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Summary:

Piictu, a New York start-up that is part of TechStars’ New York class, is launching its iPhone app out of beta. The app invites people to interact and converse completely through photos. It has less competition now that Google’s Photovine is now retiring.

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You might have heard of Photovine, Google’s photo sharing app which was abruptly retired last month after Google shut down Slide. But the app, which prompted people to create groups of photos built around one topic, wasn’t the first to try it.

Piictu, a New York startup now part of TechStars’ New York class, unveiled a very similar product back in July. Now, the iPhone app is out of beta, and is taking its invitation to build photo conversations to the public, without the added competition from Google.

With Piictu, users are invited to interact and converse through photos. They can upload a photo with a caption, and then users respond with other pictures that build off the initial idea. No additional text can be entered after the initial photo; the interaction lives on through photos or “piics,” in the vernacular of the app. For example, if someone uploads a picture of their tattoo and writes “Show me your ink”, it can set off a chain of replies from people displaying their tattoos. Or a conversation can build around pictures of fortune cookie messages, a user’s interpretation of what’s cute, or around simple games in which people upload the next picture in a series.

Co-Founder Jonathan Slimak told me that while photo sharing apps like Instagram are popular and center on memories, Piictu tries to explore the way photos are used as methods of interaction.

“It’s not about nice color, composition or filters, it’s about the message; it’s communicating and how the picture fits it into the context,” he said.

Users can get creative with their responses, and when text is needed, they can write on post-its and photograph that. But the main idea is to tap into visual culture and let people use photos as their words. Slimak said Piictu can foster or encourage memes and can also be a place for gamified use cases. Down the road, each new photo stream, for instance, will have leaderboards, presumably based on the popularity of a piic.

Ultimately, Slimak sees a way to make money by helping brands use Piictu to engage their customers and solicit user-generated content. He said the company is already in talks with brands about how to tap Piictu to accomplish that.

Next up are more refined social tools for Piictu, which should arrive in the next couple weeks. Right now, streams are public and users can follow any stream or person they like. They can also share their photos on social networks. In the coming weeks, users will be able to share streams with specific people and build conversations with just friends. Piictu will also introduce its game mechanics soon, as well as an API for other developers who want to build apps using Piictu.

Piictu, which has seven employees now, is still about a month away from TechStars’ NYC demo day, but don’t be surprised if they announce funding before then. Slimak said Piictu is close to announcing a round of funding from some institutional investors. I like the idea of Piictu, and it reminds me a little of Canvas, the successor to 4chan that also promotes visual conversations. Piictu, however, is focused on photos and is mobile only. I think it will be interesting to see if Piictu can build a lasting network around photos as communication. We already build conversations around photos, but will they be as successful as the exclusive means of communication?

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  1. Photos as communication sounds like a very cool concept! Also, although it somewhat reminds me of Canvas as well, the fact that it’s only mobile photos makes it drastically different..

  2. this is pretty pretty cool

  3. I’m eager to try this app. Android version is coming soon according to various tweets. I was waiting for Photovine, I’m really disappointed in Google for killing such a beautiful and loved app. The Photovine community grew fast. That move gives more reason to the “Google still doesn’t get social or people” viewpoint.

  4. Hooray for piictu!! easily my all time favorite photo sharing app!! long-liive piictu!!

  5. Piictu! The greatest photo app, and one of the best designed user interfaces in the business. I can get lost in this app for hours

  6. Wow! Piictu’s getting lots of attention. Pretty deserved tho.

  7. Vladislav Rakov Friday, September 16, 2011

    Cool stuff.I’m keen on creating apps though I’m only a novice in programming but that doesn’t prevent me from making complex and profitable apps.I’m using snappii.com and consider this service to be the most flexible concerning design opportunities among its competitors.

  8. Simple. Fun. Addictive.

  9. Photo’s on our electronic devices is a great way to share on the go. I’ve been getting mine off my camera and onto my walls. http://www.yourcanvasprinter has done a great job of helping make my house feel like my home!

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