literally four days. Its numbers are still skyrocketing. But why?

It helps if you hum the Twilight Zone theme while looking at this chart.  (Screenshot: AppFigures (Gizmodo)) It helps if you hum the Twilight Zone theme while looking at this chart. (Screenshot: AppFigures (Gizmodo))

If you download the app, you’ll find it’s just a utilitarian copy and paste tool. It’s a blank white canvas that lets you type out soliloquies, copypastas, or really anything you want, and then save that to a dedicated keyboard so you can paste it somewhere later. That’s it. Not to say that this isn’t a useful tool, but I think we can all agree it’s not #1 app material.

I didn’t have to look very far to find out what people are doing with the app. When I pulled up the most recent five-star reviews for the Paste Keyboard, I was faced with what can only be described as a wall of straight-up, unvarnished Zoomer Humour:

Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo) Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

Miss the Rage is a single that was released by TikTok-favourite rapper Trippie Red in late May after he’d spent months hyping up his upcoming track on the platform. The only way I can describe the track and the accompanying music video is: A Lot. There’s a burning car. There’s a balaclava. There’s a floating head that’s almost certainly a Zordon rip off. Like I said: A Lot.

The final version of the video is missing something though — a hook by fellow rapper Mario Judah shouting “I miss the rage” in his best nu-metal voice. While the verse was unceremoniously dropped before the song’s final release, it didn’t stop teens from spamming the line across TikTok to their followers, which quickly morphed into those same teens trying to one-up each other by spamming walls and walls of text at each other. Don’t think too hard about it, it is what it is.

As it turns out, the tool that they’re using to spam their pals is the Paste Keyboard. On TikTok, right now, there are entire tutorials laying out how to use the app. There’s a fair share of YouTube tutorials, too. Having downloaded the app myself, I can confirm that it makes spamming walls of text at people really easy. Instead of combing through forums (or your notepad app of choice) every time you want to pull up that obscure spam to send your friends, the keyboard just saves it for you. All you need to do is pull it up, tap the Pasta you want, and you have an entire wall of text, ready to go. Yes, it’s really stupid.

Ostensibly, the app popped off out of nowhere because irony-poisoned teens realised they could use it to spam low-effort walls of text across cyberspace. Like literally every TikTok trend in recent memory, I can’t say I really “get” why it’s funny, and I probably never will. Then again, my own generation’s humour really isn’t any better.