Social networking gets Color but no privacy

New app for iPhone, Android shares your photos, videos with any other Color users

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

Known as Color, the new network is accessible via a free app for iPhones and Android-based smartphones. The application can detect your location and will share your photos with other Color users within 100 feet of you. It will also show you all of their photos.

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 at 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 startup 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 an iPhone app and on Wednesday released a Color app for Android.

Color has raised some eyebrows because it lacks any privacy features. Color is all about being public and being 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 with her fellow users.

On Color, every photo and video is public. There is no friending, no choosing to follow only your family and friends. The app shares your images with any nearby stranger who is also using Color.

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. If the two of you hang out together often enough, Color will put you both into a social network. Once it establishes such a network, Color will show you pictures and video not only from people around you, but also from people in the social network it set up.

The questions about privacy (or lack thereof) could be a big deal. Facebook executives, for example, have repeatedly been criticized for not keeping users' information as private as the 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 that such tactics could also work for supermarkets and other 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

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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