“18hrs in. 1st exp needs tutorial. finding people must get easier. UI too minimal. long road. grt people. lots of capital. #wecandobetter” That was the tweet made by Bill Nguyen, one of the founders of the app Color on its first day on the Android and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) app stores. Only one day old, the photo-based social networking app has been met with a huge flood of interest — it’s already the 27th most-popular app in Apple’s App Store in the U.S. and 54th in the UK — and an equally huge flood of criticism, for all the reasons Nguyen mentions, and more.
The app — which launched yesterday with $41 million in funding in its pocket and after only seven months from conception to launch — has already started adding little modifications to its app store page (an email for technical support and a license agreement) to try to clarify some of the bigger questions have been having about how to use the app. There is also a prominent note at the top, “WARNING: DON’T USE COLOR ALONE.” And the app itself has also been updated already, fixing bugs and making other minor changes.
But even so, there is still little in the way of instructions, and for an app that is focused on visual images as the main source of communication, Color is still lacking in non-verbal intuitiveness for how best to use it. And that’s something still being pointed out by the “geeks” — as my colleague likes to call them (us) — who have downloaded it first. Just think of how annoyed a cool, non-geek user might get.
Other issues that people have pointed out include problems with security (“stalkers” were one of the nasty possibilities mentioned by one of our readers); and the sheer feeling that this is the work of a bubble-economy rather than something meaningful.
In an interview with Business Insider, Nguyen has given some more detail about what developments the company has planned for the app. The plans include tutorials for new users, but also a pretty interesting list of possible uses for the service once things get rolling.
How fast these ideas get adopted — both by Color and actual users — will be crucial in this service actually capitalising on the attention it’s had so far for being the possible “next big thing”:
— Not photo sharing but secure information collection: The site is focused on knowing what others around you, and in your circle, are doing, but without the use of last names, addresses and passwords, there will be a limit to how much others can know about you, he says. That could prove to be a major boost for the app at a time when other sites like Facebook are getting slammed for revealing and using personal information in their wider business strategies.
— Harnessing all the bells and whistles: As we pointed out yesterday, it’s not just the camera, but the microphone and mapping/location technologies that are getting used by Color. When that information gets collected, Color will organise it in ways that you wouldn’t expect: not just grouping people by location, but putting the “best” picture of one event at the top of the timeline for all the people in a particular vicinity.
— News API: Nguyen describes this as “a service where journalists can take photos with our application and click on one application called the Add Color button and click on a map to add more information. So for example if you’re at CES, you can click on a map, expand the range, and every photo taken at CES will now be linked to that article you wrote. That can be an amazing tool for people to collect news and share data in real time.” He says the developers are working hard on this one already, and aim for it to be available only to journalists going through an approval process on the site.
No word on whether it would be free like the app itself or sold as a service, or how a journalist would be able to use it in a way that wouldn’t make the end product exactly the same as that of any other journalist that used it at a common event.