It seems like every day there’s another debut of a new photo app with all the social sharing bells and whistles. But Waddle, a new iPhone app launching Wednesday, is most noteworthy for what it doesn’t do.
It doesn’t force you to log in with your Facebook account. It doesn’t pull in the photos you’ve shared on Instagram. It doesn’t encourage you to share your photos publicly at all. In fact, its goal is to allow you to privately share and comment on your photos with other individuals, or small groups of friends and family. That’s it.
It’s an amazingly simple solution to a real issue. The number of photos being taken on phones is exploding, but only a small number of them seem to end up being shared. This past spring, the three-person founding team at Waddle decided to find out why. They discovered that people actually are sharing their photos a lot; they’re just not doing it with an app. “As we talked to people, we found that most sharing was still done through either direct text messaging or emailing photos to a group,” Co-Founder Parker Emmott said in an interview this week. “Sometimes you take a photo of something you think is funny or interesting, but you don’t want to blast that out to your entire Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed.”
Waddle reminds me a lot of Pool Party, the app launched earlier this year by Google’s Slide division. I was actually a huge fan of Pool Party; it was an easy and fun way to share inside jokes and photos of things I encountered daily with my family and friends. It was refreshingly simple, and unlike Path, it didn’t require that I provide it with any permissions to my Facebook account. Now that Slide has been shuttered, Pool Party is being shut down completely on Oct.14, so Waddle is entering the game just in time.
After you download the Waddle app, you set up an account the old-fashioned way — with a username and password. You can use the app to share any photo you’ve taken on your iPhone along with a short message with a friend or a group of friends who are also on the service. And voilà, you’ve just started a “Waddle”: a photo album conversation, in which other members of the group can respond with their own photos and comment on yours.
Waddle is launching with a native iPhone app, but the company plans to offer a basic app that can be accessed on any mobile web browser in the coming days. An Android app is planned for later, too. Up until now, Waddle has been self-funded; the San Francisco-based company is currently in the midst of raising a seed round. Eventually, Emmott says the app can generate revenue by having brands host sponsored “Waddles” around certain events, or other similar corporate partnerships.
But since the app is so inherently personal, Waddle says it realizes it will have to be careful its money-making strategies don’t alienate users. As Co-Founder Audrey Tsang told me, “We’re always very sensitive to privacy. The company spun out of this idea that sometimes there is a greater need for privacy, and less a need to blast things out to the whole world.” That’s an idea a lot of people can get behind.
Here are a couple more screenshots of Waddle at work: