At work (I do that sometimes) we were looking for a way to load previously shot video on to Instagram for a client. We found one, but it was sloppy, as hacks tend to be. Presto, in version 4.1, you can now import video from your camera roll. The decently implemented feature also includes cropping for a square aspect ratio and, of course, length. Another cool touch is that you can splice together numerous videos as long as they cumulatively don’t exceed 15 seconds.
The Guardian warned that brands should take care to create content in the spirit of mobile video, not dust off and slap up old 15 second spots. Which is kinda obvious (granted most company’s won’t get it anyhow). However, what’s striking is the speed and level of polish Instagram is implementing new video features. For an app that showed notable restraint in expanding (e.g. it’s painfully long path to Android), it’s now making deft moves at a breakneck pace, with surprising grace (sorry, that rhyme worked).
Why? Kick Vine while they’re down-ish probably. Usage of that service has definitely been impacted since Instavids came on the scene. BUT, they’ve responded with some decent new features and, really, the jury is still out. As of this writing, Vine still has more entertaining content, arguably because of early adopters and looping. As a result, both currently serve their own purposes. So what if/when Instagram adds looping? Good question.
Foursquare’s masterstroke took the group check-in paradigm from Dodgeball and made into a single player game (which I happen to loathe). Likewise, Scvngr’s entire business model was developed assuming game mechanics will soon rule the world. So it’s of little surprise that mobile photo sharing now has a play-based app and even less that it has a painfully cutsey name - Piictu.
This is essentially a challenge and respond app, where users post an image with a theme as a call to action for others to participate. On first blush it doesn’t look so bad, which tends to happen when 10 developers start a company. But of course, the inevitable question is if it can compete with the Instagrams of the world (well actually, mainly just Instagram)?
I think it comes down to ecosystem. Industry observers are becoming increasingly skeptical of photo apps that can’t sustain a base. Especially as Facebook and Google develop their own services dedicated to the same
damn thing. Sometimes singularly unique players gain a foothold and become platforms themselves (hi @twitter). Most of the time they don’t.
Piictu is creating another de facto community around a fun, but essentially shallow, activity. This could be enough if the gameplay is addictive enough or they use their initial traction for an offering with more depth. However, if the good times lose their novelty, those two ”i’s” won’t help them see the future.
Twitter’s success is a classic case of its users taking an initially barebones offering and better defining its featureset (e.g. @designations and #hashtags). Several generations in and it’s getting more interesting, take #Lazyweb. This hashtag lets you outsource questions to the Twitterverse that, frankly, you could probably Google on your own. The infographic below does a smashup job of providing the facts on how its used. Even though #Lazyweb might be on the decline, three million questions are asked on Twitter each month.
Given that social media is increasingly a mobile service, what’s fascinating is having persistent access to meat-based respondents who can succinctly respond to questions that might stump the GoogleTron (e.g. “Why am I so AWESOME!??”). Despite limitations such as needing a large follower base to get answers, this model has great potential. There are a lot of things you could request, tons of different types of people to ask and a sh*tload of scenarios that could shape the responses. Just like Twitter photo sharing was addressed by Twitpic (which was just used by its founder while getting arrested for public nudity), the realm of tweet Q&A is begging for a dedicated app. Any takers?
Take my word, every few months, for the foreseeable future, you’re going to run across an article about Dunbar’s number. That’s the amount of close relationships your neocortex can handle, and it clocks in at about 150. The theory has been recently reinforced by a four year study of more than three million Twitter users and 380 million tweets. So every time social media surges, the media can trot out an empirical counterpoint about how all all those Facebook friends and Twitter followers can’t really amount to real world connections because of our limited, little mindsacks.
I’ll concede that it’s difficult to maintain hundreds of relationships, but technology is changing how we relate to people. Take mobile photography. Interactions on Instagram are shallow, and I don’t mean that in a
Paris Hilton bad way. You follow someone, you like a photo, you comment. Boom. It’s more about communal aesthetics and shared emotional reactions to images. Maybe that’s why it’s become it’s own social network?
Path famously (well, famous if you follow this type of sh*t) limits the social circle on their mobile photo app to 50 friends as a direct application of Dunbar’s number theory. Since launching, they have loosened the reigns in terms of sharing to other platforms, but they’re still essentially betting that you only want to really show pictures to people you actually know.
Images create an instant response, but it’s not a relationship per se. As new services grow and proliferate, we’re going to have a multitude of different tiers in which we interact with pals and strangers alike. That doesn’t mean we’ll suddenly evolve the capacity to have more friends (well, maybe I will), but the definition of what a social connection is will invariably shift.
Camera’s capture images. Central to that functionality is (manually or automatically) selecting focus and exposure. Well, upstart Lytro has something to say about that - f**k it! Their technology captures entire light fields, resulting in photos where the user chooses the focal point, exposure level and even render in 3-D…after the shot is taken. As icing on the cake, file sizes and equipment costs are comparable to the current crop of point-and-shoots. Revolution?
