The “LBS” or mobile-social networking or LoMoSo segment — or whatever we want to call this mix of mobile and social and location — is getting awfully noisy. The latest, splashy entrant is photo-centric mobile social networking app Color.
The founders received $41 million from Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital and Silicon Valley Bank and are getting lots of coverage accordingly. The tech press and VCs are often caught up in a kind of “herd mentality” or “flavor of the month” frenzy and become swept up in trends without regard to whether they have any appeal “beyond the techway.”
I’m not saying Color doesn’t have a chance to succeed — and the app looks very well done — but it’s a variation on a collection of things that have already come before: Socialight (pre-iPhone), Flook and the many photo-sharing apps that now exist. It may well be that better execution and higher visibility will enable Color to rise above the noise, but it’s far from a foregone conclusion (as some are implying).
The central idea is that you take pictures, Color figures out your location and groups photos together into a kind of instant photo-network tied to place. Everyone can see the images in or immediately near the location. Founder Bill Nguyen ran LaLa, which was acquired by Apple. That’s partly why he was able to get so much money at launch and why everyone’s taking Color seriously.
One idea behind Color is to bring sharing images into “the moment” (real-time) with the people around you. The company has less clarity on how it will make money — maybe deals, maybe something else. However, the real goal is to build significant usage, get bought and let someone else worry about it.
Color becomes one more photo-sharing mobile app on top of dozens that already exist: Instagram, Picplz, Path, Foodspotting and many many others including Yelp and Foursquare that allow image uploading and sharing. And there’s also a little site called Facebook in the mix.
The “real-time” angle is Color’s differentiator.
Another app that recently launched with much less notice but does almost exactly the same thing as Color is called Pixamid (image at left). It automatically organizes and shares photos with the people around you, as well as incorporating images from third party apps such as Instagram.
The gaggle of mobile photo sharing apps strikes me much like the early days of video online when there were dozens of competitors. YouTube emerged as the winner and hasn’t looked back.
Which of these LBS photo networks do you think will win?