Last year, Alex, a 19-year-old in California who runs a network of Instagram pages dedicated to publishing memes, became so frustrated with the current apps for making memes that she hired a developer to build her own. She spent $3,000 on the project, which she says has saved her hours of time and frustration. “I don’t want to say it’s a competitive edge, because at the end of the day that’s not really what determines if a meme does well,” says Alex, whose pages have 5 million collective followers. “But for people who care enough about having memes perfect it makes a difference.” (Like all members in this story, Alex runs her pages anonymously, and asked to be referred to by her first name only to protect her privacy.) As memes have increasingly dominated social platforms like Instagram, the methods for making them remain largely rudimentary. Many large accounts on Instagram treat Twitter as a content-management system for laying out images with text, but that comes with huge limitations. As memes become increasingly visually complex, they’re forcing meme makers—from professionals who run massive pages, to amateurs, to those just starting out—to rely on a patchwork of unreliable photo-editing tools.