Color Complexities: It’s Not Just a Photo Sharing Application

Ten years ago, sharing photographs and videos meant snail-mailing content to family and friends. Now, sharing photographs and videos are a digital activity, with online sharing sites and smart phones applications like Instagram, Path, and PicPlz being quickly integrated into daily social media regimens.

Color in Action

Enter Color: the latest mobile photo application drawing mixed reviews about the application. Prior to Color’s launch, Sequoia Capital, considered “one of the highest caliber venture firms” by Wall Street Journal, invested $25 million, Bain Capital invested $9 million, and Silicon Valley Bank provided $7 million in venture debt, presenting Color with an accumulative $41 million in funding.  Since its launch, the application has received 2/5 stars based on over 600 reviews on the iTunes App Store. Commentary has noted the application’s function as a stalking mechanism, others have expressed that the user interface is not very intuitive, and the most reoccurring question I’ve encountered is, “is Color worth $41 million?”

Despite this feedback, Color attracted adoption and positive reactions from technology elites, including Tristan Walker of FourSquare, Joshua Williams of Gowalla, and David Heinemeier Hansson of Ruby on Rails. Within a week of its public debut, Color is ranked second in number of downloads for social network applications, just behind Facebook. After having the opportunity to use this application over the past few days, I have come to two conclusions: 1.) I am shamelessly addicted and 2.) It is indeed an important product that has high business potential.

Color enables users to view pictures and videos from other users within a 150-foot radius. Unlike existing social media platforms and applications, a fixed social network does not exist on Color; instead, Color creates “elastic networks,” in which the application generates a user’s social network by assessing other users that are nearby. When a user moves further away from another user’s radius, the pictures will “start to lose color” until they disappear from each other’s network. Color users can view each other’s photographs and videos instantaneously when another Color user is within close range. This allows neighbors to access photographs taken in the past as well as photographs being taken in real-time.

The key component that differentiates Color from other photo sharing applications is its ability to create sporadic social networks, allowing users to develop relationships outside of first, second, and even third degree connections. Because users are not limited to their network, Color allows users to converse with people they would not otherwise interact with. Its algorithms assume that if people are within a certain geographic range and are sharing pictures, then the data is relevant for people who are within range. At any given point in time, this provides a user the opportunity to acquire new insights and information on the same topic from diverse audiences, allowing users a 360-degree scope experience. Color advises prospective users to not use the application alone, as Color best amplifies a user’s experience at large events and conferences, such as concerts, industry summits, and sports outings.  With Color, the user experience goes beyond what users and their existing friends can already see.

Color is pure word-of-mouth, allowing users to document events from all angles and in real-time, without photo editing tools. It also encourages engagement, as the application allows users to provide comments or a “thumbs up” on a photograph. Color’s measurement mechanics are based on how many people are “tapping,” or are viewing a photograph, placing the most viewed photographs at the top of the recent posts page. Similar to Twitter’s Trending Topics, this feature allows users to become immediately aware of  the latest updates and trends in their immediate area. Interlaced with Color’s ability to create sporadic social networks, this complex pairing allows for businesses and brands to use this application as a listening and engagement platform to local users. Not only does Color link users to users, it also has the capacity to link businesses to businesses, and businesses to users.

One concern of mine is that in many cases, the 150-feet radius is too small of a range.  Bill Nguyen, the CEO of Color, has noted that the 150-foot radius is not always fixed. For example, in situations such as sporting events and natural crises, these radii are expanded. Nguyen claims that his team is currently fixing a few glitches, and this is possibly one of them.

With or without the $41 million of funding, Color’s open platform is a complex, noteworthy invention worth exploring. Within less than ten minutes of time, I was able to get acquainted with a former OgilvyAction employee, a San Francisco transplant from New York. I snapped a picture of one of my favorite go-to lunch places and was able to provide him with my recommendation. While I value my privacy and was initially skeptical to install Color, I have found the application to be a stepping stone for the social web as it slowly gravitates towards more transparent and open platforms. In the mean time, I hope “Delmarc” will give my go-to lunch venue a try.