Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Could Color kill Check-ins?

“If I’d asked my customers “friends” what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse check-in.”Henry Ford Color

Check-ins don’t work for the majority of users outside of the tech industry. They’ve been around for a while. They’ve been tried, tested, been crowned breakout technology at geek-fest SXSW Interactive, but to date I’m not sure if any of my friends in the Real World actually CHECK-IN when we meetup.

But, Photos, we all do. All The Time. Family gatherings, events, conferences, concerts – you name it – whenever 2 or more are gathered together, chances are there’s a photo being taken (maybe not at Starbucks, but you get the picture). Especially, in today’s world of the ubiquitous smart phone camera.

Enter Color.

What is Color? A hot new mobile photo app launched yesterday that for lack of a better term reminds me of a bizarro meeting of Facebook Places and Facebook Photos, where they re-create your social graph based on where you and “birds of your feather” gather today in real-time in the real-world.

Yes, it’s difficult to describe and yes, it’s difficult to experience without a friend or two (oh, yae!) around, but the idea is so dang intriguing and potentially disruptive. So bear with me here.

Color vs. Facebook Places / Photos

Interestingly, Color’s vision is kinda like how Facebook describes Facebook places is described in this video (if you can get past the cheesy Apple music and corny spin)

We haven’t really provided a way for you to find out where your friends really hang out, and we think that’s a really important part of who people are“. Color’s basically flipping the check-in model by saying: Your friends are those you hang out with. Just hang out. Do your thing, and we’ll take care of “checking you in” with any photo being taken by you or around you.

Boom!

Bill Nguyen says:

Color offers a way to determine location and proximity in such a non-battery draining, accurate manner that an impromptu and “elastic” social graph can be created from the data, without once ever having to purposefully check in.

“Our data is so accurate that we know where you are,” said Nguyen.

So, if you’d asked techie users what they wanted, they’d have said a faster check-in or a more centralized one (sorry, Gowalla!), but Color could be trying to build a real-world graph based on the people you actually end up hangin out with. And, for those of us living in the real-world and not in a “social graph” this could be very interesting.

The Creepiness and Loneliness Factor/s

Now, this is easier said than done. They are betting on a future with people becoming more photo-savvy, caring less about privacy. And, in that world if you’re around a camera – any camera – they will find you whether or not you “check-in” (again a Facebook trait, who allow your friends to check you in even if you don’t, a lil Minority Report’esque for my taste) but could this be a future we’re all not gonna mind in the future?

Interestingly, Facebook bet its future on people’s eagerness to share more. And, as the voiceover in the Facebook video says: “I expect in the future, people are gonna share a lot more of their lives this way (meaning check-ins)“, but frankly people are sharing a lot more via photos today. And, Facebook, as the world’s largest photo-sharing site should know that.

A more immediate concern for Color may be the “Loneliness” factor. It works effectively only when you find yourself in groups and folks who try it alone in their room (who does that in the real world anyways?) are bound to face disappointment. And much like Twitter who struggled explaining what they were all about (a site about nothing) for a very long period of time, Color too would have to figure out a way to overcome this challenge.

Tipping Point?

I did tell my former colleague and currently product lead at Color, DJ, that Color would have been THE breakout technology at SouthBy two weeks ago, giving bloggers, journalists, movie makers and musicians the Aha moment, they so sorely lack today. Here was his response to that question on Quora.

Related Quora threads I answered:

1. What is the point of Color?

2. What emergent behaviors will Color create?

Filed under: Color, Location, , ,

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