Color, Instagram, Path,… Five reasons I still don't get social photo sharing apps

OK, its true. In the last year, the photography app category has exploded. It seems that the camera on the iPhone 4 motivated people to take more and more pictures and do more things with them. We've gone from a 1st generation iPhone which didn't have MMS "because people don't like them," to an orgy of filters, tilt effects and social network sharing. Notice how the default Photos app has remained unchanged for years in your iPhones and iPads.
 
 
The iPhoneography blog has painstakingly kept track of most of them. I want to believe that until Camera+ arrived, nobody took the Photography App Store category really seriously. It only takes a well-known developer and a good dose of polish to get there. In addition to the app promotion at launch, which encouraged new users to tweet like crazy to create buzz, the long lasting effect for its recognition was the online sharing service http://campl.us/. In a world of yFrogs and TwitPics, this feature was very welcome and I still see many people using it.
 
I have to start talking about Camera+ first because they also triggered this photography app revolution. A silly mistake got them pulled from the App Store by the end of 2010 (see chart below) and while they were away, other alternative apps took their chance to shine. I don't exaggerate if I say that Apple featured Hipstamatic heavily. This paid app too photo filters to a new level and it was only a matter of time until some users realised there was a free alternative. The timing was perfect for Instagram, reaching one million users before the end of the year and quickly racing for its second million. According to TechCrunch, the company captured $7 million VC funding last February.
 

I was more excited with the release of Path, the idea of Dave Morin and Shawn Fanning to create a closer social network on your mobile. I loved the idea and the design, so did the people backing the project with $11.2 million in total. After two months trying to use Path, I decided to delete it from my iPhone since nobody in my close social network was up for it. I'm really hoping this catches up someday like Instagram did, but having me to convince others to use this app when it doesn't work for me is not going to make it viral!
 
The latest app to join the photo sharing gang is also the reason to write this post. The $41 million in funding also got my attention. Started by Bill Nguyen, who sold Lala to Apple in 2009, Color (Colorapp?) allows users to share pictures and videos in real-time with… just about anyone. The founders think that in our interconnected post-PC society, these service will be a whole new social network. I'm already thinking of a Facebook photo tags on steroids. Before, a friend of a friend will take a picture of you and tag you. With color you get strangers taking pictures of you in different locations, which are shared only when you are in proximity. Watch the video to get the idea. I still don't get it.
 

 

We've gone from a time when apps had to solve everyday's problems to a generation of online services that makes us change our habits. Two years ago you wouldn't use Foursquare, but now you can't stop checking in although it's not solving any of your daily problems. You are just being entertained with awards. The same happens with the new breed of photography apps. While you needed to edit and refine your pics to upload them online to share them with friends, now you are offered to see what others are doing. Sound to me like Facebook stalking, which is despicable but addictive.