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'Color' App Takes Your Photos Public, Shows Users in 150-Foot Radius

Color AppLala founder Bill Nguyen's new 'Color' app is keeping the app hype machine rolling by raising $41 million... before launch. The Lala founder's app arrived today at Color.com (the domain having been purchased for a cool $350,000) with commentators claiming that it will "transform the way people communicate with each other." Nguyen has been given huge media exposure by everyone from the New York Times and Fast Company to industry veterans like John Battelle. Photo apps built around sharing (e.g. 'Instagram' and 'Path') have proven extremely popular in the past year, and Color adds another element to the endlessly hyped mobile and social mix: location.

Color makes it clear upfront that its app, available on Android and iOS, is for those who have no problem sharing in public. Images snapped with the app are shared instantly with everyone in the area (apparently within 150 feet), and tapping the globe icon brings up other photos from the area. Upping the creepy factor, all photos are 100-percent public and the Color system actually analyzes ambient surroundings via lighting conditions, GPS, your phone's gyroscope and audio (via the phone's mic). Nguyen explained to Fast Company that the app is smart enough to recognize that most of the photos at a concert are pointing at the stage. This all makes for an interesting feeling, similar to firing up Chatroulette for the first time, except that we only saw a table covered in bacon, a door and several photos of walls.

Color does away with the friending and following models standard in modern social apps, and instead builds connections around shared location. Nguyen told the Huffington Post, "Social networks are doing pretty amazing things, but to me, social networks still [feel] solitary, like advanced e-mail, where you write something, post something, and someone responds. That's not like real life at all." So, imagine an event like a wedding, concert or party: all images taken on Color-equipped smartphones will be instantly shared with everyone nearby, giving you a visual timeline of the event without the need to meet and follow attendees.

Journalist John Battelle writes,
In short, if Color is used by a statistically significant percentage of folks, nearly every location that matters on earth will soon be draped in an ever-growing tapestry of visual cloth, one that no doubt will also garner commentary, narrative structure, social graph meaning, and plasticity of interpretation. Imagine if Color - and the fundaments which allow its existence - had existed for the past 100 years. Imagine what Color might have revealed during the Kennedy assassination, or the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, or hell, the Rodney King beating?
It's an ambitious new app, but it's not without problems. With notifications in "bulletins," "visual diaries" of users' photos, and a "multilens" view that lets you browse photos tied to a specific place, there's a lot here for new users to grasp. And, as a Hacker News discussion notes, it's a bit underwhelming at launch with such a small userbase. Even testing in New York, there's just not enough user activity to make it worth coming back to the app. And, of course, there are privacy concerns. Hyper-targeted ads seem like a no-brainer with all of the localized user data and photo activity that Color would be able to gather. And a fully public photo-sharing app tied to users within a 150-foot radius is a bit unnerving, even in the Twitter age.

With Instagram, Path, Facebook and even Twitter all giving users a degree of control over their profiles and sharing, it'll be interesting to see if users will actually want to use a service that Nguyen describes thus: "This is like TIVO-ing life. There's no forgetting."

Color App



Tags: android, apps, bill+nguyen+color, BillNguyen, billnguyencolor, cellphones, color, color+app, color+app+social, color.com, color.com+app, color.comapp, colorapp, colorappsocial, colour, ios, iphone, privacy

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