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There are plenty of websites that provide in-depth information about specific topics, but apart from a few tired old services like eHow from Demand Media, there aren’t many places you can go to find how-to guides for a wide range of different things — from tying a bow tie or flying a kite to extracting honey from a beehive. Snapguide, which launched its iPhone app and web service this morning, wants to fill that void with a platform that allows experts of all kinds to create simple how-to explainers with photos and videos and to share those easily with a community of other users.
Although there is a web version of the service, Snapguide is clearly designed to take advantage of mobile devices like the iPhone, which for many have taken the place of the manual or cookbook they look to for help with a project. The guides that users create — which can contain a combination of audio, photos and video — are formatted so they are easy to see on a small screen, and the app also makes it easy for users to browse through existing guides and to “like” or comment on them. And since the iPhone has a camera that also does video, creating a new guide is almost as easy as viewing one (the company says it is working on Android and other versions of the app).
One of the obvious categories for such easy-to-consume mobile guides is recipes and cooking, and Snapguide offers a number of those already, including some created by an award-winning chef. Cooking also played a key role in the formation of the company: the idea for Snapguide came together after chief technology officer Steve Krulewitz — a former engineer on Google Chrome — gave co-founder and CEO Daniel Raffel (a former chef and also former product lead for Yahoo Pipes) a book on bread-making. At that point, Raffel says he realized there was no easy way to create or share step-by-step instructions with photos and video for relatively simple tasks.
Although Raffel has created a number of guides himself that involve cooking — including “How to make a marinara and margherita pizza” and “How to barbecue teriyaki tofu” — he also a wide range of other fairly eclectic how-tos, including one on how to fly a dual-line kite and another on how to replace the battery in the key fob for a Prius. The service has been seeded with guides created by a number of other users as well, including Bouchon’s Chef de Cuisine Rory Herrmann, gardener and nursery owner Flora Grubb, and a beekeeper who has created a guide on how to clean and render beeswax.
Like most people, I hardly ever turn to how-to guides unless I am completely stuck — and then I usually just Google the term I am looking for (faucet dripping, etc.) and then click through whatever looks good and try to memorize the key steps. The nice thing about Snapguide isn’t just that the guides have photos and videos included, so that you can see exactly how to do something (the guide on catching Dungeness crabs is quite good) but it is really well designed for the phone and tablet. I could see myself holding the app on my iPhone or iPad — or having someone else hold it — while I try to execute whatever maneuver I am working on, or prepare a recipe for something complicated.
Snapguide, which is based in San Francisco, closed a $2-million round of funding last year from a group of venture funds, including Index Ventures and SV Angel, as well as individual investors such as former Facebook staffer Dave Morin and former TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington.