Social Networking Gets Color but No Privacy

If you want to share photos and videos and don't care about privacy, there's a new social network just for you.

Color is a free, smartphone app for iPhone and Android devices. The application knows your location and will share your photos with other Color users within 100 feet of your location. It will also show you all of their photos, too.

Think of it as a social network for voyeurs, or a Twitter -like service that uses photos instead of tweets.

"I think the analogy to Twitter applies," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "Some people, especially but not exclusively young people, like to share what they see, what they're doing, what they like, and even what they don't like. And they like to see what other people are doing and liking."

Color, the brainchild of Bill Nguyen, who also co-founded music start-up LaLa, has been getting a lot of buzz in the past week. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based fledgling company recently received a $41 million venture-capital investment , then came out with the iPhone app and Wednesday released the Color app for Android.

What has raised some eyebrows over Color is that it lacks any privacy features . Color is about being public and visible to everyone. If someone is using Color and she's near other people using the app, then her photos and videos will be publicly shared.

Every photo and video is public. There is no "friending" or following your family and friends. The app shares your images with any stranger who is near you.

However, Color will determine who your friends are simply by detecting who is generally near you. If two people are using the app near each other, Color will note that and keep track of how often it happens. Hang out together often enough, and Color will put the two of you in a social network. That means Color will show you pictures and video from people around you, as well as from the social network that Color set up for you.

The privacy aspect could be a big deal. Facebook executives, for example, have repeatedly been criticized for not keeping users' information as private as users would like.

The difference with Color, though, is that it makes no pretenses about privacy. Gottheil noted that while Color could be a fun app for people on a college campus, at a concert or some other event, it also could be a useful business tool.

"If this takes off, I guess restaurants in areas with a lot of foot traffic will start taking pictures of their plates," he said. "I know people for whom that would be very effective." Gottheil added it could also work for supermarkets and retail stores.

"If the person is looking at his smartphone instead of your shop window, why not put your picture where he or she is looking," he said.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

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