Kodak will launch a new version of its iPhone app today that won't get the sort of hype Color did this spring. But it may well be the app that Color should have been from the start.
The new Kodak Gallery app lets users create ad hoc social networks to share their photos. So if you're watching your kid play soccer, for example, you can create a network on the spot among the other parents snapping pics with their iPhones. They'll get an invitation to join that specific network and upload their photos to the service as well.
"It's a temporary social network that we're trying to solve for," said Mark Cook, vice president of products at Kodak Gallery, the old Ofoto business that Kodak acquired a decade ago.
The fact that the network is temporary is the key. Those soccer parents won't have access to other photos in your albums or other networks you create, unless they've been invited to see them. So they won't be able to see, for example, your brother's bachelor party, or your daughter's school play.
The company is trying to address the problem of people oversharing pictures on a social network, such as Facebook, where plenty of friends aren't all that interested in your kid's soccer game. At the same time, many of the team parents, who you only know through soccer, aren't likely to be among your Facebook friends anyway.
Kodak Gallery users can set up as many networks as they like, all without cost. So if they are attending a wedding, enjoying a Thanksgiving celebration, or hanging out at a friend's cabin, they can create new networks for each event. Over the course of the event, both the network and the albums grow.
And the new app also can solve the problem of gathering all the photos from an event after it's occurred. As long as folks are using the Kodak Gallery app, the photos will all be in one place. Of course, it only works with the iPhone right now, though an Android version is coming soon. And users can add photos manually to the network via the Internet as well.
Compare that with the original version of Color, the well-funded photo-sharing app launched in March by LaLa founder Bill Nguyen. It originally shared snaps though proximity, giving users the ability to see all of the photos taken nearby by others using the Color app, regardless of whether they're acquaintances or not. (Color has since rebuilt the product, tapping into Facebook's social network to make connections.)
The Kodak Gallery app is straight forward to use, even if it takes a few steps to get it up and running. Take a few shots with your iPhone and create a gallery for them. Then invite friends via e-mail or text message, or through social networks, such as Facebook.
Those friends click on a link in the invitation to download the Kodak app, if they don't already have it. Once installed, they're part of the network and can add their own pictures and invite others to the network as well.
One other thing the app has going for it--the Kodak brand. It may seem a bit stodgy in the days of digital photography. Its parent company, after all, continues to reel as the traditional film business evaporates. But there's still plenty of name recognition, something the company plans to tap into with the new app.
"There is still a huge amount of quality equity, emotional equity with this brand," said Victor Cho, vice president and general manager of consumer Internet and software services at Kodak Gallery.
Kodak ultimately hopes to make money off the app by convincing customers to print photos, cards, photo books or purchase other items from the company.