What Color Has Actually Done Right
Not to be mean, but “hapless” might be the best word to describe mobile social start-up Color. People are never going to give that company the benefit of the doubt after they raised $41 million and launched a much-hyped and half-baked app.
But while half-baking might be inedible, there’s still something there. And since Color recently launched its latest pivot — silent live mobile videos on Facebook — I feel like it’s worth separating what Color has done that’s interesting versus what didn’t work then, and what’s unlikely to work now. Because Color’s not all bad.
Let’s start with the old Color, a proximity-based social network that used implicit connections between people rather than traditional friend relationships.
- The idea of connecting people based on common events and locations rather than static friend relationships is totally interesting, and still an up-for-grabs opportunity. I continue to hear about promising new and upcoming apps that connect user photos and activities around a place.
- Trying to create a new social network from scratch is ballsy, and stupidly hard, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t do it. Especially people with $41 million to spend. (Google will spend a heck of a lot more on Google+!)
- Color’s timing earlier this year was actually pretty good to launch a “mobile-first” social network, as smartphone app usage is ballooning, and others are starting to find early success.
- The whole launch strategy. Color drummed up a bunch of press without having a working beta that the press or anyone outside the company was using. Its insane funding-to-product ratio became the narrative.
- The company didn’t seem to understand what its app did. Using a proximity-based app where nobody’s nearby doesn’t work.
- Oh, and the app itself was bad. The interface was puzzling, and it barely worked on Android. And now it’s completely unavailable — Color scrapped it to build the next release.
Okay, and now for the new Color, an app for iPhone and Android (for real this time) that posts live 30-second clips to users’ Facebook walls, which became broadly available earlier this month.
- The new Color is all about immediacy. When you receive a notification that one of your friends is broadcasting (on the iPhone, the Color notification comes with a distinctive doorbell sound), you only have half a minute to click over and view it live. That sense of experiencing personal sharing in the moment is something that other apps, like Batch, are also going after.
- Videos taken with the new Color app play in-line directly on Facebook. For now, uploading native Facebook content is a rare strategy for content creation apps — though Path also does it — with others like Instagram requiring a click-through to view content on their own domain and/or app so they can control that experience. Photos and videos hosted on Facebook often seem to get more “Likes” and comments than content syndicated from elsewhere, so this could be a good bet.
- Also, much as I hate to say it, there’s something about video with no sound that’s kind of nice. It takes the pressure off both the sender and receiver. No need to search for headphones or pause your music to watch a video.
- The video quality is crappy, and the app interface is still confusing. (One tab of the app imports all your friends’ recent Facebook photos. Random.)
- There’s no trace of the interesting ideas Color was working on before; this feels like an orphan product and a smaller idea.
- Eh, it’s hard to get excited about the potential of crippled video with no sound.
On the whole, I’d say the first Color was a more interesting idea than the second. And even if they are totally different, both versions have been on top of mobile social app trends and added a sprinkling of novel ideas. But, yeah, they’re not ideas that seem worth tens of millions of dollars. The new Color has just 4,000 daily active users, according to AppData, so Color 3.0 probably won’t be too far away.