Color – just saying the name of it quickly became enough to get people to laugh about what was, without doubt, one of the most botched product launches in recent history (or riled up about the enormous funding round the startup got before it had even launched its product). The relaunch of the once photo-sharing focused app didn't result in much hype at the end of the year, but it looks like the company is now trying hard to get some attention for its video-sharing focused relaunch.
A new ad, which the company uploaded to its YouTube account last week, wouldn't look out of place on MTV. A group of hip 20-somethings decides to break into an empty house and have a little pool party. The ad also features a steamy makeout session in the pool, as well as a creepy guy who decides to use Color to broadcast everything to Facebook (without sound, of course, because Color doesn't do audio).
If that isn't a reason for using Color, I'm not sure what is. As AdAge notes, few startups have enough money to spend on a highly produced commercial. The ones that do usually tend to highlight their product outside of the context of Internet voyeurism.
Last night, Color, the photo-sharing app with $41 million backing from major Valley VC firms, launched to much hype and an even greater backlash. There is no point in rehashing the discussion about it, but my personal opinion is pretty clear: the app’s concept may do well at conferences and other events (and hence I’m surprised it wasn’t launched at SXSW), but the current user experience is bad and the concept just doesn’t sound appealing to a mainstream audience. Now, however, Color’s CEO Bill Nguyen has told Mashable that “his team has heard the criticism loud and clear, and is moving fast to make changes to the app to fix its biggest problem: that people feel lonely when they use the app all by themselves.”
Here are the proposed changes:
1) if you launch the app “in the middle of nowhere,” the app simply won’t do anything – you’ll be locked out. That solves the problem of people opening the app and not knowing what to do, but it also means that 99% of potential users will face this locked down mode when they first open the app. And guess what they will do: close it and forget about it. The fact that Nguyen thinks that’s a good solution makes me doubt the future of the app even more.
2) Instead of just grouping together photos that were taken in close proximity to each other and linking the people that took it into an “elastic” group, the app will now “dynamically calculate the distance required for somebody to be considered ‘nearby.’” This, of course, waters down the whole concept of the app to the point where it’s nonsensical. If the dynamic network suddenly has a radius of half a mile instead of 150 feet, I will most likely care even less about the people who took the pictures. Sure, this will solve the “loneliness” problem – but at what cost?
The update should hit the app store by the middle of the week. The app currently has a two-star rating in Apple’s store (many users complain about crashes and – as expected – the fact that they can’t figure out what the app is supposed to do).
Color, the new photo sharing app from the brains behind the online music service Lala, launched last night. There are some ingenious algorithms behind the app, and while I wrote a rather scathing review of it last night, I think the app’s reception – which quickly turned from hype to backlash within a few hours – could have been very different if it had launched at a different time and in a different place.
Color was made for events, so why didn’t it launch at one (or at least earlier in the day)?
As The Next Web’s Martin Bryant rightly points out, the “natural home” for Colors is events. The app only makes sense when there are other people around you. So why wasn’t the app launched at SXSW? As an event, SXSW was almost made to launch an app like this (and where it could have easily blown all the group messaging apps out of the water this year)? At GigaOm, Matthew Ingram comes to virtually the same conclusion and wonders why “an app based on something so real-time and social seems almost perfectly matched to that kind of social environment.”
Also, why was the app launched on a weekday night? If it’s meant to to be used in groups, launching it while people are most likely sitting at home just means its potential users won’t get the point of the app and move on. Most apps are never opened more than once, so unless you can immediately grasp someone’s attention, you’ve lost them. Launching on a Friday morning or early afternoon, so that people are excited to try out when they go out at night would have made more sense. That way, they would have gone out, told people about the app and could have had the experience the app was designed to deliver.
It also doesn’t help that there are no help menus that explain the app and that the only indication of what it actually does is the opening screen which tells you to “take photos together” – not exactly a phrase that highlights the point of the app. The service’s homepage on the Web also does little to explain its functionality (“Simultaneously use multiple iPhones and Androids to capture photos, videos, and conversations into a group album. There’s no attaching, uploading, or friending to do. “).
Also: Why make VC funding a part of the story?
Most people in this world couldn’t care less about how much funding an app got, but by announcing their massive $41 million funding round, the story suddenly almost became more about why it would take this much money to develop this app. Given that kind of money, any app is going to disappoint.
The minds behind Lala, the ingenious online music service that Apple bought and immediately shut down, just launched their newest project tonight: Color.
Color is a photo-sharing app for iOS (iTunes link) and Android with $41 million in backing from major venture capital firms. Forbes calls it “a new photo app that could change the way you interact with people,” but leaving aside the question why an app like this needs $41 million, my main problem with the service is that I can’t quite figure out why I would want to use it.
What Color Does
Here is what Colors does: Unlike apps like Instagram, picplz or Path, every picture you take is public and there is no option to make it private. More importantly, the app groups together both the photos that were taken at the same location and the people that took them. To do this, the service uses some admittedly smart algorithms that look at where your phone was pointing, the ambient noise around you and other factors to determine that these pictures were indeed taken in the same place. The service then organizes you into an “elastic” social network with all the people around you who took picture at the same place. It basically creates the social network for you as you use the app (and dissolves your “friendships” automatically if you don’t take pictures close to each other for a while).
Why Would You Want to Use It?
Overall, this sounds like a smart idea, but I have a hard time imagining why I would want to use this app. If I’m already in a certain place – say a tourist sight – I don’t need to see the pictures that others took there. I’m already there to see things myself after all.
Maybe this will be useful in a restaurant, where you can then see a dish before you order it, but that assumes that there are actually enough people out there who would want to use the app. Even today, if you are outside of the tech bubble, you can still find plenty of places where nobody has ever checked in on Foursquare.
Supposedly, grouping these pictures will help you meet new people and make new friends. I just have a hard time imagining this in the real world where you probably don’t want to talk to a stranger just because he/she frequented the same restaurant one night or went to the same concert.
As Tom Foremski notes in his piece about the app, “I say hello to my neighbors but that’s about the most interaction I want with them. […] If I wanted to get to know my neighbors better I would try to make friends with them, but I don’t and they don’t.” I think that’s the social problem Color faces and one that I don’t think it is one that can be easily overcome.
Sadly, the app also itself does little to explain what it actually does, which will likely turn first-time users away rather quickly. There are no help menus and the only indication of what the app does is the opening screen which tells you to “take photos together.” The app’s homepage on the Web also does little to explain its functionality (“Simultaneously use multiple iPhones and Androids to capture photos, videos, and conversations into a group album. There’s no attaching, uploading, or friending to do. “).
Maybe I’m missing something important here – or the huge hype around the app is just making me grumpy – but while I admire the idea behind Color, I just don’t see the point of it.