This wizardry begs a throng of obvious technical questions for any serious photographer. However, it could be a minor miracle for the average snapper who no longer needs their squirming infant to stay still for one
goddamn second. Where it could also make serious inroads is in the mobile space. Phone pics are inherently situational (“the best camera is the one that’s with you”), and that capability has shifted the market. Now imagine if your iPhone/Android couldn’t screw up the picture? Or if you could send your friends an image and let them select what/who is in focus?
It remains to be seen if Lytro will catch on. Will people start buying compact cameras again if they are foolproof? Plus, do folks really want to spend the time to give shape to an essentially unformatted image? At first glance, it seems like the real opportunity is throwing this magic under the hood of a photo-branded smartphone, making a partnership with Instagram and watching the $$$ come flooding in.
If you think Apple’s iOS 5 updates will kill off a few start-ups, time to get that bulk order of cyanide pills ready. As reported on TechCrunch Facebook has been working on a comprehensive mobile photo sharing application.
The app seems to be a combination of Instagram, Color, Path, and even Path’s new side project,With….It would make a lot of sense for Facebook, which is by far the largest photo service on the Internet with close to 100 billion photos, to make their own dedicated photo app.
This will definitely do a lot to validate the space and pull in/create even more rabid mobile photographers. It will also be interesting to see if users will migrate from other services. While having apps for every aspect of iPhoneography is empowering, it can also lead to an unnecessarily bulky workflow. My average shot involves 3-5 apps and I’m a power user. I can see how having it all within the context of a service I use on the regular anyhow would be appealing for the average Facebook
As for competitors, time to move laterally folks.
Unless you get $41 million out of the gates to create an app (nobody gets) like Color or devour new users at almost a mil a month like Instagram, monetization is eventually a necessity. Hipstamatic pioneered in the photo app space with its free and paid HipstaPac feature modules. The approach played on their retro camera
schtick identity by packaging a lens, filters and flash together for a buck, which is somewhat savvy since you “feel” like you’re buying something real. However, it’s been pushing its model even further with branded packs such as one for Nike Sportswear.
Interesting move. Giving away something that has a price in their ecosystem, adds more weight to the promotion. Further, it leverages the relationship consumers have with Nike’s almighty brand. I’m sure this approach will become more prevalent as apps look to leverage their existing users for dollars from companies looking for new interaction points.
Look, it’s that press image of the new iOS 5 camera features! Here’s the skinny on what your iPhone will be able to pull off this Fall:
These are all welcome features (except to the dead in the water app companies who made products to specifically cover these gaps). However, they mainly fall into the enhancements category and, reportedly, not all will work on the iPhone 3GS (mainly editing). The real heat is in the air with iCloud and Photo Stream where pics are wirelessly transferred to all your Mac devices and kept in a rolling library of your last 1,000 images. Plus, your base computer archives all images from your phone. Damn!
All in all, the camera improvements and cloud enablement strip away even more barriers to taking mobile pics. Plus, there’s even Twitter photo integration. On the surface it seems like Apple is, once again, trying to Bogart photo functionality. But really, it’s a major opening for players in the app space who can integrate and expand upon the possibilities of these significant updates.
I was just in Istanbul, chatting with a local. We had a number of cultural differences, however I was a bit surprised when, in looking at some my mobile pictures, she remarked, “Have you heard of Instagram?” Wow.
Yes, the ubiquitous photo app even just had its “we’ve arrived” New York Times article. The piece covers the basics, though the figure of a million new users a month still blows my mind. Regardless, it’s more a sign of what an incumbent the service has become, probably due to the timely launch and release of its API:
Mr. Blau (Gartner Research) said Instagram’s early emphasis on opening its service to outside developers had helped it spread. For example, the service has given rise to a healthy network of companies and applications that offer ways to turn your shared photos into photobooks, framed prints and postcards. “You have a whole work force of software developers and entrepreneurs building products on top of your product,” he said.
I’m not ‘playa hating’, but despite the media accolades and sick numbers, it still feels like Instagram semi-inadvertently tapped a wellspring of latent demand. That’s not saying it won’t succeed, quite the opposite. However, it also indicates that there are a lot of other opportunities for companies who can laterally access the same exploding space.
How photography and earlier images have evolved over the years is a rather hefty subject but, I’m less interested in who first wrote about the concept of a pinhole camera, or which man took the first permanent photograph (allegedly Aristotle, Euclid, MoTi and Joseph Nicephore Niepce if you…
This is a good high-level perspective on how mobile phone photography is a natural evolution of the form itself. It also supports some of my previous/future posts and has “KILL” in the title. So I approve.